The record, described in a research paper published in the journal IEEE Photonics Technology Letters, is double the capacity of any system currently deployed in the world.
It was achieved by transmitting data through a much wider range of colours of light, or wavelengths, than is typically used in optical fibre, the researchers said.
They combined different amplifier technologies needed to boost the signal power over this wider bandwidth and maximised speed by developing new Geometric Shaping (GS) constellations, manipulating the properties of each individual wavelength.
GS constellations are patterns of signal combinations that make best use of the phase, brightness and polarisation properties of the light.
The benefit of the technique is that it can be deployed on already existing infrastructure cost-effectively, by upgrading the amplifiers that are located on optical fibre routes at 40-100km intervals, the researchers said.
The new record, demonstrated in a lab, is a fifth faster than the previous world record held by a team in Japan, the researchers said.
At this speed, it would take less than an hour to download the data that made up the world’s first image of a black hole, they said.
The speed is close to the theoretical limit of data transmission set out by American mathematician Claude Shannon in 1949, according to the resaerchers.
“While current state-of-the-art cloud data-centre interconnections are capable of transporting up to 35 terabits a second, we are working with new technologies that utilise more efficiently the existing infrastructure,” said lead author Lidia Galdino, a Lecturer at UCL and a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow.
These technologies make better use of optical fibre bandwidth, enabling a world record transmission rate of 178 terabits a second, Galdino said.