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BT and Alcatel supercharge broadband to 1.4Tbps on UK fibre

The two companies' trial hit speeds of 1.4 million megabits on existing cables -- 10,000 times faster than the best broadband you can buy.

Whoooosh! That's the sound of UK broadband getting a rocket up the bum, with a trial conducted by BT and Alcatel-Lucent hitting mind-boggling speeds of 1.4 terabits per second -- all on existing fibre cable.

A terabit is a million megabits. Let that sink in for a moment. BT's test went over 10,000 times faster than the fastest current consumer-grade broadband offered by Virgin. If you had broadband that fast in your home, you could download 44 uncompressed HD movies in a single second, Alcatel claims.

The test was conducted in October and November last year, on a line from BT Tower in central London and the company's research campus near glamorous, high-tech Ipswich.

"BT has a long history of leading innovation in telecommunications, from the earliest days of the electric telegraph to today's global fiber networks," boasts Dr Tim Whitley, BT's MD of research and innovation. "These trials continue that tradition, as we work with Alcatel-Lucent to push the boundaries of fiber technology, allowing us to support the ever increasing bandwidth required by our customers, and deliver new and exciting services which rely on fast, data-hungry applications."

The test used what's called a 'Flexigrid' approach to spacing transmission over the available spectrum, creating an 'Alien Super Channel' out of seven 200GHz channels. With less space between each channel, they were able to increase transmission efficiency by over 40 per cent.

While the speeds mustered in the test are purely hypothetical when compared to what you'll actually get on your living-room Wi-Fi in the next few years, squeezing so much extra capacity out of existing cables will save BT money as we all clamour for more bits every second.

The UK's average Internet speed has climbed considerably in the last couple of years, and continues to rise, but the availability of fibre-optic cable remains something of a postcode lottery. There's room for improvement too -- we're outstripped by some pretty surprising countries.

What would you do with 1.4 terabits per second? Zoom down to the comments below, or experience the brain-warping speed of our Facebook page.