Creating a Digital Britain
Scientists are working on a collaborative research project to help remedy the problem of frequency interference caused by the ever-increasing amounts of data sent over the Internet. The project will develop the next generation of accurate frequency standards technology that is vital to realizing the Government’s vision of a Digital Britain.
When data is transmitted, it is sent down optical fibers on one of a number of internationally recognized channels, which operate at specific frequencies. As the amount of data increases, the space between these channels decreases, leading to the possibility of interference and crosstalk between them. This could mean that data files and services, such as live video streaming, become corrupted.
Data providers need to adhere to the specific frequencies to avoid interference and regularly check the performance of their transmitters. They check this by calibrating the transmitters using frequency standard equipment but, as the tolerances are reduced, due to the narrower channel spacing, this needs to become more accurate. Although frequency standard equipment with the required level of accuracy exists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), it is not designed to carry out calibrations in industrial environments with associated temperature fluctuations and vibrations.
The new research will develop ‘user-friendly’ frequency stabilized laser sources that will be portable and robust enough to enable on-site calibrations of transmission equipment and provide the required levels of accuracy.
Geoffrey Barwood, lead researcher on the project at NPL, said: “We envisage an opto-electronic system within a 19-inch rack that provides an on-site frequency calibration service. We hope the system will be a turnkey standard for companies to use. If we do want to move to a Digital Britain, this type of equipment becomes an essential part of the infrastructure.”
The project is funded by the European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP), which is jointly supported by the European Commission and the European Association of National Metrology Institutes (EURAMET). NPL is coordinating the project and institutes from Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, France, Finland and Germany are also taking part.
More on NPL’s work in the Digital Economy: http://www.npl.co.uk/commercial-services/sectors/digital-economy/
More on NPL’s work in Time and Frequency: http://www.npl.co.uk/science-technology/time-frequency/