AAA game downloads in 2 milliseconds? It’s possible

A Wi-Fi router with an ethernet cable plugged in.

Internet speeds have come a long way since the glory days of 56kbps dial-up connection. However, even if you’re now the happy owner of a speedy broadband connection, it still has nothing on the record that engineers from Japan were able to achieve. Using standard fiber optic cables, they claim to have set up a connection that hit a data transmission rate of 402Tbps — yes, that’s terabytes per second.

This incredible record was achieved by a team of engineers from Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), and they described it in an in-depth paper. While reading the paper would certainly be easier for those of us who may have a Ph.D. in network engineering, the tech used to achieve that 402Tbps milestone is advanced, but based on established principles. The team utilized 50 kilometers (a bit over 30 miles) of fiber optic cabling. They also employed lots of transmission bands, signal amplifiers, and gain equalizers to maintain signal integrity.

The record 402Tbps rate, or 50.25TB/s, beats the previous world record by around 25%, according to PCGamer. The total signal bandwidth reached 37.6THz. Those numbers are so big that they’re difficult to put into perspective, but being able to download 50 terabytes per second is pretty insane. With a connection like that, you’d be able to download all of Red Dead Redemption 2 (120GB) in 2.4 milliseconds. You could download your entire Steam library so quickly that you’d blink and miss it.

Table comparing internet speeds.

Unfortunately, your PC, or my PC, or anyone else’s personal computer would not be able to handle that kind of speed. Most PCs still only support 1Gbps Ethernet connections, but if you get one of the best motherboards, you might get one that’s rated at 10Gbps. Even then, that’s nothing compared to the 50TB/s the engineers at NICT were able to achieve, and it’s only one part of the problem — there are no SSDs that could support anywhere near this type of data transfer rate, not to mention offering that type of storage.

It’s hard to imagine that we might one day live in a world where data transfers like this are actually attainable at home, but it was also difficult to imagine that we’d have 1Gbps (or faster) internet connections in our homes two decades ago.

For now, the record set by engineers from NICT is a novelty and proof that it can be done. The rest of us need to settle for whatever our local ISPs can provide, and the most we can do is try to increase our internet speed in other ways.