According to experts, the internet could collapse in eight years due to a ‘capacity crunch’.
The constant demand for faster data, streaming services and more powerful computers could be pushing the web to a crisis point, writes The Mirror.
Leading engineers, physicists and telecoms companies warn that cables and fiber optics that carry information to people’s web devices will soon reach their limit – meaning they are not able to carry more data.
Internet firms could be forced to lay down more cables just to cope with demand – with the additional cost borne by consumers.
Engineers have so far managed to keep ahead of demand, increasing internet speeds 50 times over in the last decade alone.
But some experts believe that fiber optics have reached their capacity and can take no more data.
Professor Andrew Ellis, co-organizer of a meeting at London’s Royal Society this month to try to avert the crisis, told the Daily Mail that it would lead to a dramatic increase in costs, which would be passed to consumers.
“The deployment to market is about six to eight years behind the research lab – so within eight years that will be it, we can’t get any more data in,” he said.
“Demand is increasingly catching up. It is growing again and again, and it is harder and harder to keep ahead.
“We have done very well for many years to keep ahead. But we are getting to that point where we can’t keep going for ever.”
Currently, internet firms send increasing amounts of data down the single fiber to meet rising consumer demand.
However, as optical fibers reach their physical capacity they are unable to transfer any more light.
Professor Ellis, of Aston University, said that the addition of extra fiber optic lines would create a “completely different business model” and companies would need to find out whether customers were willing to pay more to cover these costs.
He added that more data would lead to higher electricity demands, which in turn could create an energy crisis within 15 years.
However, Andrew Lord, head of optical research at BT and a visiting professor at Essex University, disagreed with these views. He believes that scientists will find a solution for the potential problem.
Professor Lord, who will address the Royal Society meeting, said storing information in large ‘server farms’, rather than transferring it, would take the pressure off the network.
A spokesman for the Royal Society said: “Communication networks face a potentially disastrous ‘capacity crunch’ as demand for data online outstrips the capacity of the optical fibers that carry internet signals.”
He added that the meeting on May 11 would discuss the potential crisis and what could be done in the meantime to minimize the fallout, if it were to occur.