The backbone network – so called because it forms a principal data route between cities – can transmit data at 1.2 terabits (1,200 gigabits) per second between Beijing in the north, central China’s Wuhan and Guangzhou in the southern province of Guangdong.
The line, which spans more than 3,000km (1,860 miles) of optical fibre cabling, was activated in July and officially launched on Monday, after performing reliably and passing all operational tests.
The achievement – a collaboration between Tsinghua University, China Mobile, Huawei Technologies, and Cernet Corporation – smashes expert forecasts that 1 terabit per second ultra-high-speed networks would not emerge until around 2025.
Most of the world’s internet backbone networks operate at just 100 gigabits per second. Even the United States only recently completed the transition to its fifth-generation Internet2 at 400 gigabits per second.
The Beijing-Wuhan-Guangzhou connection is part of China’s Future Internet Technology Infrastructure (FITI), a project 10 years in the making and the latest version of the national China Education and Research Network (Cernet).
FITI project leader Wu Jianping from the Chinese Academy of Engineering said the superfast line was “not only a successful operation”, but also gives China the “advanced technology to build an even faster internet”.
Huawei Technologies vice-president Wang Lei told the same press conference at Tsinghua University on Monday that the network was “capable of transferring the data equivalent of 150 high-definition films in just one second”.
Tsinghua University’s Xu Mingwei compared the new internet backbone to a superfast train track that had replaced the 10 regular tracks that used to carry the same amount of data. This made it much cheaper and easier to manage, he said.
Backbone networks are pivotal to national education and research, as well as the rapidly growing need for data transfer from applications such as connected electric vehicles and mines that use industrial 5G technology.
“The FITI project is unprecedented across the world,” Wu told a work meeting in May. “It is open to society and is capable of supporting experimental trials of innovative network structures.”
He told the same meeting that FITI – which started in 2013 and is supported by the government, managed by the Education Ministry, and built with the help of Tsinghua University and 40 other universities – would be ready by the end of this year.
The new backbone network marks another advance for China, which has been concerned about its reliance on the US and Japan for routers and other components of internet technology.
All of the system’s software and hardware has been domestically produced, with the technical research team making advancements in everything from routers and switches to optical fibre connections.
Wu and his team developed their own superfast router, capable of handling more data than ever before. The team also proposed technology to aggregate multiple optical paths to increase the upper limits of data transmission.