US military research agency DARPA hopes to build a long-range wireless data network capable of 100Gbps speeds. The 100 Gb/s RF Backbone, also called 100G, is an ambitious plan to develop radio frequency technology that would rival similar fiber optic options. It's meant to give soldiers better speeds on the ground in areas with underdeveloped or insecure networks, without exceeding the current weight and power requirements of the military's current wireless Common Data Link system, which provides top downstream speeds closer to 200 or 250Mbps.
Technically, wireless data can be transmitted at terabit speeds or higher — but that's in experimental conditions, not real-world ones, and often across distances as short as a meter. For the 100G project, data needs to be transmitted at 100Gbps speeds for up to 200 kilometers (about 120 miles) between airborne links and up to 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) from the air to the ground. Optical communication, on which many super-fast network tests are based, also won't work when clouds block the line between air and ground. If DARPA is successful in creating a wireless network that can operate at such high speeds, the military will obviously see its benefits first, but it's also likely to mean better speeds for civilian networks down the line. DARPA will hold an event in early January to take proposals for the project.