Soon you could be downloading an entire movie off the net far faster than you do now.
Fast net tech could soon take off
US researchers are working on ways to improve the way that net protocols decide how quickly data travels around the net.
Early tests of the new system show that it can triple data transmission speeds.
By linking lots of the faster systems together the researchers have produced data transfer speeds many times higher than is possible today.
When data is sent across the net, it is first broken up into packets before being despatched to its destination.
Before a new packet of data is sent, the sending computer waits to hear that the first one has arrived safely. If it has not, then the first packet is sent again, but at a lower speed.
While this helps ensure that data arrives, it means that small problems en route can cause huge slowdowns in transfer rates.
The Fast TCP system being developed by Steven Low and colleagues at the California Institute of Technology avoids these problems by constantly monitoring how long it takes data to travel across a particular link
This means that it always knows the fastest speed that a cable will tolerate and improves the rate at which data can be transmitted.
Fast TCP was tested in November 2002 when data was swapped between locations in California and Cern near Geneva in Switzerland.
Existing net protocols managed an average speed of 266 megabits per second over this 10,000 kilometre link.
By contrast the Fast TCP system managed an average speed of 925 megabits per second over the same route.
The team told New Scientist magazine that by linking together 10 Fast TCP systems they have managed a data throughput rate of 8.6 gigabits per second, thousands of times faster than usual.
The CalTech team say the Fast TCP technology can be bolted on to the existing net infrastructure, which might mean that it comes into use quickly.