Instant Movie Downloads?

IBM is showing off a prototype optical transceiver chipset that's capable of reaching speeds at least eight times faster than other optical components available today. The new tiny gizmo moves information at 160 Gigabits - that's 160 billion bits of information for the techno-term-challenged - per second. Such speediness is accomplished not by using wires, but by using light.

The company assures the world that a chipset with this kind of blisteringly fast speed could transform how data is accessed and shared (RIAA, please close your ears). In fact, IBM says it could be possible to reduce the download time for a feature-length high-definition movie from today's 30 minutes (or more) to "a single second".

Manufacturing the chipset involves coupling integrated circuits using current, inexpensive CMOS technology with optical components made using exotic stuff, such as indium phosphide (InP) and gallium arsenide (GaAs). The finished package is only 3.25 by 5.25 millimeters in size. Although it's smaller than a dime, the finished chip is likely to cost more than ten cents (in the beginning few production runs, anyway).