IT is the gateway to the future of the web.

Scientists from Southampton University are at the forefront of a new information superhighway to revolutionise the Internet as we know it.

Now their dream is a step closer to reality after their consortium clinched funding to develop the state-of-the-art communication network.

Teams from four British universities have been awarded £2.5 million to create a new national infrastructure for experimentation on future Internet technologies.

The UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded a five-year contract to a consortium led by University College London, supported by Southampton, Cambridge and Bristol Universities.

The team are creating a new National Dark Fibre Infrastructure Service (NDFIS) forming the building blocks to experiment with new communication techniques increasing Internet speeds.

Conventional web use accesses optical fibres at electrical data level, but dark fibre uses dedicated optical fibre connections meaning they can tap into improved techniques.

They will be able to test new components and wireless systems, including developing the fifth generation of mobile networks’ 5G.

The network will connect these universities to other research networks around the world, via telecommunication facilities in London.

Professor Periklis Petropoulos from Southampton University said: “The Internet is playing an increasingly pervasive role in our lives and our expectations of what we can use it for are always growing.

“But the more often and intensively we use it on different devices, we are putting strain on its existing capacity. “This network will allow us to experiment with new technologies shaping a faster, future-proof Internet, capable of meeting our demands.”

The connection consists of 800km of single mode fibres with control and monitoring systems.

They are also creating a new Joint Academic Network (JANET) called Aurora2 based on previous dark fibre networks produced by the consortium called Janet Aurora.

NDFIS director, Professor Alwyn Seeds from UCL Electronic and Electrical Engineering is delighted at the funding.