GENEVA: Scientists at CERN– the world's biggest particle physics laboratory, where Tim Berners-Lee (pictured) originally conceived the internet – claim to have produced a computer system that operates at 10,000 times the speed of a normal broadband connection, and which could “revolutionise” modern communications.

The centre's new “grid” will be switched on later this year after seven years of development, and the long-term communications benefits could include making high-definition video calls for the current price of a landline phone call, and the ability to download full-length movies in seconds.

The breakthrough is an offshoot of CERN's particle physics experiment – due to begin later this year in an attempt to replicate the Big Bang – which is capable of producing so much annual data that it would cause an online collapse.

Instead Cern has come up with "the grid" – a "parallel internet" which will capture data from the experiment using fibre optic cables, and have 200,000 servers spread across the world, including in the US, UK, Middle East and Canada, operating within the next two years.

It is not expected to be offered to domestic internet users, but telecoms companies are already adopting elements of its technology. In the future the technology will be made available to academics including astronomers and molecular biologists.

Says the project's technical director, Professor Tony Doyle: “Holographic video conferencing is not that far away. Online gaming could evolve to include many thousands of people, and social networking could become the main way we communicate”. 

“The history of the internet shows you cannot predict its real impacts, but we know they will be huge”.

Data sourced from The Times (UK); additional content by WARC staff