The days of slow downloads could be over by the end of the decade according to researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Essex. The scientists are working on a six-year project that, they claimed, that could make broadband internet 100 times faster.

The 'Photonics HyperHighway' project will bring together researchers from the university with industry partners, including BBC Research and Development and will look at the way fibre optics are used, and develop new materials and devices to increase internet bandwidth. The project is being funded by a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Announcing the investment during at the University of Southampton's Mountbatten Building, where much of the research will be conducted, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

"The internet is fundamental to our lives and we use it for a huge range of activities - from doing the weekly food shop to catching up with friends and family. The number of broadband subscribers has grown vastly in the past ten years, and we need to ensure the web infrastructure can continue to meet this demand.

Professor David Payne, of the University of Southampton, who is leading the Photonics HyperHighway project, said "Now is the time to look ahead to develop the UK infrastructure of the future. Traffic on the global communications infrastructure continues to increase 80 per cent year-on-year. This is driven by applications, such as internet television services and new concepts like cloud computing. What this project proposes is a radical transformation of the physical infrastructure that underpins these networks."