Wednesday, 06 February 2013 12:46

Bell Labs and the future of optical


As 100G becomes the industry’s networking standard, Bell Labs says it is preparing for the coming ‘Petabit Era’.

Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent’s R&D arm, says it has laid the foundation for the future of ultra-high-capacity optical communication networks with the publication of the results of ground breaking experiments in optical technology.

“Optical communication networks are the foundation of global communications today, and are essential to delivering unlimited video services, high-speed Internet access and social networking services to consumers and businesses,” says Peter Winzer, Director of Optical Transmission Systems and Networks Research from Bell Labs.

“They are also responsible for transporting huge volumes of data on behalf of governments, corporations, banks and educational institutions. Optical networks carry the lifeblood of the information economy.”

In recent papers published at leading industry conferences, Bell Labs has highlighted the achievement of optical transmission rates of 1 Terabit per-second per-wavelength channel, ushering in the potential for widespread use of Terabit interfaces in communications networks. Winzer says this heralds the era of Petabit-level data transmissions. A Petabit is equal to 1000 Terabits, and roughly the equivalent of sending 10,000 hour-long, high-definition videos over the network in one second.

The papers from Bell Labs also highlight the ability to increase fibre capacities far beyond the capabilities of today’s wavelength-division multiplexed WDM systems. Winzer says these achievements underscore Bell Labs’ technical and scientific leadership in fibre-optic communications.

“As demand for higher data rates in service providers’ networks has continued to increase, Alcatel-Lucent has been at the forefront of driving innovation in optical transmission technologies to enable operators to meet this demand,” says Winzer. “In 2010 we introduced a single-carrier 100 Gigabit per second transmission platform, and at the 2012 Optical Fibre Communications conference, we also announced our second-generation Photonic Service Engine (PSE) electro-optical chip, which supports per-channel data rates of 400 Gigabits per second (400G) to address longer-range requirements.

“Building on these breakthroughs, Bell Labs has now reduced the number of subcarriers required to transport a Terabit of information per second on an optical channel, paving the way towards viable Terabit optical interface technologies.”

In September 2012 Bell Labs presented to delegates at the European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communication (ECOC) in Amsterdam four post-deadline papers on topics at the forefront of optical research, including one on space-division multiplexing (SDM), a revolutionary technique pioneered at Bell Labs to scale optical network bandwidths to Petabits per second and beyond. Bell Labs showed a six-mode Erbium-doped fibre amplifier that is able to simultaneously amplify all the six spatial modes of a matched few-mode fibre. This amplifier is a necessary and key element for the viability of a full SDM system, and Bell Labs was able to demonstrate for the first time an amplification gain for a record six spatial modes simultaneously.

In a follow-up paper presented at the Optical Society of America’s Annual Meeting in Rochester, New York, Bell Labs extended its previous three-mode SDM transmission records to demonstrate transmission across six modes using full 12 x 12 multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) digital signal processing.

“Bell Labs is the industry’s driving force for optical communications research,” says Winzer. “We impact the networks of tomorrow and making advancements for today. Our contributions are helping optical networks cope with the never ending increase in communications traffic and as such enable the economically sustainable growth of modern applications and services. While some of this technology is years away from implementation, creating and developing it now paves the way for a bright, information-rich, and globally connected future.”


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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.



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