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Monday, 03 March 2008 13:03

NICTA technology to quadruple bandwidth on long haul fibres

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National ICT Australia (NICTA) has spun out a network monitoring company, Monitoring Division, to commercialise technology that it claims will enable telcos to increase the per wavelength bandwidth on long haul optical fibres from 10Gbps to 40Gbps, by identifying sources of noise and enabling them to improve signal to noise ratios.
The new company, Monitoring Division, is headquartered in the US in Sunnyvale California with research being undertaken in Melbourne by its Australian subsidiary. It has received its first round of funding from Australian venture capital firm, Starfish Ventures, and from NICTA (equity shares have not been disclosed, NICTA will also provide intellectual property and research services and facilities.

The company arose from the Managing and Monitoring the Internet (MAMI) Project, which was based out of NICTA's Victoria Research Laboratory and which developed technologies for measuring the performance of the Internet at both the physical transport and the protocol layers. According to David Wright, CEO of the new company, it will be able to "fundamentally change the intelligence available to network operators and vendors."

According to an article on the technology on the Science In Public website (written by NICTA's communications specialist, Kelly Mills) NICTA scientists used genome analysis tools to identify the causes of noise in optical cables and embed the technology in a device that will, for a few thousand dollars, do a job that today would cost in excess of $100,000 plus and would require multiple types of test equipment. It is claimed that this devices will allow cable operators to confidently increase the bit rate on long haul optical fibres from 10Gbps to 40Gbps or more without losing data in the noise in line.

"The current tools available in the marketplace only count the errors in the data, telling the operator a problem exists but not what that problem is, where the problem is or what caused it," NICTA principal researcher, Trevor Anderson, said. "Our device can already identify the top four sources of noise and we expect to be able to do all six.

Anderson said that NICTA had developed a way of presenting an optical signal as a two dimensional image. "We thought that it would allow us to recognise the 'fingerprint' of the various kinds of optical noise that can interfere with the signal," he says. But we didn't know how to analyse the image.

"Fortunately in the next door laboratory NICTA had a team of geneticists analysing vast lengths of genetic code to find patterns of gene sequences that would indicate a tumour. Dr Adam Kowalczyk looked at our problem and laughed – 'This is easy – biology is so much more complex,' he said to me.

NICTA has already signed its first technology licence agreement exploiting research in the MAMI Project, in December 2007 with Optium, a supplier optical subsystems, for a new generation optical signal-to-noise ratio (OSNR) monitoring technology. OSNR is a key performance metric used to measure signal degradation. With this technology operators can substantially improve their ability to manage telecommunications networks.

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