Manufacturers Demonstrate 1 Terabit Optical Speeds and Beyond

By Joan Engebretson February 21, 2013

There’s a lot going on with ultra-high-speed optical transmission lately. Several manufacturers – including Huawei, Infinera, and NEC, as well as Bell Labs -- have demonstrated some really high speeds of a terabit or more per second.

This wave of optical networking one-upmanship has been made possible by the industry’s move toward a flexible grid that gives manufacturers the ability to tweak the spacing in between wavelengths, thereby enabling manufacturers to squeeze more wavelengths onto a fiber. Manufacturers also are combining multiple wavelengths, known in this context as sub-carriers, into a single logical connection, known as a carrier.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock

If you combine a lot of subcarriers, use a flexible grid and reduce the distance covered or distance between regeneration points on the network, you can get some impressive data rates.

Here’s a summary of what’s been demonstrated in the last couple of months:

Manufacturer

Speed

Subcarriers

Distance (km)

Amplification/Regeneration

Comments

Bell Labs

1 Tbps

8

5600

In-line amplifiers at terrestrial amplifier spacing- no repeaters

Lab results

Bell Labs

1 Tbps

4

2400

See above

Lab results

Bell Labs

1 Tbps

2

3200

See above

Lab results

Huawei

2 Tbps

20

3325

No regeneration

Live network trial with Vodafone

Infinera

10 Tbps

Ten 1 Tbps superchannels (not a single 10 Tbps superchannel)

Not disclosed

Not disclosed

“Technology showcase” with Telefonica

NEC Corp.

1 Tbps

10

5400

60 km amplifier spacing

Lab experiment

NEC Corp.

1 Tbps

10

7200

See above

Lab experiment

Considering all the variables that can come into play, it would appear that resolving standards for the next optical speed tier will be a complex process. Complicating matters is the fact that the industry has not yet agreed on standards for 400 Gbps equipment – although the lack of standards hasn’t prevented at least one carrier from deploying 400 G equipment (as we noted last week in our coverage of France Telecom/ Orange’s 400 Gbps deployment).

When standards bodies undertake the task of determining standards for optical transmission at speeds of 1 Tbps or greater, I would expect that service providers would like the ability to minimize regeneration requirements and the number of wavelengths used when shorter distances are involved. Accordingly I would expect to see the industry adopt several different 1 Tbps standards for different requirements -- particularly different distance requirements. Ditto for 2 Tbps or 10 Tbps standards.

What I wouldn’t expect to see is service providers waiting for standards before deploying equipment supporting 1 Tbps or higher speeds. Service providers often don’t mix optical transport equipment from multiple manufacturers in their networks, so a lack of vendor interoperability – at least for initial deployments -- may not be a deal breaker.

NEC said 1Tbps equipment could be ready as soon as 2015 if the company decides to undertake such a project. Huawei said commercial availability of 2 Tbps equipment would be “after 2015.”




Edited by Rich Steeves

Contributing Editor

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