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.
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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:
In-line amplifiers at terrestrial amplifier spacing- no repeaters
Live network trial with Vodafone
Ten 1 Tbps superchannels (not a single 10 Tbps superchannel)
“Technology showcase” with Telefonica
60 km amplifier spacing
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.”
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