Nortel goes for broke with 6.4 Tbits

Nortel Networks (Richardson, TX) broke its own speed and capacity record last week by debuting a system carrying 6.4 Tbits/sec of traffic over a single strand of fiber. The platform will be capable of increasing capacity as high as 6.4 Tbits/sec through dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM), providing sufficient speed and capacity to connect 2500 backbone routers on a fiber pair.

By Susan Fogarty, On-line Editor
Nortel Networks (Richardson, TX) broke its own speed and capacity record last week by debuting a system carrying 6.4 Tbits/sec of traffic over a single strand of fiber. The platform will be capable of increasing capacity through dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM), providing sufficient speed and capacity to connect 2500 backbone routers on a fiber pair.

Nortel's capability was displayed at the company's exhibit at TELECOM '99 in Geneva, Switzerland, becoming the world's first non-laboratory exhibit of an 80-Gbit/sec platform and operating at double the line rate of any previous demonstration. Fiber-optic traffic on the exhibit system was carried over 480 km of fiber, equivalent to the distance between Paris and Geneva.

Nortel is making a concerted effort to ramp up capabilities as far as capacity is concerned. Says John Roth, the company's president and chief executive officer, "We've focused on the fact that Internet and data traffic has continued to grow at 30% to 40% per year, so we felt that we really had to step up the pace to bring optical technology to the marketplace. We've now got 80 Gbits on a single laser, and that's the kind of power we think will be necessary as the Internet continues to explode and find new applications."

Anil Khatod, president of optical Internet at Nortel Networks, agrees. "Last year there were 118 million subscribers surfing the web, and the figure looks like it will be 500 million by 2003. That means all network capacity must quadruple every year for the next four years to keep up," he says, adding that he would not be surprised to see the need for capacity grow as much as 100 to 200 times the current amount.

Nortel Networks' system uses advanced optical amplification technology to extend the reach of optical signaling and reduce network cost. It uses more of the light spectrum, allowing increased traffic to be carried on a single fiber. Nortel's platform will support up to 80 wavelengths to reach the unprecedented 6.4-Tbits/sec/fiber level. In addition, according to the company, the system is designed to deliver 99.999% reliability.

Commercial availability of Nortel's scalable 40- to 80-Gbit/sec platform is planned for 2001. In May, Nortel announced its OPTera 1600G optical amplification system, which delivers 1.6 Tbits/sec on a single fiber. "The 1.6-Tbit system will be shiping by the end of this year, and we expect to see significant commercial deployment throughout the next year," Khatod says. Customers using OPTera solutions will be able to scale their existing networks to take advantage of the 40- to 80-Gbit/sec platform when it is introduced, he adds.

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