Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs breaks 100-Petabit-per-second-kilometer barrier

SEPTEMBER 30, 2009 -- The research team's transmission is equivalent to sending 400 DVDs per second over transoceanic cable.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2009 -- Alcatel-Lucent today announced that scientists in Bell Labs, the company's research arm, have set a new optical transmission record of more than 100 Petabits per second.kilometer (equivalent to 100 million Gigabits per second.kilometer). This transmission experiment involved sending the equivalent of 400 DVDs per second over 7,000 km, roughly the distance between Paris and Chicago. This is reported as the highest capacity ever achieved over a transoceanic distance and represents an increase that exceeds that of today's most advanced commercial undersea cables by a factor of ten. To achieve these record-breaking results, the Bell Labs researchers made use of new detection techniques and harnessed a diverse array of technologies in modulation, transmission, and signal processing.

High speed optical transmission is a key component of Alcatel-Lucent's High Leverage Network architecture, key elements of which have already been selected by leading service providers, says the company.

To achieve the reported results, researchers from the Bell Labs facility in Villarceaux, France, used 155 lasers, each operating at a different frequency and carrying 100 Gigabits of data per second, to enhance the performance of standard WDM technology.

"There is no question that this record-breaking transmission is a milestone in achieving the network capacity and speeds and a key step forward in satisfying the ongoing explosion in demand," says Gee Rittenhouse, head of Bell Labs Research. "This is a prime example of Bell Labs' preeminent research and demonstrates the ability of our researchers to solve complex problems."

The figure was derived by multiplying the number of lasers by their 100-Gbps transmission rate and then multiplying the aggregate 15.5-Tbps result by the 7,000-km distance achieved. The combination of speed and distance expressed in bit per second.kilometers is a standard measure for high-speed optical transmission.

The transmissions were accomplished over a network with repeaters -- devices used to sustain optical signal strength over long distances -- spaced 90 km apart. This spacing distance is 20% greater than that commonly maintained in such networks. The challenge of maintaining transmission over these distances was heightened in the experiments because of the noise that is introduced as transmission speeds increase.

The researchers also increased capacity by interfacing advanced digital signal processors with coherent detection, a technology that makes it possible to acquire details for a greater number of properties of light than the direct detection method commonly applied in today's systems. Using this technique, the researchers were able to increase capacity by increasing the number of light sources introduced into a single fiber yet still separate the light into its constituent colors when it reached its destination.

Details of the research were presented in a research paper that was reviewed in a post-deadline session at ECOC 2009 this week.

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