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Bell Labs Claims Optical Capacity Breakthrough

Using the MIMO-SDM technique, Bell Labs aims to overcome the capacity limitations imposed by the non-linear 'Shannon limit' on current optical fiber.

November 19, 2015

3 Min Read

PARIS -- Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) has made a breakthrough in its ambition to shatter the capacity limits of optical networks as they strive to meet the explosion in traffic expected from 5G and the Internet of Things.

According to a study by Bell Labs, telecommunications operators and enterprises are witnessing rapid network data traffic growth at cumulative annual rates of up to 100 percent. With the promise of 5G wireless technology on the horizon, Bell Labs estimates that, within about a decade there will be an acute need for commercial optical transport systems capable of handling Petabit-per-second capacities.

With this demand threatening to outstrip the capacity limits of current optical fiber networks, at the 2015 IEEE Photonics conference Bell Labs revealed an optical networking technology that could potentially help operators address this expansion: a real-time space-division multiplexed optical multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO-SDM) system.

This world’s first demonstration of the Bell Labs’ pioneered MIMO-SDM technique has the potential to increase today’s 10 to 20 Terabit-per-second fiber capacities to Petabit-per-second capacity - the equivalent of 1,000 Terabits/s. The successful 6x6 MIMO-SDM real-time experiment using six transmitters and six receivers in combination with real- time digital signal processing was conducted over a 60-km-long coupled-mode fiber in Bell Labs’ global headquarters in New Jersey.

Using the MIMO-SDM technique, Bell Labs aims to overcome the capacity limitations imposed by the non-linear ‘Shannon limit’ on current optical fiber. This sets a fundamental threshold for the maximum information transfer rate on a single optical fiber used in today’s metro and long-haul transport networks.

Commenting on this breakthrough, Marcus Weldon, CTO of Alcatel-Lucent and President of Bell Labs said: “This experiment represents a major breakthrough in the development of future optical transport. We are at the crossroads of a huge change in communications networks, with the advent of 5G Wireless and cloud networking underway. Operators and enterprises alike will see their networks challenged by massive increases in traffic. At Bell Labs we are continuously innovating to shape the future of communications networks to meet those demands.”

Key Facts:

  • Bell Labs has demonstrated a world’s first prototype technology – a 6x6 real-time optical MIMO transmission system - that will push the limits of optical transport network capacity to meet future traffic demands.

    • Using the MIMO-SDM technique, Bell Labs aims to overcome the non-linear Shannon limit of currently deployed optical fiber. During the 6x6 real-time MIMO transmission technology experiment, crosstalk from multiple signals on a special fiber supporting six parallel optical signal paths was removed for the first time using real-time processing. This breakthrough brings the technology a step closer to reality compared to previous experiements using off-line processing.

    • The MIMO-SDM technique has the potential to increase current fiber capacities to a Petabit-per-second — enough capacity to allow two-thirds of the U.S. population to simultaneously stream HD movies over a single optical fiber.

    • Alcatel-Lucent announced the first commercially available single-carrier 100G technology in June 2010 and the first commercially available 100G/200G single-carrier line card in 2014, that can deliver up to 24 Tbps capacity. In 2013 Alcatel-Lucent announced the first deployment of a 400G superchannel optical link with FT Orange with a capacity of 17.6 terabits-per-second, based on the 400G Photonic Service Engine (PSE), co-developed by Bell Labs.

    • Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent, has been the leading source of new communications technologies since 1925, playing a pivotal role in inventing or perfecting key communications technologies such as lasers and fiber-optic communications systems. Its optical networking achievements and breakthroughs include the invention of Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM), the introduction of non-zero dispersion fiber, the first worldwide 100 Gigabit Ethernet field trial, and advanced optical modulation and coherent detection technology.

      Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)

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