Optical/IP Networks

Bell Labs Busts 40G Barrier

Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) is out to show it's serious about its aggressive push into 40-Gbit/s terrain.

Today, the company announced an impressive transmission record that nearly doubles the reach of previous 40-Gbit/s demonstrations. Bell Labs scientists announced that they have transmitted 64 channels of data at 40-Gbit/s over a 4,000km span (about 2,500 miles) (see Bell Labs Sets Transmission Record).

That math adds up to a total 2.56 Tbit/s being sent at a distance that could span North America. Lucent scientists say this is twice as fast and as far as their previous record, which was 1.60 terabits of information per second over 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles).

Though such so-called “hero” efforts in the lab don’t necessarily translate to commercial applications, the move makes the statement that Lucent doesn’t want to lose out to archrival Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) or others in the race to get 40-Gbit/s out the door. When Nortel beat competitors to 10-Gbit/s optical technology, it became the market leader in optical transport.

Indeed, on the commercial front, Lucent looks to be making an aggressive attack with 40-Gbit/s products. Earlier this week, it announced that Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) is testing its LambdaExtreme product (see Lucent Lays on More Lambdas ).

Tim Sullivan, president of Lucent's optical networking division, told Light Reading editors earlier this week at OFC that the economics of 40-Gbit/s technology are already there for carriers.

“The cost basis for 40 gig is already 15 percent less than buying four 10-gigabit connections,” says Sullivan. “Our 40-gig products are shipping today. No one wants to believe that, but it's true.”

Indeed, as shown at this week's OFC conference, where the details of the Bell Labs test were presented in a post-deadline technical paper, there appears to be a sudden move forward in 40-Gbit/s technological developments (see 40 Gbit/s: Ready for Prime Time?). The only question now is how many carriers are ready to adopt the technology in the midst of a capital spending slowdown -- and whether the economics add up for them.

The common wisdom has been that 40-Gbit/s is years away because of technical problems associated with sending optical signals at such high speeds, but it could now be ready for deployment in certain niches (see The Shorter Roads to 40G). Lucent officials said the record was achieved with a new technology developed by Bell Labs called differential phase shift keying (DPSK). Other technologies included L-band amplifiers, Raman Amplification, Digital Wrappers and Forward Error Correction (FEC), and optimal dispersion. The test utilized commercially available TruWave non-zero dispersion shifted fiber (NZ-DSF) produced by Optical Fiber Solutions (OFS), the optical fiber division that Lucent sold to Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd. last year.

The last big 40-Gbit/s lab milestone came in Janurary of last year when Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) announced it had sent 125 DWDM channels at 40 Gbit/s each over a distance of 1,500 km (see Alcatel Claims Another Record). Alcatel attained that record using its own TeraLight Ultra optical fiber.

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, and Stephen Saunders, Founding Editor, Light Reading

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