Plenty of exciting developments are coming out of research labs around the world, according to the postdeadline papers presented at the technical conference linked to the ECOC Exhibition.
The postdeadline papers represent the latest and most significant developments in optical technology. Lots of researchers submit papers on their most recent achievements, and only a small proportion of them end up being accepted by panels of recognized experts.
What follows is Light Reading's take on the papers that generated the most excitement. For those wanting to dig deeper, the research paper reference numbers [in brackets] are provided.
Hero Experiments: Faster, Wider, Longer
No fewer than a dozen postdeadline papers detailed ways of improving capacity and reach in the optical network.
While the 10-Tbit/s barrier was broken earlier this year by two companies -- Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), and NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY) -- the transmission distance involved was very short, less than 120 km (see Alcatel Holds World Record for a Day). Results presented at ECOC focused on increasing reach, but at the expense of some capacity.
Optical Packet Switching
The general consensus is that packet switches will need to be all-optical to achieve terabit-per-second throughputs, but significant hurdles remain in the way, not least of which is the fact that so far there is no method for optically storing packets (see Storing Light). But the lack of an optical equivalent to electronic memory is not stopping researchers from building prototype optical packet switches in the lab.
The usual suspects are behind the latest breakthroughs in optical packet switching: Alcatel, Bell Labs, and Japan's CRL/Osaka University.
All-Optical Signal Processing The basic idea behind all-optical signal processing is to replace electronic gear with protocol and bit-rate transparent optical equipment. All-optical 3R regeneration (so-called because it reamplifies, retimes, and reshapes the signal), optical demultiplexing, wavelength conversion, and signal processing tasks such as optical reading of packet headers all fall in this camp. It's billed as increasingly important, if not essential, as networks reach speeds of 40 Gbit/s and beyond.
Planar Integrated Circuits The drive to miniaturize optical subsystems using waveguides continues. Here are some highlights:
— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading