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AT&T smashes distance record for 400Gbps data connection

Telecom giant set to present research findings at optical networking convention next week

By , Network World
March 12, 2013 04:39 PM ET

Network World - Researchers from AT&T Labs will present the results of a record-setting fiber-optic transmission experiment next week at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference in Anaheim.

According to a statement from the OFC/NFOEC organizers, AT&T was able to send 400Gbps data transmissions more than 7,456 miles with minimal loss, thanks to new materials and a new modulation technique. Team leader Xiang Zhou said that his setup addresses several key concerns for next-generation networks.

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"Our method has the unique capability to allow tuning of the modulation spectral efficiency to match the available channel bandwidth and maximize the transmission reach, while maintaining tolerance to fiber nonlinearities and laser phase noise, both of which are major factors limiting performance for high-speed optical systems," he said.

Essentially, Zhou and his team have increased the amount of data that can be sent through a given amount of bandwidth -- substantially improving overall efficiency, even for existing infrastructure.

The tests were performed in the company's labs in Middletown, N.J. -- using a 60-mile fiber segment configured to act as a test platform.

Credit: Image courtesy AT&T Labs
This shows the measured optical spectrum of the eight 100GHz-spaced 495Gbps WDM signals at the launch into the transmission fiber. The insets are measured constellation diagrams before and after transmission. QPSK: quadrature phase shift keying; QAM: quadrature amplitude modulation; WDM: wavelength division multiplexed.

The record-setting distance achieved by the AT&T Labs researchers represents an increase of nearly 5,600 miles over previous attempts, though those used a 50GHz grid spacing for multiplexed transmissions, rather than the current 100GHz standard.

Other record-setting research will be presented at next week's OFC/NFOEC event, the group said, including an IBM project that can apparently move massive amounts of data through a network while consuming very little power. That link, developed in partnership with DARPA, cuts previous energy use in half while increasing transmission speed by 66%. The system will be used in next-generation supercomputers, according to researchers.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about lans & wans in Network World's LANs & WANs section.

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