Optical fiber – From 100G to 800G

Sep 28, 2020

pic: JJ Ying @jjying

Much has been said lately about the deployment of 5G. But other technologies being developed will allow much faster alternatives than 10Gbps.

Again, as most of this year’s projects, this also has a lot to do with the pandemic. With the COVID-19, users have had to make full use of the digital world for almost all their activities.

This is why data centers, which were operating with optical fiber at speeds of 100Gbps and even 200Gbps to cover metropolitan and regional areas, have had to accelerate their plans for technological advancement designed for the long term… to now.

400G: the digital transformation of fiber optics

The traffic increases this year are exponential. For example, Zoom went from having 10 million users a day in 2019 to 200 million a day in 2020 and companies like AT&T have had to face increases of up to 700% in traffic demand.

Due to this, the deployment of 400 G optical networks in data centers has intensified, both in the internal environment and at the interconnection nodes. This progress has allowed to assimilate the load of VPN services, video games, cloud computing and other services keeping the same speed to the final user.

The development and installation of interfaces such as the 400GBASE-SR4.2 and 400GBASE-DR4 allow the use of multimode and singlemode fibers, providing the flexibility needed to obtain higher speeds at different distances.

However, the range of this technology is over 100km, limiting this speed to metropolitan areas.

800G: the future of the digital transformation

While the data centers are preparing and implementing the change to 400G, the next technological leap is already in the test phase: 800G optical networks.

The coherent digital signal processor (C-DSP) is the cornerstone for transmission over optical networks, and its latest evolution (800G C-DSP) will allow transmission at 800Gbps over hundreds of kilometres. This is good news for data centers, but also for final users: 800G networks have proved that they can maintain speeds from 200Gbps to 400Gbps over thousands of kilometres, despite the conditions of temperature changes, vibrations and stress that affect fiber optic transmission over long distances.

So instead of the 80 wavelengths, the maximum that current fibre optics can achieve (traditional C-band), 800G technology can reach up to 216 wavelengths per pair (using Super C-band and the Super L-band). This, in combination with polarisation state algorithms and FTN algorithms will mitigate the errors that can occur during transmission.

1.6T networks: close to science fiction

Due to the rapid advances in the development of fiber optic technology, transmission at the astronomical speed of 1.6 Tbps is expected in the near future.

Another advantage about all these new technologies is that, as with the generations of antenna transmission in mobile telecommunications, each advance includes and supports the previous networks, improving their service.

It is true that fiber optic technology is more expensive, as it depends on the installation of a physical transmission medium. But it is precisely for this reason that it takes the upper hand in speed: now and in the years to come.

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