Researchers Break Efficiency Record for Data Transfer in Ultra-fast Transatlantic Cable

A new experiment has achieved a record fiber optic cable capacity of
26.2 terabits per second across more than 6,000 kilometers of the MAREA
transatlantic fiber optic cable

SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–lt;a href=”” target=”_blank”gt;#OSAlt;/agt;–If you are making an overseas phone call or using cloud computing, there
is a 99 percent chance an undersea fiber optic cable is being utilized.
Now, new work with lasers shows promise for squeezing more data through
these cables, to help meet the growing demand for data flow between
computers in North America and Europe. The method could increase network
capacity without requiring new cables, which can cost hundreds of
millions of dollars to build.

A team of researchers from Infinera has achieved new benchmarks for
efficiency for transatlantic fiber optic cables. Testing an emerging
approach for how the light signals are transmitted — called 16QAM
modulation — the group smashed through efficiency records for data
transfer, nearly doubling data capacity and approaching the theoretical
limit for such a transfer. They will present their research at the
upcoming Optical Fiber Conference and Exposition, held 3-7 March in San
Diego, Calif., U.S.A.

“In an optical fiber, it’s desirable to carry more data per second,
which we call the fiber capacity, and also to be able to send the signal
over longer distances, which we call the optical reach,” said Dr. Pierre
Mertz, an author on the study. “In simple terms, if you try to push the
limits of fiber capacity you will reduce the reach. “

The team managed to extend record-setting capacity for a given reach —
across the Atlantic Ocean — using the MAREA transatlantic cable, which
spans 6,605 kilometers from Bilbao, Spain, to Virginia Beach, Va.,
U.S.A. Funded in part by Microsoft and Facebook, MAREA currently holds
the record for the highest-capacity cable crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

The MAREA cable came online last year and is made of eight pairs of
optic fibers, with each pair designed to carry 20 terabits per second —
each one enough to stream more than 4 million HD videos at once.

Demand for new and better cables has risen ever since the first undersea
trans-Atlantic communications cable was laid in 1858. That demand has
skyrocketed over the last decade, thanks to the shift to cloud-based

Indeed, Virginia and North Carolina have become hotbeds for building
data centers, especially since the MAREA cable went live in February
2018. The recent construction includes four data centers for Microsoft

Not only does the new experiment mark the first time PM-16QAM signals
were sent such distances, Mertz said, the feat was achieved with
equipment readily available to the industry.

Information was sent through the MAREA cable via high-speed lasers.
Using their own high-tech toolkit to modulate the lasers, Infinera
generated signal speeds topping out at 26.2 terabits per second, a 20
percent increase over what the cable designers originally thought
feasible. By comparison, the most common way signals are modulated for
MAREA today only reaches 9.5 terabits per second.

The biggest challenge is that the system was operating very close to the
Shannon Limit, or the theoretical maximum information transfer rate for
a communications channel, according to Mertz. “That means that every
gain we make becomes harder and harder,” he said.

This result is already delivering comparable capacity to next-generation
chipsets from other vendors that employ a technique called probabilistic
constellation shaping (PCS). The good news for service providers
demanding ever more capacity, Mertz said, is as the industry moves
toward higher-performance systems, their technique can be combined with
PCS for even faster speeds in the future.

Additional research results will be presented onsite at OFC 2019.

Hear from the research team: “Real-time 16QAM Transatlantic
Record Spectral Efficiency of 6.21 b/s/Hz Enabling 26.2 Tbps Capacity”
by Stephen Grubb, Pierre Mertz, Ales Kumpera, Lee Dardis, Jeffrey Rahn,
James O’Connor, Matthew Mitchell, will take place at 12:15 p.m. Monday,
4 March in Room 6D of the San Diego Convention Center.

MEDIA REGISTRATION: Media/analyst registration for OFC 2019 can
be accessed online. Further information is available on the event
website at OFC, including travel details.

About OFC

The Optical Fiber Conference and Exhibition (OFC) is
the largest global conference and exhibition for optical communications
and networking professionals. For more than 40 years, OFC has drawn
attendees from all corners of the globe to meet and greet, teach and
learn, make connections and move business forward.

OFC includes dynamic business programming, an exhibition of more than
700 companies, and high impact peer-reviewed research that, combined,
showcase the trends and pulse of the entire optical networking and
communications industry. OFC is managed by The Optical Society (OSA) and
co-sponsored by OSA, the IEEE Communications Society (IEEE/ComSoc), and
the IEEE Photonics Society. OFC 2019 will be held from 3-7 March 2019 at
the San Diego Convention Center, California, USA. Follow @OFCConference,
learn more at OFC
Community LinkedIn
, and watch highlights on OFC

Authors: Stephen Grubb, Pierre Mertz, Ales Kumpera, Lee Dardis, Jeffrey
Rahn, James O’Connor, Matthew Mitchell
Author Affiliations: Infinera


Leah Wilkinson

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