China achieves a fiber optic connection of 1.02 petabits per second, breaking all records


8K content getting closer with existing fiber technologies

Although high-speed wireless technologies like Wi-Fi 6E and 5G dominate the headlines, analog and optical cables remain the backbone of the Internet, and for good reason. Researchers in China have just set a new record for fiber optic data transmission with a technique that is compatible with existing cable infrastructure, meaning that a real-world implementation is entirely possible and not limited to a remote environment. laboratory.

Researchers from the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan sent data over a multicore fiber-optic cable at a speed of 1.02 petabits per second over a distance of 51.7 km. That's the equivalent of sending 127,500 GB of data per second, which the researchers say is enough for more than "10 million 8K streaming channels per second." As New Atlas points out, it's also 100,000 times faster than the new generation of high-speed gigabit connections that bring Internet to home users.

In December 2020, NICT successfully performed the first 1 petabit per second data transmission over standard diameter fiber optic cable, and although speed improvement to 1.02 petabits per second was only a year and a half after is certainly an impressive achievement, what makes this time so exciting is the technology used to break the record.

In 2020, NICT researchers sent the data over a single-core fiber-optic cable, but used a multimode technique in which multiple signals were mixed during transmission. In all, 15 “modes” were sent over the fiber, and while the speed gains were impressive, the multimode technique requires special hardware to decrypt the signals and extract usable data, requiring the development and implementation of new technologies. integrated circuits throughout an entire network system and costly upgrades, making it difficult to sell to internet service providers despite massive bandwidth gains.

This time, the researchers eliminated the mixed-signal multimode approach and instead reduced transmission to just four "modes," each sending one of four cores inside a custom fiber-optic cable with a standard diameter. . Imagine a plastic straw with four thinner straws inside, each containing a different flavor of soda: a vast simplification of what the researchers created. But multicore cable was not the only innovation that made this unprecedented data transfer possible, it also relied on some very technical optical amplification systems and signal modulation approaches, as the NICT researchers describe:

In this experiment, by extending the Raman amplification bandwidth to the full S-band and using custom S-band thulium-doped fiber amplifiers (TDFAs) and extended L-band erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs), we were able to use a record 20 THz optical spectrum with a total of 801 x 25 GHz spaced wavelength channels, each with dual polarization QAM 256 modulation for high spectral density in all wavelength bands.

Most importantly, this second breakthrough is based on hardware and techniques that are fully compatible with existing mainstream transceivers. New fiber optic cabling will need to be installed, but since the researchers limited the size of their multicore cable to standard dimensions, it would be fully compatible with existing infrastructure, greatly reducing renovation costs. As 5G becomes more pervasive, and with 6G just around the corner, data demand will continue to increase by leaps and bounds, but innovation like this promises to give internet providers a sizeable advantage for at least a few years. years.

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