Telecom giants Alcatel-Lucent and BT have today announced that a field trial of new Flexgrid technology has helped to deliver data speeds of up to 1.4Tbps (Terabits per second) over an existing “commercial grade” fibre optic link using a “record spectral efficiency” of 5.7 bits per second per Hertz (b/s/Hz).
The trial, which took place in a real-world environment by using an existing 410km fibre optic link between the BT Tower in London and their Adastral Park research facility in Ipswich (England) and then back again, made use of a new “flexible grid” infrastructure (Flexgrid) that can vary the gaps between transmission channels (i.e. 42.5% greater data transmission efficiency compared to today’s standard networks).
Admittedly some of you might look at this and point out that Alcatel-Lucent has already successfully transmitted data at the staggering speed of 31Tbps (Terabits per second) over a single long-haul 7200km optical fibre cable (here). Similarly a UK team managed to push 73.7Tbps down a hollow fibre optic cable (here). But the difference here is that BT has pulled off an impressive improvement using an existing link in a real-world environment with commercial grade hardware. ISPs will be happy to hear that.
The development is designed to help operators boost their network capacity without needing to lay expensive new fibre optic cables, which is also very time consuming work.
Neil J. McRae, BTs Chief Network Architect, said:
“Investing for the future is core to BT’s strategy and this outstanding achievement demonstrates that BT can easily introduce new features and technologies across our core network maximizing the efficiency of our existing infrastructure. Working with Alcatel-Lucent on this trial has been highly productive in demonstrating the viability of an alien wavelength approach.”
Cormac Whelan, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent UK & Ireland, added:
“As part of our long-standing relationship, BT and Alcatel-Lucent continue to work together to use innovation from Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent and BT Research and Development to move the industry forward and meet the ever evolving needs of the marketplace. These trials represent another step forwards by BT and Alcatel-Lucent in this continual evolution.“
Apparently the feat was achieved by overlaying an “Alien Super Channel” (note: not the acid spitting kind), which bundled together 7 x 200Gbps (Gigabits per second) channels and then reduced the “spectral spacing” between the channels from 50GHz to 35GHz using the 400Gb/s Photonic Services Engine (PSE) technology on the 1830 Photonic Service Switch (PSS). The super channel is called “Alien” because it can “operate transparently on top of BT’s existing optical network“.
The trial was said to have been “stable” and “error-free“, although it’s unclear when or even if BT will roll the new service out to major corporate networks, mobile operators and or fixed line broadband ISPs. But anything that can save money and yet still deliver significantly more capacity is likely to be welcomed.