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BT and Alcatel-Lucent Claim Fastest Real World Fibre Optic Speed of 1.4Tbps

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 (1:22 pm) - Score 4,422

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.

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41 Responses
  1. FibreFred says:

    Great stuff, more core capacity will be needed so… its all good news

  2. JNeuhoff says:

    Too bad that most consumers can’t benefit from it, there is hardly any genuine fibre-optic lines installed for end customers, only poorly designed copper VDSL for some, and even then only with the aid of wasted tax payer’s money.

  3. John says:

    BT should have done it right now but instead they gave us crappy VDSL FTTC. Not good enough BT.

  4. Rob Scott says:

    This is great news for businesses in the UK, slowly but surely we are getting fibre broadband cabinets installed. Its just a shame that most of them are on residential sites not business parks!

  5. Antonio Napoli says:


    the experiment you are talking about “a UK team managed to push 73.7Tbps down a hollow fibre optic cable (here).”

    was done at the Coriant Lab in Munich in Germany. First author was our PhD student V. Sleiffer from TU/e in the Netherlands.

    Here the published article:

    Please correct the text accordingly,
    Antonio Napoli

    1. Neil McRae says:

      The lab is not a real live network though which is what our test was,

      These tests are done because it helps reduce the cost of the components as we push and learn more about how they work.


  6. Slow Somerset says:

    Instead of patting each other on the back they should hurry up and give everyone a decent speed and service.

    1. FibreFred says:

      This is about future development of core networks though, nothing to do with the rollout. Should everything be put on hold until the rollout is done, forget the future? 😉

    2. Gerarda says:

      Lots of these sort of announcements but BT still have no way of delivering the USC even at its pathetic 2mb level. More effort into solving that so they can honour their BDUK commitments would be appreciated

    3. FibreFred says:

      The rollout (again nothing to do with this article) isn’t complete yet and its a commitment not an obligation.

    4. Gerarda says:

      It is a contractual obligation in the BDUK areas and its already been stated by for example Suffolk Better Broadband that they “hope” BT will have a solution by the end of the roll out

    5. FibreFred says:

      So is it USC or USO ?

    6. gerarda says:

      its a cock up

    7. FibreFred says:

      🙂 the whole BDUK structure is a cock up gerarda

  7. JNeuhoff says:

    “Instead of patting each other on the back they should hurry up and give everyone a decent speed and service.”

    Agreed. There is virtually no fibre broadband rollout for the last mile access lines in the UK (except for those hopeless BT trolls who believe VDSL is fibre). BT is the largest copper mine in the UK, 75m miles of installed copper network, worth Billions of Pounds. Nothing to be proud of!

  8. MikeW says:

    Lordy, the trolls are out in force on this story, aren’t they?

    It reminds me of that ‘Not the Nine o’clock News’ sketch about Python: “Remember the words of John Cleese: ‘When two or three are gathered together in my name, they shall perform the Parrot Sketch…’ ”

    When two are three are gathered together on any innocuous story that mentions the word “fibre”, they shall perform the same tedious moans and groans …

    1. FibreFred says:

      Its always the case Mike, they are like leeches. See a story involving BT – dive in and run them down.

      See a really good news story involving BT? – No matter just dive in anyway steer the topic totally away from its headline (they may as well be griping about charges for caller display) and run them down even harder.

      Quite sad to be honest and true trolling.

  9. Slow Somerset says:

    So we aren’t allowed an opinion now then are we ! and when we do we are called Trolls and people start getting personal. I am all for progress but nothing ever comes from Bt just hot air. I can remember watching tomorrow’s world back in the 80s it must be 30 years ago now and they were going on about fibre optic then so what happened since not much Bt are still holding on to old tech with copper.

    1. TheFacts says:

      So come up with a costed plan to rollout fibre to every property for us to look at.

    2. FibreFred says:

      But Somerset, its the same old same old and not just from yourself. A mention of BT and the same old gripes come out. Fine if its an article related to the rollout but this isn’t.

      Its totally off topic and another excuse to groan.

      What has been achieved here as per the article (on topic) is a great success, not just the speed but the fact that its an overlay on existing infrastructure and as such a much lower cost to move up to these speeds. Its a great achievement and nothing to do at all with the usual grumbles.

      Of course you are entitled an opinion everyone is, just keep it in the right article that’s all, one that is actually relevant.

    3. gerarda says:

      it is not off topic to comment on where BTs research efforts are being concentrated on given their lack of a final mile solution that is required for their BDUK contracts. It is like having your car in the garage waiting for a new tyre to be delivered and the garage keeps telling you all the stuff they are doing to make your engine so faster.

    4. FibreFred says:

      Maybe they can work on two things at once? Just maybe 😉

    5. GNewton says:

      I don’t remember TheFacts ever having posted a plan on how to provide nextgen broadband to everyone in the UK. Instead, he just keeps on asking the same questions, but never contributes to this forum with something useful.

      Users have rightly posted here their views on how very strange it is for a so-called telecom company to brag about technical progress in fibre-optic research, and yet at the same time is unable to provide appropriate and cost efficient telecom services to large parts of the UK.

      Here are some real facts: BT is unable to deploy cost efficient fibre-optic broadband services to the majority of the UK. In fact, BT can’t even commercially deploy nextgen copper-based VDSL services to more than one third of the country, most towns below 10 000 to 15 000 cannot be commercially served with this technology at all. This shows how hopelessly backwards this company really is. No vision and no innovation ever coming from this company. People have rightly called it the UK’s biggest copper mine!

  10. JNeuhoff says:

    “So come up with a costed plan to rollout fibre to every property for us to look at.”

    Has been done, several times. You truly suffer from a short term memory.

  11. TheFacts says:

    Why are there not more people encouaging the government to spend the £15b needed?

    1. GNewton says:

      Please provide some links of why you believe it costs 15 Billion Pounds!

    2. GNewton says:

      Your link talks about GBP24.6 billion total cost, quite a difference compared to the figure given by TheFacts (who hasn’t even provided a source for his figure).These huge variations of cost estimates only illustrates how the BT/Ofcom have lost the plot here, and in what poor shape the UK really is.

      Fact is: BT is not able to commercially serve large parts of the UK with its current nextgen technology, it lacks vision and innovation!

    3. FibreFred says:

      That link is the most recent I know of cant speak for thefacts

      It’s an Ofcom report, you wanted the cost and there it is , I’ve not seen anyone say how it can be paid for apart from some toss about using HS2 money which isn’t going to happen so isn’t valid.

      I thought with bduk money they would cover 90%? If so do you consider 10% a large figure compared to 90% ?

    4. TheFactse says:

      I thought I had read that, clearly wrong.

  12. George says:

    Meanwhile in the real world BT can not even provide 2Mb to a quarter of users… At least according to the poll here of a few thousand which is also similar numbers to what so called BT and Ofcom data is based on.

    1. Trips says:

      Have you got proof that around the UK the BT network only offers sub 2Mb speed to 25% of customers George?

      You really shouldn’t confuse your local area with the whole of the UK.

    2. FibreFred says:

      George i assume you crazylazy name has been banned ? How many times is that now ? Why would anyone take a Website poll over official data ? When it’s suits their argument of course 😉 and you claim to be in the real world lol

  13. George says:

    I did not say anywhere it was 2Mb to 25% of the UK i stated the poll here if you scale it like BT do their testing of a 1000 or so users says it. Then again maybe 3000+ votes is all just my local area. Only in a BT daydream it is.

    @Fred never posted here under that name, i also have no idea what official data you are referring to. Do you mean BTs own published statements rather than facts?

    1. FibreFred says:

      Sigh, more games, ones I’m not playing whichever name you post under

      Yes lets scale up a website poll that certainly works…

    2. FibreFred says:

      … a poll that says

      68.4% NEED 30Mbps+ or more

      But then when asked if they can/could get 15Mbps would they buy a superfast product 43.9% said no they wouldn’t

      On that basis I’ll pass 😉

    3. George says:

      Ofcom data is also scaled up, it is comprised of only a couple of thousand users running speed tests. No different to a couple of thousand here telling people what speed they get.

      Why would any person with slow speeds want to pay £10 for 30+Mb. The lucky few that get Infinity are not paying £10 more for that over their ADSL product are they?

    4. TheFactse says:

      It’s hadly a few, maybe you know otherwise.

    5. New_Londoner says:

      I think you will find that many are paying less for ADSL than they would for FTTC, which is one of the reasons many that could upgrade have chosen not to. Check for yourself and you will quickly find you can get offers for ADSL at much lower prices than the lowest offers for FTTC.

      I have pointed this out quite a few times now!

    6. GNewton says:

      TheFactse: I assume you are the same person as the TheFacts, in which case I’d ask to provide us some better sources as to why you believe why much more than just a few users use superfast broadband. Sitepoint comes to my mind, but with your inside BT knowledge you probably have better sources?

    7. TheFacts says:

      Seeing extra ports being put into a cabinet.

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