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Think Google Fiber's fast? Nokia to show off tech that's 1,000 times faster

Core internet networks could see a major boost in coming years with the new terabit-speed optical-fiber links of the type being unveiled by Nokia Bell Labs.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The terabit speeds achieved by Nokia over fiber will present a major leap forward over current internet-backbone network limits

Image: YUE, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Researchers will this week demonstrate a newly-refined data-transmission technique that can deliver one terabit per second (Tbps) over optical fiber.

Nokia Bell Labs, Deutsche Telekom T-Labs, and the Technical University of Munich will be showing off how a technique called Probabilistic Constellation Shaping, or PCS, can deliver blistering 1Tbps speeds over a fiber connection.

The work provides more momentum behind the push to bring terabit networks to reality. It follows another optical breakthrough earlier this year by researchers at University College London, who achieved speeds of 1.25Tbps.

To put that in perspective, they noted it was fast enough to download an entire Games of Thrones series in high definition within one second.

Of course, thanks to streaming services such as Netflix, video bingeing doesn't require downloading a whole series at once and 5Mbps will suffice for HD-quality streaming.

Still, terabit-speed networks will meet growing demand for higher-capacity core networks, thanks in large part to streaming. Terabit speeds will present a major leap forward over current internet-backbone network limits of 40Gbps to 100Gbps.

For comparison on the consumer side, Alphabet's Google Fiber embryonic US fiber-to-the-premises service is offering 1Gbps connections.

Nokia Bell Labs, which came to Nokia via its Alcatel Lucent acquisition last year, says its optical breakthrough will allow operators and enterprises to improve the distance and capacity of high-speed data transmissions in optical metro and core networks.

"The trial of the novel modulation approach, known as Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS), uses quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) formats to achieve higher transmission capacity over a given channel to significantly improve the spectral efficiency of optical communications," Nokia explains.

"PCS modifies the probability with which constellation points, the alphabet of the transmission, are used. Traditionally, all constellation points are used with the same frequency. PCS cleverly uses constellation points with high amplitude less frequently than those with lesser amplitude to transmit signals that, on average, are more resilient to noise and other impairments. This allows the transmission rate to be tailored to ideally fit the transmission channel, delivering up to 30 percent greater reach."

It's not clear when the technology will be deployed in real networks, although the demonstration is described as having been achieved in "real-world conditions".

A Nokia Networks spokesman told ZDNet that earlier testing had achieved 1Tbps on a round trip between the German cities of Stuttgart and Darmstadt, as well as between Stuttgart and Nuremberg. It had also recorded 0.8Tbps between Stuttgart and Berlin.

The technology may eventually be useful for backhaul networks for fiber-to-the-home connections, but currently is not applicable to backhaul for wireless networks, the spokesman added.

"The success of the close collaboration with Nokia Bell Labs, who further developed the technology, and Deutsche Telekom T-Labs, who tested it under real conditions, is satisfying confirmation that TUM engineering is a label of outstanding quality, and that TUM teaching gives our students the intellectual tools to compete, succeed and lead globally," Technical University of Munich professor Gerhard Kramer said.


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