Bell Labs expands fiber-optic capacity to 1,000 channels

Bell Labs expands fiber-optic capacity to 1,000 channels

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

Scientists at Bell Labs, the research arm of Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., have put more than 1,000 data channels on one strand of fiber-optic cable, said Gerald Butters, Lucent group president for optical networking.

Using dense-wavelength-division multiplexing, which divides light into discrete carriers by wavelength, Bell Labs ran 1,022 37-Mbps channels over a single fiber, Butters said. He spoke at the recent Next Generation Networks conference in Arlington, Va.

Current multiplexers commonly make up to 40 channels over existing fiber, and 80 channels are the next step. Butters predicted that in the not-too-distant future, 2,500 channels will become possible. With optical-time-division multiplexing, which transmits multiple signals simultaneously over a single path, rates up to 2.5 Gbps could be achieved on each channel, he said.

'Electronics will be with us for a long, long time,'' Butters said. But the potential returns for research in electronics are dropping, whereas photonics'optical transmission'promises rapid advances to multiterabit bandwidth, he said.

Not only is the capacity of fiber cable increasing, but new cable is being installed in the United States at the rate of 167 miles per hour'4,000 miles of new fiber each day, venture capitalist John M. McQuillan said.

Buckets of bandwidth

'We are living with bandwidth abundance,'' said McQuillan, who began his career working at BBN Corp., now GTE Internetworking, on the Arpanet, the Defense Department's Internet predecessor.

Network performance is poised to outstrip PC performance as an enabler, he said. Network equipment is already supplanting desktop PCs as the hot market for microprocessors, and improved routing and queuing technology will let more applications reside on the network.

'This is the end of the beginning for the Internet,'' McQuillan said.

Originally designed for point-to-point data transmissions such as e-mail, the Internet today supports bidirectional transactions, streaming media, telephony, virtual private networks and the Web. The Internet was not designed to be reliable, predictable, secure or to carry voice'things such applications require, he said.

'It's amazing that any of this works as well as it does,'' McQuillan said.

Abundant capacity and increased intelligence on the network will make possible an Internet successor with enough reliability and security for the new applications. Unlike the Internet, which was seeded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the next-generation network will be the work of the commercial sector, which is investing billions of dollars in advanced networking technology, McQuillan said.

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