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Bell Labs MIMO-SDM Could Boost Optical Capacity to 1 Petabyte Per Second

November 23, 2015 By Steve Senne in

A promising breakthrough in optical networking comes from Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs. On November 19 Bell Labs unveiled what it is calling multiplexed optical multiple input-multiple output (MIMO-SDM) technology, which has the potential to overcome the capacity limits of optical fiber network data transport. The technology was unveiled at the 2015 IEEE Photonics conference, which took place October 4-8 in Reston, Virginia.

MIMO-SDM breaks through the non-linear ¨Shannon Limit¨ of optical fiber deployed today, according to Bell Labs. The new optical networking transport technology holds the potential to raise optical fiber transport capacity from today’s 10-20 terabits per second (Tbps) to 1,000 Tbps, or 1 petabyte per second, according to a Bell Labs press release.

Using MIMO-SDM, just one optical fiber would have enough capacity to simultaneously stream HD movies to two-thirds of the entire U.S. population, the press release said.


Bell Labs used six transmitters and six receivers in combination with real-time digital signal processing in demonstrating MIMO-SDM’s ability to transport data at 1 Pbps from the exhibition floor over a 60km-long coupled-mode fiber network connection to the company’s global headquarters in New Jersey.

The breakthrough brings the technology a step closer to commercial reality in that it solves crosstalk problems that became evident in previous experiments using off-line processing, Alcatel-Lucent added.

In a recent study, Bell Labs found that network traffic among telecom carriers and large corporations is growing at cumulative annual rates as high as 100 percent. Petabyte-scale optical fiber network data transport would be sufficient to support burgeoning data traffic volumes and the rollout of next-gen 5G wireless networks, Alcatel-Lucent said.