Researchers set a new world record for petabit data transmission per second in Japan

The fastest the world has seen.
Ameya Paleja
Fiber optic cables are common household items nowkynny/ iStock

Researchers at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan have demonstrated data transmission of more than one petabit per second using a standard 0.125 mm diameter multi-core fiber (MCF), TechXplore reported

With the world becoming more connected and the need for information being more urgent than ever, there is a massive push to make our devices faster and support them with an unprecedented data transmission backbone. Earlier this year, we reported how 10Gbps internet connections are nearing reality, and now researchers at the Network Research Institute at NICT have demonstrated petabit data transmission. 

Advances in optical fiber manufacturing

The world of communications made a giant leap when we moved away from copper cables to optical fibers. The speed of data transmission increased manifold, and it is the very infrastructure that lets you make high-quality video calls and watch movies in 4K resolution. 

In the laboratory, though, researchers are working on advanced optical fiber cables that appear like the one that runs to your house but can support multiple propagation paths on the inside. One such method involves using different modes of transmission inside a single core.

In December 2020, researchers at NICT demonstrated petabit transmission of data using 15 modes in a single core. However, to make this transmission work efficiently, one also needs signal processing to work in a MIMO (Multiple-input-multiple-output) fashion. What that means is that the signals are scrambled as they travel through the core and now need to be unscrambled by specialized equipment when received. This requires the use of dedicated integrated circuits and practical deployment of this technology is difficult until we develop the circuits at scale.

The other option is to transmit signals in a single mode but pack more cores in an optical fiber. The result is multiple transmission paths of data to be sent across an optical fiber that looks no different from the outside but on the inside is carrying millions of bits of data through them. Since the manufacturing of these cables is not very different from that of single-core cables, it is easier to bring them to a commercial reality. 

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Advances in signal processing

The researchers at NICT utilized wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), where signals of different wavelengths are sent over the same medium. This allows for more data to be transmitted at the same time through the same cable. This technology has been exploited commercially and operators of optical fiber cables used the C and L bands to send across their data. 

Along with using these two bands, the researchers at NICT also included the recently explored S-band during their test transmission. Using custom amplifiers for these bands, the researchers managed to send across 801 wavelengths and achieved a record 20 THz optical bandwidth in a multi-core fiber, the press release said. The entire system transmitted data at the rate of 1.02 petabit per second over a distance of 31.68 miles (51 km).

As the world embraces 5G, there is expected to be an explosion of amounts of data that will need to be transmitted, and technologies like these can ensure that the transition can happen effortlessly. 

The researchers presented their work at the International Conference on Laser and Electro-Optics (CLEO) 2022.

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