The Terabit Age is Almost Upon Us

Infinera (s infn) has demonstrated that it can build an integrated optic transmitter capable of delivering terabit per second speeds, paving the way for growth of the next generation of the Internet. A few weeks ago, I explained how the world is moving toward a 100 Gbps speeds in the coming years, but this sort of development will help feed the capacity of the Internet for decades.

The Infinera terabit photonic integrated circuit (PIC) transmitter integrates ten wavelengths, each operating at 112 Gbps for an aggregate data rate of 1.12 terabits per second. Infinera showed off a receiver that can achieve terabit-per-second speeds last week. These optical components will live inside networking gear to deliver fast speeds to telecommunications, between data centers and in undersea cables. At the consumer level, a 1 Tbps PIC could enable the download of one high-definition movie file in a fifth of a second, or support the transmission of two million simultaneous videoconferences—all from a single pair of chips. According to an Infinera paper released today, the transmitter increases the number of bits one can jam into each wavelength of light running through the fiber. Infinera says it is able to increase the spectral density through something it calls FlexChannels. From the release:

FlexChannels are designed to implement Terabit channels more cost-effectively than conventional discrete-based optical networks because the integration of large numbers of lasers and other optical components into PICs reduces the cost-per-bit of reaching high levels of fiber and system capacity. …. Chief Strategy Officer Dr. David Welch described photonic integration as the key enabler for the next phase of network evolution. “As we collapse layers in the network, PICs are the technology that enables us to deliver a Digital Optical Network with unconstrained bandwidth throughout the network, pervasive, integrated switching, and the capability to deliver additional packet features cost-effectively,” Dr. Welch said.

Infinera’s 500 Gbps PIC is planned to be commercially available in Infinera systems next year, and systems based on PICs with 1 Tbps capacity still to come. Terabit speeds won’t just help deliver faster speeds to homes and business, but will also enable far more applications in the cloud, from sending petabytes of information to a constant access to vast compute resources. I’m not sure what all you could do with it, but I can’t wait to find out.