Under construction: Information super highway getting wider

March 13, 2002

The information super highway is getting ready for some road work. Just as cars drive on highways made of pavement, packets of information (like news from your favorite website) travel along information highways made of fiber optic cable. At this years Optical Fiber Conference (OFC) March 18-22 in Anaheim, California, researchers will be explaining, for the first time, the new limits to how wide and long the information super highway of the future will be.

Just as the number of lanes on a highway helps determine how many cars can travel the road at any one time, the bandwidth of the optical fiber highway determines how much information can be transmitted. As we send more, and larger, amounts of information over the Internet, the demand for greater bandwidth increases. Most fiber optic highways, or 'trunk lines,' that connect major cities or countries can currently handle about 10 gigabits (10 billion bits) of information per second (Gb/s). That is about the same amount of information contained in the text of 1000 books. By comparison, a dial-up modem allows you at home to get only about 56 kilobits (56 thousand bits) of information per second over a phone line.

Looking to push the limits of bandwidth, a group of researchers from Agere Systems, an optoelectronics and integrated circuits company, has set what they say is a new record transmission rate. They have transmitted 3.2 terabits (trillion bits) of information per second over a fiber optic line 1000km long using DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing).

Another group of researchers, from Mitsubishi Japan is looking not just at how wide they can make the highway, but how long. In order for countries to be connected to each other on the Internet, fiber optic lines must be installed under oceans and other large bodies of water. These trunk lines, which can be very long, are called 'transoceanic class' lines. At OFC researchers Katsuhiro Shimizu and Takashi Mizuochi will present their work on a 1.3 Tb/s transmission over 8400km on a single fiber - which they say is among the first for transoceanic class transmissions employing 20 Gb/s wave division multiplexing (WDM). "This development," says Shimizu, "opens new possibilities for next-generation submarine cable systems and long-distance terrestrial networks for the international network connecting Japan, the U.S.A., Asia, and Europe."
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For more information on this topic or to receive information on other OFC highlighted papers, and to register as press for OFC 2002, please contact:

Rory Richards
(301) 209-3088
Rrichard@aip.org

Websites:
OFC website: http://www.ofcconference.com/ OFC Media Relations: http://www.ofcconference.com/attendee/hot_press.cfm?menu_id=5500

American Institute of Physics

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