A record for the fastest-ever data rate for digital information has been set by British researchers. The record-setting optical transmission system, designed by a team from University College London’s Optical Network Group, is capable of transmitting 1.125 terabits (Tb/s) of data per second.
That’s about 50,000 times faster than the UK’s superfast broadband speed. “The data rate we have achieved would allow the entire HD Game of Thrones series to be downloaded within one second,” says Robert Maher, the study’s lead researcher.
The study, published
in Scientific Reports
, used techniques from information theory and digital signal processing to custom build an optical communications system with multiple transmitting channels and a single receiver. The project set out to investigate ways to improve the optical network infrastructure to support the explosion of digital content, cloud and e-health services, as well as the ubiquitous connectivity of smart devices referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT).
“This result is a milestone as it shows that terabit per second optical communications systems are possible in the quest to reach ever higher transmission capacities in optical fibers that carry the vast majority of all data generated or received,” says Professor Polina Bayvel. “A high-capacity digital communications infrastructure underpins the internet and is essential to all aspects of the digital economy and everyday lives.”
The team determined the best way of encoding information in optical signals, taking into account the limitations of the transmitter and receiver. They applied coding techniques commonly used in wireless communications, but not yet widely used in optical communications, to ensure the transmitted signals are adapted to distortions in the system electronics.
WHAT ARE OPTICAL TRANSCEIVERS?
The optical transceiver segment is one of the major segments in the global optical systems and componentry market for Cloud computing, according
to BCC Research analyst Sinha G. An optical transceiver chip is an integrated circuit that transmits and receives data by optical fiber rather than electrical wire.
“Optical transceivers, which facilitate the use of FTTP services, can also transmit and receive telephone communications and digital television broadcasts. The increasing demand for high-speed data transfer is one of the major factors fueling the demand for optical transceivers globally,” he explains. “Apart from this, the usability of optical transceivers in LAN and WAN is also expected to have a positive impact on the optical transceivers market in Cloud computing.“
WHAT ARE OPTICAL TRANSMITTERS?
An optical transmitter converts electrical signals into optical form and launches the resulting optical signal into optical fiber for transmission, explains Sinha. The optical transmitter includes an optical source, optical modulator and optical pulse generator.
“The optical transmitter should have a high level of light output so that it can transmit the signal along the fiber optic channel. An optical transmitter is essential in for transmitting data over long distances. The various types of optical transmitters available include light emitting diodes and laser diodes,” he says.
WHAT DOES THE DATA RATE RECORD MEAN FOR CLOUD COMPUTING?
Increasing demand for high-speed data transmission and storage of large amounts of data
are major factors fueling the growth of the optical systems and componentry market for Cloud computing. Growing demand for access to stored data by a large number of users is also expected to have a positive impact on the market. The scalability and cost-effectiveness of Cloud systems are fueling the demand for Cloud computing across various application segments, which in turn is fueling the demand for optical systems and componentry.
The researchers built the optical system using 15 channels, each carrying an optical signal of different wavelength that was modulated using the 256QAM format typically used in cable modems. The signals were combined and sent to a single optical receiver for detection. By grouping the channels together, the team created a “super-channel” which although not yet commercially available, is widely believed to be a way forward for the next generation of high-capacity communication systems.
“Using high-bandwidth super-receivers enables us to receive an entire super-channel in one go. Super-channels are becoming increasingly important for core optical communications systems, which transfer bulk data flows between large cities, countries or even continents,” says Maher. “However, using a single receiver varies the levels of performance of each optical sub-channel so we had to finely optimize both the modulation format and code rate for each optical channel individually to maximize the net information data rate.”
The global market for optical systems and componentry for the Cloud was valued at $1 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach nearly $3.1 billion by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 20.7% between 2015 and 2020, according to Sinha.
More specifically, the global market for optical receivers in optical systems and componentry for Cloud computing, valued at $51.9 million in 2014, should reach $198.1 million by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 24.9% between 2015 and 2020, says Sinha. The application of optical receivers in the field of information technology held the largest market share in 2014 and is expected to hold its position of market leader throughout the forecast period.