Infinera announces 2.4Tbps device to speed up fibre networks

Infinera has announced what it calls the first optical device to work at 2.4Tbps, promising improved performance for cloud and deep fibre networks.

The company said this will be the speed of its ICE5 device, due to be demonstrated this week but not commercially available for another year.

The unit will carry data at 400Gbps per wavelength for distances of up to 1,400km, said Geoff Bennett, the company’s director of solutions and technology. Over shorter distances, connecting data centres, it will work at 600Gbps per wavelength, he added.

Infinera is due to announce the product, and give more details about its long-term developments, this week at OFC 2018, the Optical Networking and Communication conference and exhibition in San Diego.

Nokia’s Bell Labs announced its optical developments a week ahead of OFC, and announcements by other companies are expected on Tuesday.

Infinera has admitted it was late in delivering the previous generation of chips, ICE4, but now that it is available – it’s used in the Seabras-1 cable, for example – performance is “better than advertised”, Bennett told Capacity in an interview.

The company plans to increase its investment in R&D so that there is a shorter interval between generations, Bennett added. “There was about five years between the third generation and ICE4. This coherent technology that the whole industry is developing is really, really difficult.”

He said: “We’re very pleased that [the ICE4 chips] are working better than expected. We’ve learned our lesson and we have to increase the pace of development.” The ICE initials stand for “infinite capacity engines”.

In future there will be two years between generations, he said, with the ICE5-based systems to be announced later in 2018, and available early 2019, and ICE6 to be announced in 2020.

ICE5 is a co-development with another company, “so we can use other people’s engineering power”, but Bennett refused to name the partner. But only Infinera people will be working on ICE6, he said. “We are saving some technology for ICE6,” Bennett said.

This week’s demonstration at OFC in San Diego will take optical transmission “as close to the Shannon limit as possible”, he said – a claim also made by Nokia Bell Labs for its new optical devices. This limit is named after Bell Labs mathematician Claude Shannon, who calculated in 1948 how much information can be carried in a digital signal.

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