Bell Labs demonstrates its primacy in advanced optical research at ECOC 2013

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Every year more than 1000 researchers from around the world (and over 5000 visitors to the associated technology trade show) gather at the European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communications, a technical gathering where the latest advancements in fiber optic communications are discussed and debated.

During this event, known as ECOC, one of the most important elements of the conference is the submission of what are known as ‘post-deadline’ papers. Amongst the optical research community, getting one of these post-deadline papers accepted is a very prestigious achievement, and the top researchers in the world vie for this recognition. The selection of post-deadline papers is much anticipated, and even a source of considerable drama at the conference, sort of like the ‘Oscars’ or ‘Palme d’Or’ of the optical research world.

So it is with considerable pride that I offer congratulation on behalf of myself and my leadership team to the optical research team from Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent. The team which had 5 post-deadline papers accepted (of a total of 20) at the 2013 ECOC, which was held in London from September 22nd through the 26th, an outcome that I quite frankly consider impressive.

Each of these papers documented major advancements across three broad categories of optical research which are absolutely critical to the development of the next generation of super high-capacity IP optical transport networks. The development of these systems is a key element in Alcatel-Lucent’s ‘Shift Plan’, an industrial re-positioning of the company from a telecommunications generalist to an IP Networking and Ultra-Broadband Access specialist.

In one paper (G. Raybon et al., “All-ETDM 107-Gbaud PDM-16QAM (856-Gb/s) transmitter and Coherent Receiver,” PD2.D.3), members of the optical research team underlined Alcatel-Lucent’s leadership in high-speed optical transmission, building on various Terabit super-channel demonstrations conducted by Bell Labs last year and in the earlier part of 2013. Bell Labs researchers are now able to modulate a single optical carrier at up to 856 Gigabits per second. This is the highest single-carrier bit rate ever achieved and is another important stepping stone on the road to Terabit per second single-carrier interfaces of the future.

Additionally, two post-deadline papers (J. Renaudier et al., “1-Tb/s Transceiver Spanning Over Just Three 50-GHz Frequency Slots for Long-Haul Systems,” PD2.D.5 and M. Salsi et al., “38.75 Tb/s Transmission Experiment Over Transoceanic Distance,” PD3.E.2) highlighted the company’s leadership in high spectral efficiency long-haul transmission and advanced error correction coding. Through a thorough understanding and joint optimization of modulation, coding, digital signal processing and transmission line design, Bell Labs researchers were able to achieve record performance in terms of capacity and reach. These results are critical both for terrestrial long-haul and submarine transmission.

Finally, looking a bit further into the future, we see another major shift in optical communications coming within the next decade, in the area of space division multiplexing (SDM), a technique pioneered by Bell Labs. At ECOC, researchers from Bell Labs highlighted novel, highly practical networking components that bring SDM a step closer to reality. In one paper (N. K. Fontaine et al., “Mode-Selective Dissimilar Fiber Photonic-Lantern Spatial Multiplexers for Few-Mode Fiber,” PD1.C.3) Bell Labs demonstrated a new mode coupling device that allows selective excitation of individual fiber modes in a highly scalable way and without any inherent insertion loss. In another paper (R. Ryf et al., “Wavelength-Selective Switch for Few-Mode Fiber Transmission,” PD1.C.4) researchers demonstrated a wavelength-selective switch (WSS) for SDM transmission with exceptional performance. A WSS is a key building block for optical network nodes and is critically needed to implement SDM in real optical mesh networks, with more than just point-to-point links between nodes.

Overall, this performance paints a picture of an optical research team at the top of its game. A team that is pushing the boundaries of optical technology, and helping to define and create the communication networks of the future, and bringing true differentiation to Alcatel-Lucent’s IP Transport portfolio. A team that I am honored to lead.

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