Nokia tops 50 Tbps over single carrier on Etisalat's fibre network

via Flickr © Tanya Hart (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Flickr © Tanya Hart (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Trial shows how existing WDM infrastructure can be enhanced to support next-gen services
  • It's the latest in a long line of trials of Nokia's probabilistic constellation shaping tech
  • Announcement comes with the obligatory, 'you could download X in Y seconds' claim

Nokia and Etisalat claim to have set a new optical transmission record, hitting a connection speed of more than 50 Tbps over a single carrier on the latter's fibre network in UAE.

In the field trial, carried out on a 93-km route of Etisalat's wavelength division multiplexing network (WDM), the companies transmitted 50.8 Tbps on multiple wavelengths each with a net transfer rate of 1.3 Tbps. This is less than the 65 Tbps Nokia reached in October 2016 over a single carrier on a 6,600 km stretch of fibre; however, that was achieved in a lab, not on a deployed network.

"Higher bit rates per wavelength provide power and space savings, improved network simplicity, increased spectral efficiency and capacity, and ultimately reduced cost per bit compared to optical networks composed of lower rate channels," Nokia said in a statement.

The secret sauce is Nokia's probabilistic constellation shaping (PCS) technology. It continuously measures interference and tweaks the shape of the signal accordingly. The result is improved capacity and by extension, lower cost per bit. PCS isn't one for the future either, it is currently shipping on Nokia's commercially available kit.

The announcement came with the obligatory boast about how quickly something can be downloaded at this kind of speed. In this case, Nokia went with downloading Game of Thrones in HD in less than two seconds. If only it was possible to watch the whole of GoT in HD in less than two seconds – think of the time you'd save.

Anyway, while claims like this might elicit a wry smile in some, well, these quarters, there lies beneath a serious message. And that is, if access networks are going to enable the kind of services promised by the 5G hype train, then the fibre needs to be up to muster.

According to Nokia, with this kind of capacity, operators can look forward to supporting 5G extreme mobile broadband, fibre-to-the-home (FFTH), and data centre interconnect (DCI) cloud services.

"The Nokia field trial demonstrates that Etisalat's existing network can support the higher optical wavelength bit rates that will be required to support high-bandwidth services," Nokia said.

The optical transport market is expected to be worth $16 billion by 2022, according to a prediction last year by Dell'Oro Group. WDM systems are expected to account for 95 percent of optical transport revenue.

With that in mind, Nokia has been pretty busy showcasing its PCS technology this year.

In May, it reached a wavelength transmission rate of 550 Gbps on 350 km of Italian telco TIM's WDM network. In April, Nokia and Polish operator Netia carried out the first field trial Nokia's Photonic Service Engine 3 (PSE-3) technology, which incorporates PCS. That followed the first PCS field trial in February, conducted in partnership with German CSP M-net.

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