ZTE sends 400Gbps over 5,000 kilometers

Long-distance networks have to keep up as data volumes and speeds increase

Showing off its optical networking prowess, ZTE has completed at test that managed speeds at 400Gbps over a distance of more than 5,000 kilometers, or about 3,100 miles.

The growth of data volumes and speeds in both fixed and wireless networks have consequences for all parts of operator networks, including long distance links that are used to connect cities, countries and continents. For users to get the most out their mobile or fiber broadband subscriptions, networks have to keep up.

While a growing number of operators are upgrading to 100Gbps-links, vendors such as ZTE are preparing for the next step. The company's 400Gbps test was conducted on a WDM (Wavelength-Division Multiplexing) system using single-mode fiber, which is what is currently used for data transmissions over long distances, said Magnus Isaksson, ZTE CTO in the Nordic countries.

Today, fiber networks use either single-mode or multi-mode cables. The latter allows vendors to build cheaper equipment, but isn't very good at transporting data over long distances, according to Isaksson.

Data was transmitted through 25 ROADM (reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer) nodes without the use of electrical repeaters. The ROADM nodes are used to add and remove or drop wavelengths carrying data from the long-distance network. The lack of electrical repeaters, which are used to boost the signal, results in lower equipment and maintenance costs, Isaksson said.

ZTE calls the test a milestone for the optical industry. But it isn't alone; vendors like Alcatel-Lucent, Ciena, Fujitsu and Huawei are getting ready to compete over operator dollars.

The WDM segment of optical networks market was up 10 percent year-on-year during the first quarter, a welcome sign that spending in the segment is returning, according to Infonetics Research.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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