Seacom and Infinera, a US-based digital optical networking equipment supplier, have achieved a global first by successfully trialling five 100Gbps channels of coherent optical transmission over a distance of 1 732 kilometres in South Africa.

The 500Gbps trial was run over and looped back across Seacom’s newly built 930km Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) fibre route which links the Seacom Mtunzini cable landing station in KwaZulu Natal to the Teraco data centre in Johannesburg.

The live demonstration was witnessed by members of the scientific, research and development community at Teraco’s data centre in Johannesburg.

The trial used Infinera’s 500Gbps Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs), each of which integrates five 100Gbps coherent channels onto a single chip.

The PICs were used for both transmitting and receiving the five 100Gbps signals during the trial, the first time the PICs have been used to send and provide real time coherent processing for all 500Gbps simultaneously on a production network. The trial also demonstrated Infinera’s FlexCoherent functionality by switching between QPSK and BPSK modulation.

Infinera plans to deliver the 500Gbps PICs as part of a system which integrates 5Tbps OTN switching and 100Gbps coherent optical transmission in early 2012.

Enabling seamless upgrades from existing 10Gbps networks without having to upgrade the underlying fibre infrastructure, this technology provides Seacom’s land-based network in South Africa with a total capacity of more than 8Tbps per fibre, which is an effective 10-fold increase on its current capacity. This is in line and in support of Seacom’s plans to expand the marine portion of the cable to above 4,8Tbps. 

Seacom CEO Brian Herlihy comments: “This event is a landmark achievement and a global first. It also signals the international science research and development community that global projects such as the Square Kilometre Array are well within Africa’s reach.”

Fibre optic transmission technologies have been developing considerably to satisfy demand for large-capacity digital transmission in public telecommunication networks worldwide. At the consumer level, the 500Gbps PIC technology enables the download of 2 400 high-definition Blu-Ray movie files in 60 seconds, or supports the streaming of 320 000 simultaneous high-definition video channels over a single fibre pair.

At the network level, 100Gbps systems based on PIC technology will have important implications for the economics of future networks. Infinera’s 500G PICs incorporate more than 600 optical functions on a pair of indium phosphide chips enabling cost effective 100Gbps coherent transmission as well as integrated OTN switching to deliver the Digital Optical Network. These capabilities provide an effective means for network operators to scale network capacity while lowering operational costs, increasing reliability and providing for superior network economics.

“With Internet traffic growing at exponential rates, driven by video, cloud computing, and mobility, the 500G PIC technology is designed to support the required growth in network capacity, while reducing the per-bit cost, space, and power consumption,” says Infinera CEO Tom Fallon.