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Intel readies optical parts to lower carriers' costs

Intel's drive into optical networking is set to produce a transceiver with a tunable laser and a processor that should help carriers send signals reliably over longer distances, both of which could help drive down the cost of optical networks.

The upcoming transceiver will be Intel's first to use a tunable laser, which can be adjusted to transmit several different wavelengths. In wavelength-division multiplexing systems, a single fibre can carry multiple wavelengths of light, each modulated by its own data signal.

Tunable lasers are designed to reduce a high-cost requirement in current systems that use fixed-wavelength lasers: Carriers need to have one replacement laser on hand for each one in active use. A tunable backup laser can substitute for any of a number of different lasers.

Intel is expected to develop a more widely tunable laser that can be tuned to use an even larger number of wavelengths. The company will develop this laser using technology it acquired in May from New Focus.

A processor is also being developed by Intel for forward error correction can be configured for two different modes, one of them standardised and the other allowing for custom products.

Forward error correction reduces the degradation of data as it travels over fibre, allowing the transmission to cover a longer distance without errors. The further an optical system can send its signal, the fewer signal amplifiers a carrier needs to install on its network, so error correction saves service providers money.

The forward error correction processor Intel is developing supports two modes. In one configuration, it supports the International Telecommunication Union G.709 standard and so is interoperable with other standard optical components. Set another way, it allows system makers to build custom products for particular projects, such as long-haul submarine cables, and optimise them to give signals a greater-than-standard reach. This flexibility means the processor could be used in several systems across a vendor's line, leading to greater economies of scale.

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