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German government and connectivity tech firms lead project to boost optical capacity

Government-industry consortium will explore technologies to expand the capacity of optical metro and core networks

Germany’s OptiCON project has begun to ramp up activity as it looks to establish innovations in fibre transmission to build the next generation of transport networks.

Funded by the country’s federal ministry of education and research and led by connectivity technology provider ADVA , the OptiCON project will explore technologies to expand the capacity of optical metro and core networks, enabling fibre infrastructure to carry throughput an order of magnitude higher than today.

As well as ADVA, the project involves the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, the Technical University of Munich and VPIphotonics.

ADVA says the project is essential given that internet traffic is growing exponentially, and it regards it as key to the expansion of mobile applications at and beyond 5G and the digital transformation of all areas of life. OptiCON’s goals include leveraging unused optical spectrum, new fibre types and novel transmission schemes, as well as advanced monitoring and software-defined networking (SDN) control.

“This project couldn’t be more vital,” said Annika Dochhan, principal engineer, advanced technology at ADVA and OptiCON project lead. “With optical transmission approaching the Shannon limit and continual increases in per-channel speeds slowly coming to an end, we’re looking at disruptive ways to expand network capacity in the future.

“By using untapped spectrum, we can maximise the value of dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) networks and tackle soaring data demand from cloud, video and mobile. OptiCON is about engineering the next generation of transport networks and empowering operators to keep pace with the exponential traffic growth they are facing. With OptiCON we’re taking fibre transmission to the next level.”

OptiCON also says it will work on resolving what are seen as longstanding technical and economic hurdles regarding DWDM transport, which to date have mostly been limited to the C- and L-bands of the optical spectrum. It will aim to enable operators to exploit much more of the available fibre bandwidth and therefore carry more bits per second.

This, it says, will be achieved through a combination of technical innovations, including advanced amplifiers, improved fibres, novel transceivers, and new techniques for monitoring and control.

“Our work in OptiCON is focused on the physical layer and developing optical telemetry,” said Ronald Freund, head of photonic networks and systems at Fraunhofer HHI. “This is crucial to enabling the fine-grained data signal adjustments needed for full capacity optimisation. Working with ADVA and the other partners at the centre of this cutting-edge project is very exciting. Together, we are developing the technology that will form the building blocks of tomorrow’s networks.”

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