Nokia unveiled a new chipset that pushes the limits of speed and efficiency for optical networks. The chipset is part of Nokia’s enhanced Photonic Service Engine platform, dubbed PSE-3 and is targeted at telecommunications providers and webscale networks.
Nokia claims the chipset includes a new technique pioneered by Nokia Bell Labs that boosts fiber-optic performance. This technique, dubbed probabilistic constellation shaping (PCS), increases capacity up to 65 percent while reducing power by 60 percent compared to current deployed networks.
Kyle Hollasch, director of product marketing for optical networks at Nokia, said the PCS technology pushes optical fiber transmission capacity to very near the Shannon limit, which is the maximum theoretical capacity of a communications channel. The idea was defined by Bell Labs researcher Claude Shannon in 1948.
The chipset can shape the transmission signal to match the characteristics of the optical fiber. Basically, this allows for the transmitted data to better fill in all of the capacity available within a fiber channel.
“PCS is really another level of sophistication,” Hollasch said. “It’s like chess versus checkers compared to what’s in the market today.”
He said the technology also allows for wavelengths that are more resilient to noise and interference issues. This results in a 65 percent increase in capacity and 60 percent drop in power requirements compared with currently deployed networks.
Hollasch explained that the PCS technology allows for efficiencies that are “a fraction from the Shannon limit.”
“PCS is the final frontier in getting us close to that limit,” he said. “It’s not just about the speed but more about the efficiency.” Net-net, he said this means that going forward, research dollars will likely be diverted to other areas in an attempt to gain higher speeds.
Powerful, Yet Programmable
Along with the speed and efficiency gains, the PSE-3 platform includes programmability control.
“We will provide open interfaces for customers that want to fully control the network themselves and a turnkey solution as well that offers more support,” Hollasch said. He explained that Nokia wanted to provide an infrastructure that is truly programmable and automation ready.
“The holy grail is making it fully programmable,” Hollasch said. “[Digital signal processors] have typically handled this with different modulation formats. But with PCS, we can provide infinite granularity in terms of control.”
Customers can control this level of granularity using a “software knob” that can be turned for the distance and capacity needed. This includes adjustable wavelength capacity from 100G to 600G with a single, uniform modulation format, baud rate, and channel size.
“We are not leaving any bandwidth on the table,” Hollasch explained.
The PSE-3 platform will be available across Nokia’s packet-optical portfolio during the third quarter.
Work on the new platform began in 2016 with a field trial in partnership with German telecom giant Deutsche Telekom and the Technical University of Munich. That trial produced a 1 Tb/s transmission rate over optical fiber.
Nokia followed up with a submarine field trial last year with Facebook over an optical fiber link between New York and Ireland.
Nokia was recently cited in an IHS Markit survey of service providers. The survey of 28 operators found that 39 percent said they were using Nokia optical networking equipment to some extent.
Operators surveyed placed those three vendors as being in the leading position within the optical networking space. Nokia also joined Ciena and Infinera as top vote getters for being “under evaluation” for future projects.
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