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Faster vs. Denser: Networks Reach Another Crossroad

Photonics Spectra
Sep 2001
Will faster line rates outspeed denser channel counts and enter next-generation networks, or will slow and steady win the race? Are the two technologies even traveling the same path?

Daniel C. McCarthy, Senior Editor

Pretty much any engineer with bills to pay will design and develop systems from a simple principle: Maximize performance while minimizing costs. Different disciplines measure success by different metrics. In telecommunications networks, success is measured by spectral efficiency, the number of bits that can be sent down a single fiber in a given time.

Today fibers in a state-of-the-art network pack in 160 channels, each transmitting 10 Gb/s. That works out to a spectral efficiency of 0.2 bits/s/Hz. Any technology that can double efficiency to 0.4 bits/s/Hz, without a proportionate increase in capital or operational costs, translates into savings for the carrier…

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