Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent Announce Major Data Transmission Breakthrough

New data transmission technique could achieve 65 TB per second over transoceanic cables.

A new data transmission breakthrough could make the Internet even more media-rich. 9Image courtesy of Nokia.)

A new data transmission breakthrough could make the Internet even more media-rich. (Image courtesy of Nokia.)

Nokia Bell Labs and Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks have announced that they have achieved a 65 Terabit per second (Tb/s) data transmission rate over transoceanic cables.

According to details distributed by Nokia, engineers have been able to simulate the transmission of 65Tb/s worth of data over a 6,600km (4,101 mile) distance within laboratory tests. This breakthrough in transmission rates was made possible by a new modulation technique called Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS).

Unlike traditional transmission techniques where all constellation symbols are sent with the same occurrences, PCS technology uses non-uniform methods constellation symbol transmission by lowering the occurrence of high power symbols. By reducing the number of high power symbols, PCS transmission technology has greater resilience to noise and a much better chance of dynamically adapting to changing conditions across a fiber line.

Now that we’ve dispensed with technical aspects of what this breakthrough means, it’s time to take a look at how this might impact the lives of everyday data consumers. Well, if Nokia is to be believed, a 65Tb/s data transmission rate is equal to more than 10 million HDTV channels being streamed across a line at the same time. To put that into even more stark perspective, in 1995, when the World Wide Web was still nascent and the first undersea amplified transatlantic cable system was installed, data was dripping across that line at 1/13,000 of what a PCS channel could theoretically deliver.

I think it’s an understatement to say that transmission rates have made one heck of a leap in the last generation. That opinion is seconded by Nokia Bell Labs CTO, Marcus Weldon.

“The future digital existence where everyone, everything and every system and process is connected will require a massive increase in network capacity and the ability to dynamically optimize this capacity,” said Weldon. “Probabilistic Constellation Shaping extends the limits of current optical transmission by utilizing novel modulation techniques to dramatically improve the performance and capacity needed for the new digital era”.

Given that PCS’ abilities are only being touted in the closed confines of a lab test, it’s hard to know when Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent might begin laying another transatlantic cable. However, given the explosion of devices and the saturation of content and resolution that’s occurred over the last 5 years, I’d say the time for a new cable isn’t too far off.

And that tantalizing reality raises the question: Could PCS technology result in an Internet even more saturated with rich media content than it is now?

For some additional context, read about another data transfer record set earlier this year.