Chasing the light: the future of fiber

What can be achieved to date with fiber is already impressive, but there are some interesting innovations coming that could be transformative for networks. As a leading network provider, Arelion is always looking for the next opportunity to improve the performance of our existing fiber network and assess technologies that will underpin our future expansion. With that, we wanted to provide you with you a brief introduction to what we are seeing, so you too can share the excitement about how fiber across the industry is going to evolve in the future.

New C+L band wavelengths – Either side of the existing C+L bands, that are the basis of modern fiber transmission, additional wavelengths have been found that will allow even greater bandwidth. The extended and ultra-wide bands, as they are known, create what will be known as the Super C+L bands, each capable of delivery 26.5 Tb/s over 1,000km and 21.2Tb/s over 2,000km. By comparison current bands deliver 21Tb/s and 16.8Tb/s over the same distances with current transponder technology.  This could be up to 11Tb/s of additional bandwidth.

New amplifier technology – Today’s most common C+L band amplifiers are doped with Erbium, but research is underway testing ways of amplifying other bands in the wavelength spectrum using Thulium, Neodymium and Praseodymium to reach S, E and O bands respectively. This is early stage academic research, but certainly one to watch as it would greatly extend the bandwidth of existing fiber infrastructure.

Multicore fiber – Each fiber laid today consist of a single core, surrounded by protective cladding. Multi-core fiber, which you may see referred to as Spatial Division Multiplexing, reduces the amount of cladding in a fibre, so that several cores can be introduced, therefore multiplying the potential capacity by the number of cores in the same cross-sectional area. This technology has already been applied in sub-sea environments, such as Google’s Dunant Cable, and we can expect it to become more common in similar implementations.

Hollow-core fiber – Conventional fiber is based on a glass core. Whilst it has enabled the networks that are seen across the globe today, because it is a non-linear medium with a refraction index of approximately 1.5 it does have limitations. Air on the other hand has a refraction index close to 1. While a fundamental change to the design of fiber, transmitting in air would reduce latency, and lower the impact of the loses seen today in non-linear mediums, and transmission speeds very close to the speed of light. Implementations of this technology have been attempted over short distances (below 30km), and we’ll be keeping a close eye on how projects perform as the technology evolves.

Whilst these technologies are only at a stage of limited commercial readiness, it is a hugely exciting time to be involved in fiber optic networks. We’re looking forward to assessing and introducing these and other new technologies that will help you achieve your networking goals in the future.


Georgios Tologlou, Senior Network Specialist