Towards high-capacity fibre-optic communications at the speed of light in vacuum

Wide-bandwidth signal transmission with low latency is emerging as a key requirement in a number of applications, including the development of future exaflop-scale supercomputers, financial algorithmic trading and cloud computing1, 2, 3. Optical fibres provide unsurpassed transmission bandwidth, but light propagates 31% slower in a silica glass fibre than in vacuum, thus compromising latency. Air guidance in hollow-core fibres can reduce fibre latency very significantly. However, state-of-the-art technology cannot achieve the combined values of loss, bandwidth and mode-coupling characteristics required for high-capacity data transmission. Here, we report a fundamentally improved hollow-core photonic-bandgap fibre that provides a record combination of low loss (3.5 dB km−1) and wide bandwidth (160 nm), and use it to transmit 37 × 40 Gbit s−1 channels at a 1.54 µs km−1 faster speed than in a conventional fibre. This represents the first experimental demonstration of fibre-based wavelength division multiplexed data transmission at close to (99.7%) the speed of light in vacuum.

Authors: F. Poletti, N. V. Wheeler, M. N. Petrovich, N. Baddela,  E. Numkam Fokoua, J. R. Hayes, D. R. Gray, Z. Li, R. Slavík & D. J. Richardson

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