Researchers Break Transfer Record With Marea Subsea Cable

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Infinera researchers announced that they "smashed through efficiency records for data transfer, nearly doubling data capacity and approaching the theoretical limit for such a transfer," with the Marea transatlantic fiber optic cable.

Marea was established by Microsoft, Facebook and other groups in September 2017 and went online in February 2018. It stretches 4,100 miles (6,605 kilometers) from Virginia Beach to Bilbao, Spain, and is said to be the highest capacity transatlantic cable.

The cable itself is comprised of eight pairs of optic fibers. Each pair was designed to carry 20 Tbps of data--which The Optical Society said is enough to simultaneously stream more than 4 million HD videos--for a combined total of 160 Tbps of traffic.

The problem is that fewer people are going to be streaming HD videos; they're going to want to stream 4K videos. They'll also want to play more complex games, access larger files via the cloud and otherwise gobble up more bandwidth than before.

Building new cables might cost "hundreds of millions of dollars," The Optical Society said, which is cost prohibitive even for tech companies. Enter the Infinera research, which is supposed to help squeeze more performance out of existing cables like Marea.

The Optical Society explained: "Information was sent through the Marea cable via high-speed lasers. Using their own high-tech toolkit to modulate the lasers, Infinera generated signal speeds topping out at 26.2 terabits per second, a 20 percent increase over what the cable designers originally thought feasible."

Infinera is said to have done this by "testing an emerging approach for how the light signals are transmitted" called 16QAM modulation. The method is "operating very close to the Shannon Limit, or the theoretical maximum information transfer rate for a communications channel," which means it will be hard to beat.

More information about Infinera's findings will be presented at the Optical Fiber Conference and Exposition that runs from March 3-7 in San Diego. The research will be presented at 12:15pm on March 4 in Room 6D of the San Diego Convention Center.