Infinera trials 400Gbps fibre-optic connectivity with Virgin Media


US-based network connectivity company Infinera has partnered with Virgin Media to trial new technology which could provide multi-gigabit speeds to consumer homes and businesses.

The trial, delivered on the operator’s network in Reading, UK, saw Virgin Media install prototype Infinera XR optics technology in its network. The new equipment plugs into the existing network and can send and receive data at much higher speeds than was previously possible – reaching transfer rates of up to 400Gbps in a single fibre.

In 2019, Virgin Media trialled 10Gbps symmetric full-fibre home broadband technology in Papworth, Cambridgeshire. This new trial goes a step beyond that, demonstrating that the operator’s passive fibre optic access network (PON) – which provides multiple premises with full-fibre connections – could deliver 400Gbps symmetrical services by making use of the latest technology.

Fibre optic networks transmit data from one point to another through a series of electrical switches and optical transceivers. These optical transceivers control where the information is sent and at what speed, ultimately determining how fast data can be sent from one point to another.

In the trial, the traditional network transceivers were replaced with cutting-edge technology which split a single fibre optic cable into many connections, all taking a share of the huge capacity. This means a single fibre could be used to provide multi-gigabit speeds to many customers at the same time.

By using standard passive optical network technology, the transceivers can support higher speed data transfers and can be remotely upgraded and configured. This allows the network operator to make changes quickly and easily, paving the way for simple upgrades to consumer services in future.

The new technology could help support the rapidly growing demand for data which is being driven by high-quality video streaming, remote working, and immersive entertainment, as well as the need to carry 5G traffic to and from mobile phone masts.

Says Jeanie York, Chief Technology and Information Officer, Virgin Media:

“Our next-generation network already offers gigabit connectivity to more than 7 million homes, but with data use and demand for hyperfast speeds surging, we’re continually investing in our network to prepare for whatever the future brings.

“Innovations like XR optics ensure our customers continue to benefit from the UK’s fastest widely available speeds, pave the way for future network upgrades and help support the rollout of multi-gigabit broadband and mobile services.”

Adds Dave Welch, Infinera Chief Innovation Officer and Co-founder:

“The trial with Virgin Media provides a solid proof point that Infinera’s XR optics technology can be seamlessly applied to existing networks.”

“This represents a radical shift in the way networks can be built, promising a more flexible and sustainable way to meet the ever-increasing need to transmit more data at higher speeds.”

Chris Price
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