Japanese telecommunications giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. today announced it has developed a prototype chip that it believes will one day be able to deliver a significant boost in data transfer speeds within data centers and undersea fiber optic cables.
The company said its extremely compact new baseband amplifier integrated circuit module boasts an ultra-broadband performance of 100 gigahertz and is designed to be used with future all-photonics network technologies, including the nascent Innovative Optical and Wireless Network infrastructure and 6G networks. It’s a key element of those future networks, NTT says, because they will require ultra-broadband signal amplification functionality to eliminate distortion.
NTT explained that IOWN core optical networks will be able to reach transmission speeds of more than 2 terabits per second, but they require a baseband amplifier IC module to amplify that signal. To date, NTT had already built devices that could achieve this, but its previous modules were all very large and required external data center block parts to connect to devices. With today’s prototype, the company has successfully shrunk the size of its module small enough to be built into any device.
Chief Executive Kazuhiro Gomi told Reuters that though commercial availability of the chip is still a few years out, it has the ability to amplify a 100 GHz electrical signal. He said development will speed up the internet for consumers, while accelerating communication speeds for data centers in the future.
Gomi explained that being able to amplify electrical signals is a key step in advancing communications, because a weak signal is difficult to read. But the higher the frequency, the harder it becomes to amplify because a faster response time is required. A 100 GHz signal can be amplified in a lab setting, he said, but NTT’s new chip will be able to do it on any device. Shrinking the technology size is key to building it into tomorrow’s communications devices, he added.
“That lab level achievement was implemented into a package that got very small,” he told Reuters. “You can put it on your fingertip, basically. That is the key achievement.”
According to Gomi, the chip is based on a relatively new material called indium phosphide, as opposed to traditional silicon. It will be a key component that enables future all-photonics networks to reach 2-terabits-per-second speeds, he said. That’s much faster than today’s existing fiber optics communications networks, which operate at around 100 gigabits per second.
NTT said such blazing-fast networks are still likely to be some six or seven years away, since communications firms will need time to design new equipment that integrates with the new chip.