Lucent, one of the world's largest communications hardware makers, said Deutsche Telekom, Germany's primary phone company, has tested its newest optical equipment, which can transmit voice, video and data information more than 72 miles at OC-768 speeds, or 40 gigabits per second. Lucent says 40-gigabit systems are equivalent to sending about 8 billion one-page e-mails in 1 second.
Forty-gigabit systems represent the next technological hurdle in long-distance fiber-optic networking. The fastest equipment now widely available to communications carriers for long-distance networks sends data at 10gbps, also known as OC-192.
The leap to 40-gigabit technology represents an opportunity for new winners and losers in the optical arena, but many industry experts predict that these advanced systems won't take hold for a while.
Rick Schafer, an analyst at CIBC World Markets, believes that even though the 40-gigabit technology exists, many manufacturing barriers need to be overcome before the equipment comes into wide use.
"OC-768 deployment in the core depends on component availability and pricing," said Schafer, adding that 40-gigabit components aren't yet being produced in sufficient mass quantities to enable equipment manufacturers to assemble them cheaply.
If 40-gigabit systems take hold, Lucent says the faster technology will save carriers money because more light can be crammed onto the same strand of optical fiber. Fiber-optic wires are hair-like glass strands that act as the pipes that carry data.
Schafer expects that Lucent and other optical companies will not see significant revenue from 40-gigabit hardware until the second half of 2002, when more communications carriers are expected to begin testing the equipment. But because industry watchers predict that spending on equipment by carriers will be lower than last year, adoption will take time.
"It's just an economic decision," he said.