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Wednesday, 15 June 2011 20:35

VERNet upgrades to 40G technology with Ciena

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VERNet, the operator of the Victorian Education Research Network (VERN) that provides high-speed broadband connectivity to Victorian researchers, scientists and university staff and students, has contracted Ciena for a multi-million dollar network upgrade to 40Gbps transmission technology.

The current upgrade will deploy Ciena's ActivFlex 6500 units with its WaveLogic coherent optical processors and ActivSpan Common Photonic Layer platforms to increase transmission speed from 10Gbps per wavelength to 40Gbps and, according to VERNet, enable it to upgrade to 100Gbps across the same infrastructure by merely changing interface cards at the source and endpoints of the network.

The contract follows trials of the Ciena technology in April last year and is the first major win for Ciena in Australia since it entered the local market in June 2010 after acquiring Nortel's optical transmission business in March 2010.

VERN spans 1872km linking institutions in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria including Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Wodonga, Churchill and Lakes Entrance. The network will also form the backbone for the Victorian Research Network (VRN), which VERNet is building as part of the Commonwealth Government's Super Science (Future Industries) Initiative.

"VRN will provide researchers in Melbourne and Geelong with a high capacity, any-to-any network that will act as a strong enabler for research in Victoria," VERNet said.

Ciena claims to have a headstart on competitors in coherent optical technology and to be the only company to have deployed the technology in commercial networks. Maurice O'Sullivan, Ciena's director, advanced systems development - who presented a paper on "Coherent optical transmission in commercial optical networks" at the Australian Institute of Physics conference - last December, told ExchangeDaily: "Our first product was 40Gbps with general availability in May 2008. Our 100Gbps product was generally available at the end of 2009 and our ultra long haul undersea 40G coherent system was generally available in August [2010]'¦. All of our competitors are rushing to develop their own capability but they are a year or so behind us."

O'Sullivan explained that, historically, optical communications systems have used intensity modulated direct detection (IMDD) systems to convert the optical to an electrical signal. This produces an electrical signal that is the equivalent of the intensity variation of the optical signal (ie its power). With coherent optical technology information can be encoded on the optical signal in phase, amplitude and in each of two planes of polarisation, enabling a signal of a given frequency and power to carry much more information than can be carried simply by varying its intensity.

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