In Search of Transparent Networks

Routing optical communications streams quickly without breaking the bank is a trick best done with the tiniest of mirrors

13 min read
In Search of Transparent Networks

A large communications network can be pictured as having two main parts: a transmission plant and switching facilities. The first transports traffic between network nodes, while the second routes traffic over the transmission plant to get it from its source to its destination. In recent years, optical transmission technology has progressed much faster than optical switching, with interesting consequences.

The equipment available for switching optical signals today is almost all of the hybrid optical-electronic-optical (O-E-O) type, which is expensive to build, integrate, and maintain. As a result, these switches have not been widely deployed. So, while telephone companies can carry tremendous amounts of information between fixed points, they have little ability to accommodate changes in traffic patterns in real time.

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