ICE6 Trial on MAREA Trans-Atlantic Cable Yields Two Record Results

Record-breaking 30 Tb/s Trans-Atlantic Capacity – First Trans-Atlantic 700 Gb/s Wavelength

By Geoff Bennett
January 12, 2021

Over the past few weeks, Infinera has had the opportunity to perform a submarine network field trial over the MAREA trans-Atlantic cable with our ICE6 optical engine, which already leads the industry in terrestrial reach at its headline data rate of 800 Gb/s over terrestrial network routes.

MAREA is essentially the benchmark for trans-Atlantic cable systems, as it was specifically designed for high-performance coherent transmission – it is the cable system on which every submarine network vendor’s implementations will be measured.

The ICE6 results were truly amazing, achieving two incredible industry firsts. As with all trials like this, we need to be clear on the difference between the “hero result,” which has no additional deployment margin, and the “deployable result,” where there is allocated margin to allow real services to be deployed at this data rate or with this total capacity. In summary:

  • MAREA hero results over 6,640 km:
    • 30 Tb/s of total capacity on a single fiber pair
    • 700 Gb/s data rate per wavelength
  • MAREA deployable results over 6,640 km:
    • 28 Tb/s of total capacity on a single fiber pair
    • Up to 650 Gb/s data rate per wavelength

I’m fortunate to have had the chance to discuss the ICE6 trial with two of the key people who made it happen: Dr. Steve Grubb, Global Network Optical Architect at Facebook, which operates several of the MAREA fiber pairs, and Dr. Pierre Mertz, Infinera Fellow and a world-class submarine networking engineer when it comes to optimizing subsea transponder performance.

The MAREA Cable System

Geoff Bennett: Steve, you were involved in the design of MAREA – perhaps you could give a quick summary of why it’s so iconic in terms of performance metrics.

Steve Grubb: Of course. MAREA is a trans-Atlantic cable that stretches from Bilbao, Spain to Virginia Beach, VA, U.S. – a cable distance of about 6,640 km. I think it’s fair to say that MAREA is the highest-performing cable system in the world because it was specifically optimized for maximum capacity per fiber pair. It utilizes a large-area, low-loss optical fiber type based on a pure silica core and has excellent performance. The cable system also has short amplifier spacing of 56 km, allowing an excellent optical signal-to-noise ratio. When MAREA became ready for service in February 2018, it had a design capacity that rivaled all of the other contemporary operational trans-Atlantic cables combined.

As a result, every vendor of submarine transponder equipment has trialed its transponder technology on this cable (both in single-pass and the 13,200 km loopback in order to assess trans-Pacific performance) in a bid to set the highest records in total fiber capacity and spectral efficiency. Pierre and I were involved in a similar trial of Infinera’s ICE4 technology in September of 2018, and that deployed capacity record still stands. Now it’s time for the next generation to show us what it can do.

Read More…