Wide-bandwidth signal transmission with low latency is emerging as a key requirement in a number of applications, including the development of future exaflop-scale supercomputers, financial algorithmic trading and cloud computing1,2,3. Optical fibres provide unsurpassed transmission bandwidth, but light propagates 31% slower in a silica glass fibre than in vacuum, thus compromising latency. Air guidance in hollow-core fibres can reduce fibre latency very significantly. However, state-of-the-art technology cannot achieve the combined values of loss, bandwidth and mode-coupling characteristics required for high-capacity data transmission. Here, we report a fundamentally improved hollow-core photonic-bandgap fibre that provides a record combination of low loss (3.5 dB km−1) and wide bandwidth (160 nm), and use it to transmit 37 × 40 Gbit s−1 channels at a 1.54 µs km−1 faster speed than in a conventional fibre. This represents the first experimental demonstration of fibre-based wavelength division multiplexed data transmission at close to (99.7%) the speed of light in vacuum.
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This work was supported by the EU 7th Framework Programme (grant agreement 228033; MODE-GAP) and by the UK EPSRC (grants EP/I01196X/1 (Hyperhighway) and EP/H02607X/1). F.P. and R.S. acknowledge support from a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and an EU FP7 Marie-Curie Fellowship (255368, TOP CLASS), respectively. Z.L. acknowledges support from the China Scholarship Council.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Poletti, F., Wheeler, N., Petrovich, M. et al. Towards high-capacity fibre-optic communications at the speed of light in vacuum. Nature Photon 7, 279–284 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2013.45
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