Actual Operation of New Optical Network Using Silicon Photonics Has Begun

– Potential includes realizing practical use of ultra-high-definition, ultra-low-latency video services –


  • Real operation of an optical network using high-performance optical switches based on silicon photonics has begun in Tokyo
  • Potential for the realization of ultra-low energy consumption, high-capacity circuit-switching optical networks
  • Expectation for the realization of “remote coexistence” via the transmission of 4K/8K ultra-high-definition video with low latency
Configuration of created testbed


Video equipment is achieving a remarkable level of advancement, and resolution has progressed from HD to 4K to 8K. By combining these video technologies with high-capacity networks, it is possible to realize “remote coexistence,” which enables people living long distances to communicate as if they were in the same place.

On the other hand, the Internet traffic is increasing by 30-40 % per year because of an increase in the volume of video content. It is predicted that the resulting increase in the power consumption of electronic routers will represent a bottleneck for the constant growth of the traffic. In addition, in the current internet, bandwidth is not guaranteed and occurrence and fluctuation of latency are unavoidable. Towards the realization of “remote coexistence,” there is a demand for new networks that solve these problems and can smoothly and efficiently handle enormous volumes of ultra-high-definition video data.


AIST is engaged in the development of a new network technology known as a dynamic optical path network, and has built a testbed in Tokyo and started actual operation.

In the conventional optical networks, which use electronic routers, power consumption increases in proportion to the traffic. In the developed system, optical signals are routed using optical switches, realizing ultra-low power consumption regardless of the traffic. In addition, the new network can transmit uncompressed ultra-high-definition video data (4K/8K, etc.) with low latency. The “remote coexistence” that is realized by this is expected to generate innovation in a wide range of fields, including medicine, education, and industry. This development is also expected to be the key to the creation of new industries, for example e-sports using technologies such as AR and VR.

The testbed employs existing unused optical fiber facilities in Tokyo. It is a circuit-switching optical network that establishes an optical connection (optical path) between any users based on a request from the user. To accommodate several tens of thousands of users, a large number of high-performance optical switches are needed. Optical switches using silicon photonics technology are highly reliable, small, low-power consumption and suited to mass production. However, they had many issues for the practical use and they have been in the stage of evaluation in laboratories. AIST has now resolved many of these issues of the optical switches, bringing the technology to a level at which it can be operated stably in actual environments, and this has enabled AIST to realize actual operation of a testbed for the first time.

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