The integrated center for research in photonic networks, made up of CNIT (1) and TeCIP (2), both located in Pisa, is working to improve the fiber optic long distance transmission obtained in Australia last year. In the Australian trial, 1 Terabit (1000 Gigabit) per second speed was achieved by means of a 200 MHz band on a connection – owned by the telco Telstra – from Sydney to Melbourne (approx. 1000 Km). This speed is some tenfold higher than that one reached with the most advanced devices used for internet backbones. This new technology was developed by researchers in Pisa, who adapted for optical communication, a compression algorithm for radiofrequency transmission developed by researchers of the University of Parma.

According to Luca Potì (3), preliminary lab tests are currently being run with the target of achieving 1 Terabit per second using a 150 MHz band on a 3000 Km distance. Moreover, they are working to use a connection – presently not available – able to dynamically divert the information on a new route, in case of a block.

ITU, the United Nations’ specialized agency for information and communication technologies (, considers this technique developed in Pisa a good candidate for a high capacity systems group – the first requirement to join the standardized technical club. In this case, major international producers of telecommunication equipment based on optic systems would dramatically increase their interest, with a positive outcome for Italy.

This research was financed by Ericsson, a communication devices and service multinational. Other research projects, such as CoFFEE, that foresees a field trial from Milan to Vienna, are financed by European funds. Others are financed by MIUR (Education, University & Research Ministry), such as the COTONE (Coherent Terabit Optical Networks) project. The Pisa center has signed exclusive agreements with some companies, but it also wants to be free to have relationships with other industrial groups for possible developments. The transfer on silicon chip of the lab system developed for SuperFast Internet is a good example of a technology attracting the interests of potential industrial partners.

A strong asset of the Pisa research group is their expertise in transforming a system developed in the lab into an integrated device, available for finished products. A dedicated laboratory has been developed for this purpose. A small production line can meet the needs of some companies that might be interested in investing as well.

A brand new and bigger laboratory is currently under construction in the TeCIP area (available from Fall 2014). This Integrated Photonics Lab for Silicon Photonics will be the unique Italian site for designing and for manufacturing prototypes of photonics-based integrated circuits. The project has a financing budget of 8 million euros, from the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, the Region of Tuscany and other investors.

1) Italian Interuniversity Consortium for Telecommunications
2) Institute of Communication, Information and Perception Technologies
3) Area Leader High Capacity Optical Communication – TeCIP and Head of the Area Research – CNIT

Picture: Luca Potì – left back – in his Lab

Elisabetta Bevilacqua