WON is a doctoral-level training network funded by the European Commission under Horizon2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN Action.

The project WON trains 14 early stage researchers in the unexploited area of wideband optical networks through the synergy of 14 highly qualified academic and industrial institutions in three main areas:

  • network management and control plane algorithms;
  • design, prototyping and test of transceiver and in-line components;
  • digital signal processing techniques and system modelling.

Solutions identified within WON will enable full exploitation of the total capacity of optical fibres to sustain efficiently the Internet traffic growth and to overcome a possible traffic-crunch. A special focus of the research is dedicated to developing novel digital signal processing (DSP) algorithms to increase the overall system performance. WON provides cost effective and realistic solutions to current bandwidth saturation, which is progressively impairing already deployed networks.

WON goal is to train a new generation of research engineers is being achieved thanks to a doctoral level training network that will benefit from challenging interactions between industry and academia.

9 academic and the 6 industrial partners from all over Europe are at the core of the project.

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Science behind WON

Current technology of Fibre-optic networks is based on single-mode transmission over the optical C-band only (1530 nm – 1565 nm). To cope with the previous foreword, several solutions have been proposed to overcome the bandwidth limitations of existing optical systems, thus avoiding the scenario of a capacity crunch in optical networks, which could thereby seriously hamper the growth of our communication-based economy.

So far, the proposed space-division multiplexing solutions have the potential to significantly increase the available fibre capacity, but imply the deployment of new fibres, which represents the highest cost in the realization of optical links. Recently, members of WON co-organized a workshop on the topic at the most important conference in our sector.

WON supports the concept of unlocking the so far untapped wavelength bands of single-mode fibre (SMF), believing this is a realistic alternative intermediate-term solution to cope with the exponentially growing capacity demand , SMF has been widely deployed, particularly in Europe, and since the beginning of the millennium, telecom operators have mainly employed high quality fibres such as ITU-T G.652D fibres10, which do not present any water peak and thus could enable signal transmission from the optical O- to L-band (1260 nm-1625 nm) resulting in a 10× bandwidth increase compared to C-band systems (cf. Fig. 1). In the following, the term wideband refers to the whole wavelength range from O- to L-band (365 nm). The clear value proposition of the WON solution is the re-use of installed fibre thus preventing customers from enormous deployment costs for new fibres while allowing network operators smooth upgrades to cope with the expected demand explosion .

In this respect, the WON solution aims to be modular and thus implementable as pay-as-you-grow. Furthermore, there is a clear trend towards supporting wideband transmission in the industry. First silicon photonics modulators/receivers operating from O- to L-band have been shown . Furthermore, recent transmission experiments have set new records for SMF such as 51.5 Tb/s over 17,107 km in C+L-band  and 115 Tb/s over 100 km in S-, C- and L-band.

Fig. 1: Optical wavelength bands in the low-loss window of single-mode fibres. Wideband optical networks (WON) offer more than 10× increased optical bandwidth compared to C-band systems.

Research Objectives:

  • RO1: To develop network and control planning solutions to efficiently handle and manage the enormous, but now available with WON, spectrum also through advanced mathematical techniques such as deep learning.
  • RO2: To develop DSP algorithms and analytical transmission modelling to 1) mitigate component and propagation impairments of all low-loss (O, E, S, C, L)-bands in SMF and 2) predict system performance.
  • RO3: Design, prototype and test the inline optical components required for wideband optical networks, namely optical amplifiers, optical filters and wavelength-selective switches.
  • RO4: Design, prototype and test coherent transceiver components required for wideband optical networks including the DSP methods to compensate for the non-ideal behavior of the components over the entire spectrum of utilization.

Training Objectives:

  • TO1: to provide researchers with unique multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills in areas of high industrial relevance and for creating new generation of technology for future high-capacity optical wideband networks and securing European leadership in this technology.
  • TO2:  to acquire advanced multi-disciplinary knowledge at the frontier of engineering; to obtain practical and hands-on skills in conducting experiments;  to improve employability chances for leading roles in the industry.

Research methodology and approach

To achieve its research and training objectives, WON combines methods and interdisciplinary approaches of component design, optical communication technologies, DSP, and machine learning (ML).

The WON objectives will be achieved through 14 individual research projects assigned to ESRs and combined into 4 technical Work Packages (WPs) and 3 non-technical WPs. The R&D tasks will be carried out along with the training of Ph.D. students at leading European research centres.

The research topics reflect the areas of industrial demand and the need for training across many synergetic photonic techniques and methods. The project structure is designed around a series of technical deliverables and the prime target of providing multinational, multidisciplinary, inter-sectorial trained researchers.