IBM develops 160 Gigabit per second optical chip

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Culver City (CA) - Your downloads could get faster, a lot faster, with IBM’s new optical networking chip.  Using light pulses instead of traditional electrical signals, the chip can speed data transmissions at 160 Gb/sec.  IBM says this is fast enough to download an entire high definition movie in about one second.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) partially funded research into the optical transceiver chip which is a CMOS chip made with materials like indium phosphide and gallium arsenide.  IBM says the production model will be tiny, measuring just 3.25 mm by 5.25 mm in size.

IBM hopes this chip will eventually replace traditional networking technologies like those based on Ethernet, which currently runs at either 100 Mb/sec or 1 Gb/sec.  While IBM claims insanely fast download speeds, it’s likely that broadband technology would greatly limit that speed.  In the United States, top-end DSL or Cable Internet lines top out at around 6 Mb/sec and fiber optic lines that get 100 Mbps are just now being tested.

IBM will be demonstrating a prototype chip at the Optical Fiber Conference in Anaheim California on March 29th.  A commercial version should be available by 2010.