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Coventry Technology Rings Up World First

A team of engineers and scientists, working at laboratories at Marconi Communications in New Century Park, Coventry, earlier today unveiled a technological breakthrough which is the key to preventing a total breakdown of the world’s telephone networks on less than five years time.

The explosion in demand, fuelled largely by the Internet computer-based network, has seen communications traffic levels rocket and telephone networks are struggling to cope. Development teams around the world have responded by developing high-capacity optical systems but until now it has proved impossible to provide anything other than city-to-city systems, where the huge amounts of traffic – telephone and Internet calls – then have to be converted back into electronic signals.

The key to the future is to be able to optically route the calls during their journey; a technique called "clever glass" and engineers at Marconi Communications have become the first in the world to develop the capability to achieve it.

The new product is known in the industry as a reconfigurable optical multiplexer and was launched at 3.00am UK time in Beijing in China, home to the world’s largest and most technology-hungry market place.

"History will rank this development as another great British first," said Marconi Communications Coventry-based Optical Networks Managing Director Dave Lewis. "The big difference however is that unlike many important firsts this is one that we intend to exploit to the maximum and use it to build on our position as one of the world’s major telecommunications manufacturers."

The revolutionary multiplexer is part of a whole product range of optical systems that Marconi Communications launched in China earlier today at a major exhibition called ExpoComm. Titled SmartPhotonix, the range offers network operators all the optical systems they will need for the demands of the next Century. The SmartPhotonix range will be made at Coventry and also in Genoa in Italy, where other engineers also collaborated in the development work.

Marconi Communications is a world leader in smart Broadband transmission and systems integration. It was formed by the merger of GPT Limited, Marconi SpA and selected businesses owned by GEC, a global manufacturer of intelligent electronic systems.


Defusing the carrier network bomb

Telecommunications networks – and the telecommincations operators that own and run them – have never been under so much pressure as their equipment faces an unprecedented change of demand.

For instance, the numbers of people connecting to the Internet is rising exponentially, with around 40 million users in almost 100 countries currently having access to the Internet 24 hours a day. When a subscriber makes a phone call, the average length of time they are connected over the network is only a few minutes. In contrast, the average connection by a user to the Internet is half an hour rising. This places a tremendous – and growing – burden on the telecommunications operator’s resources at the telephone exchange as individual lines are engaged for longer periods, and on the fibre-optic cable in the operator’s core network.

Photonics – on which Marconi Communications’ world-beating SmartPhotonix range is based – is a godsend to hard-pressed operators whose fibre is rapidly filling up with calls and information. It effectively splits the single laser-generated lightware carried by an individual optical fibre into a number of wavelengths. Each individual wavelength is able to carry the same amount of information as the whole original single fibre.

Instead of carrying, say, 30,000 phone calls, the same fibre can now transport 250,000 calls or their equivalent in data. Not only is the capacity of an operator’s backbone network increased but it avoids the spiralling cost of laying new fibre cable.

Marconi Communications is the only manufacturer to have developed optical systems that are capable of adding and dropping voice and data calls at will. This breakthrough – the move from electrical to optical components – by Marconi engineers, is the technical accomplishment the telecommunications world has been waiting for. It is key enable telephone networks worldwide to meet the massive communications needs expected in the next century.

 MORE INFORMATION: Marconi Communications Press Office 0115 9433687

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CWN / Business / Newswire / Marconi / 27 Oct 98

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