4K video and an optoelectronic router

Last week in Hong Kong, NTT Communications staged its first R&D Forum outside of Japan with an exhibit of the latest technologies fresh out of the NTT R&D labs. There was a lot to see, but here are a few highlights.

4K Video Streaming: which is to say, real-time video running at 4096 x 2160 resolution via a JPEG 2000 video codec developed by NTT Advanced Technology.

The technology is at the heart of a digital cinema distribution/management system already deployed in Japan that allows digital content distributors to send digital video to movie theatres – not just film, but also live broadcasts such as music concerts and sports events.

NTT intends to apply the same codec technology to videoconferencing suites as well, and is already doing so between New York and London.

One catch: 4K video is unsurprisingly bandwidth-intensive. For digital cinemas, where content packages are as large as 300GB, streaming 4K video at 35mm quality to a movie screen requires about 800 Mbps of bandwidth. 4K videoconferencing requires about 250 Mbps per screen.

Meanwhile, YouTube began supporting 4K video earlier this month (albeit with caveats about connection speeds). So for operators who have been wondering if they really can fill up 40G/100G optical links, the answer is: yeah, probably.

Hybrid optoelectronic router: The problem with standard electrical routers is that they’re slow and power-hungry due to all the optical-to-electronic-to optical that happens between the line cards and the switch. A hybrid optoelectronic router purportedly fixes that by using a shared buffer architecture with a CMOS RAM at the center, and an optical label processor that keeps the packet payload in the optical domain.

Obviously it’s more complicated than that, which is why optoelectronic routers have been in development for over a decade.

But NTT Photonics Laboratories claims to be the first to have demonstrated hybrid optoelectronic routing with a prototype boasting 1.4 microseconds of latency at a mere 360W of power (which is impressive given that power consumption of carrier-class routers today is typically measured in kilowatts).

However, it will be awhile before operators can buy one – a NTT Photonics spokesperson said a hybrid optoelectronic router isn’t likely to see commercial availability before 2015.