Terabit Era

What are terabit speeds and do we really need them?

By Pieter Poll, Senior Vice President of Network Planning

You may be familiar with the term gigabit. CenturyLink has rolled out broadband speeds to homes and businesses up to one gigabit per second (Gbps), equivalent to 1,000 megabits per second (1000 Mbps), in parts of 17 markets across the country. This provides the capacity to allow businesses to transfer very large amounts of data while working in the cloud and families to have multiple data-intensive devices (typically streaming HD video) connected to one Internet connection in the home while still having more than enough speed to support uninterrupted work-at-home.

Now that you understand the power behind 1 gigabit speeds, you may be wondering about the recent news around terabit speeds. A terabit per second (Tbps), used for measuring the amount of data that is transferred in a second between two telecommunication points or within network devices, is equivalent to a whopping 1,000 Gbps. CenturyLink uses this capacity to transport extremely large amounts of data around the world on our backbone network by combining several 100 Gbps wavelengths of light together. To help us better manage all those wavelengths, we’ve decided to take it the next level – the start of the terabit era.

Earlier this year, CenturyLink, with help from Ciena, successfully delivered transmission speeds of 1 Tbps on a portion of its fiber network in central Florida as part of a live field test. The terabit super-channel packed a lot of wavelengths of light together - five 200 Gbps wavelengths - and more than doubled the network’s traffic carrying capacity during the trial, demonstrating the scalability and efficiency of CenturyLink’s network. While we can’t offer terabit speeds directly to our customers, the trial illustrates how we can use this capacity to keep up with increasing bandwidth demands on our core network, ensuring our customers will continue to have a positive experience using our cloud, hosted IT and high-speed broadband services, as well as video services like CenturyLink Prism® TV.

We also recently deployed this capacity for an event where it may be most appreciated: the annual International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis in Austin, Texas, also known as the Supercomputing conference. Along with help from our vendor, Infinera, we delivered 1.5 Tbps of super-channel transmission capacity to support SCinet, one of the most powerful and advanced networks in the world and created each year for this conference. This 1.5 Tbps network supports the revolutionary research applications and experiments that took place at the conference, connecting the Austin convention center to research and commercial networks around the world.

At CenturyLink, we want to make sure we can quickly satisfy broadband demands, whether it’s having enough capacity to accommodate growing Internet traffic on our core network, providing individual customers with the connectivity they need to run their business efficiently, or satisfying the communication and entertainment needs of families. Our network is ready to serve our customers, from megabit to terabit speeds.  

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