OSA/SPIE Seminar: Changing the Paradigm: Digital Coherent Optical Communications

Changing the Paradigm: Digital Coherent Optical Communications
Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 5:45pm
Spilker 232
Kim Roberts (WaveLogic Science at Ciena)
Abstract / Description: 

Embracing massively-parallel-CMOS Digital Signal Processing in 2005 revolutionized high speed optical communications; whether the need was to go across town or to link continents. Revolution provoked powerful entrenched interests to argue with religious intensity: "Kim is lying!" "It is not possible!". Many papers were published on how this does not work. Meanwhile, we were busy shipping products. Finally, in 2008, an eminent independent researcher, Joe Kahn, stood up in Acapulco and said "Kim and Maurice are right." The industry then quickly adopted the new religion.

This talk will provide an introduction to digital coherent optics, survey an ASIC for this that executes 240 Trillion integer operations per second, and then describe elements that enable optical products to reach for 600 Gb/s per wavelength.


Kim Roberts is a passionate evangelist of new optical and high-capacity packet technologies and holds the distinction of being Ciena Corporation's (previously Nortel's) leading inventor. Kim holds more than 150 patents with many more pending.

Kim has been a major force in the field of digital signal processing (DSP) for optical transmission systems, and played a key role in virtually every optical innovation developed by Nortel. These range from the Superdecoder (the use of electronic signal processing of optical signals), the OC-48 regenerator, and the original OC-192 (10-Gbit/s) system, to terrestrial optical amplifiers and the revolutionary WaveLogic 1 precompensating transmitter. Building on these breakthroughs, Kim helped develop the DSP-assisted coherent transceivers that are at the heart of the world's first coherent 40, 100 and 400 Gb/s optical systems. Today Kim is Vice President at Ciena, leading an R&D team focused on pushing the optical boundaries even further in terms of speed, distance and cost with the WaveLogic Ai Extreme transceiver at 600 Gb/s.

In recognition of the pioneering role he has played in the industry, Kim was named an IEEE Fellow and a Nortel Fellow. He received the Outstanding Engineer medal in 2008 from IEEE Canada. Kim holds a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis on mathematics, and a Master degree in Electrical Engineering with the topic of processing of brain signals, both from the University of British Columbia.