First field-deployed multi-core fibre testbed for optical communications installed in L’Aquila, Italy

Created June 12, 2019
Applications and Research

The University of L’Aquila, Italy, Sumitomo Electric Industries, and Optoscribe have jointly deployed what they are calling “the world’s first testbed for multi-core fibre (MCF) communications” in a field-deployed environment in the city of L’Aquila, as part of the INCIPICT project.

An MCF is an optical fibre with multiple cores in a glass cladding and is considered one of the most promising SDM transmission technologies to overcome the limitations of conventional single-core fibre communication systems.

For INCIPICT, Sumitomo Electric fabricated two types of uncoupled MCFs and one type of coupled MCFs with a standard glass diameter of 125 µm. The standard glass diameter enabled the use of conventional optical fibre cable and connector technologies. The MCFs were cabled into conventional loose-tube jelly-filled cables, which are widely used in Europe.

Optoscribe manufactured fan-in/fan-out devices 3D OptoFan for the conversion between MCFs and multiple standard single-mode fibres. The MCF cable was installed in a microduct placed on INCIPICT’s rack in the walkable multi-service tunnel under L’Aqulia.

The MCF testbed was installed as a part of the network infrastructure. The total length of the installed MCF cable is 6.3 km, of which 5.6 km in the tunnel and 0.7 km in the laboratory that gives access to the fibres. The optical properties of the MCFs were evaluated before and after the installation, and “no significant degradations due to the installation” were observed, say the developers.

The MCF testbed will be used to host various R&D activities in fibre optic communications, and specifically in the area of SDM transmission over MCFs. These include device testing, transmissions and software-defined networking, also in conjunction with the ongoing 5G trial (L’Aquila is one of the five Italian sites selected for trialling 5G technologies).

The testbed will serve to assess problems and requirements for deployed MCFs, thereby contributing to the development of SDM transmission systems. The testbed will be available to the international research community under the jurisdiction of the University of L’Aquila.

The MCFs fabricated by Sumitomo Electric for INCIPICT was cabled by Opticable S.A., a joint venture of Nexans S.A. and Sumitomo Electric, in Belgium. The city of L’Aquila, the regional capital of Abruzzo, is located in central Italy.


The city was struck by a high-magnitude earthquake on April 6, 2009, which destroyed most of the city centre. Since the beginning of the reconstruction process, the city has been open to various experimental projects based on a green-field approach, to which a fraction of the reconstruction funds has been dedicated.

One of these projects is INCIPICT (Innovating City Planning through Information and Communications Technologies), proposed and led by the University of L’Aquila and funded by the Italian Government, in the spirit of supporting production and research activities in L’Aquila. Inspired by the concept of a living-lab, this project includes various research activities that ultimately rely on the fibre-optic infrastructure.

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This article was written
by Matthew Peach

Matthew Peach is a freelance technology journalist specialising in photonics and communications. He has previously worked for several business-to-business publishers, editing a range of high-tech magazines and websites.