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February 29, 2024

Innovating Disaster Forecasting and Network Synchronization with NTT's Optical Lattice Clock Technology

In a leap forward for disaster prevention technology and communication systems, NTT has unveiled its Optical Lattice Clock Network (OLC-NW), which utilizes the unique precision of optical lattice clocks—over 100,000 times more accurate than traditional telecom frequency standards—to offer real-time solutions for both earthquake and volcano disaster prediction, and enabling better reliability of 5G/6G communications.

Unlike conventional clocks, optical lattice clocks attain a level of precision so high that they deviate by only one second in 30 billion years. Recognizing the technology's potential, NTT has developed an optical lattice clock network designed to transfer highly precise optical frequencies using planar lightwave circuits via optical fibers to bolster social infrastructure.

The heart of the technology lies in its ability to measure real-time height differences by detecting frequency variations in optical lattice clocks across extensive optical fiber networks. Being able to measure height differences as they occur offers the potential for NTT's breakthrough to help predict and measure crustal movements that precede natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Optical lattice clocks can also play a crucial role in maintaining the synchronization necessary for the latest 5G and future 6G communication networks, especially during disruptions in GPS signals.

OLC-NW technology has a variety of other possible future uses, including:

  1. Climate Monitoring and Environmental Studies: By accurately measuring the Earth's crust movements, this technology can contribute to understanding climate change effects, such as sea-level rise and glacial movements.
  2. Network Synchronization for Data Centers: Data centers, which form the backbone of cloud computing and internet services, could use OLC technology for better network synchronization, reducing time discrepancies and improving efficiency.
  3. Quantum Computing and Networking: As quantum technologies develop, precise timekeeping will be crucial for synchronization in quantum networks and computers.

NTT's optical lattice clocks are not simply a case of leveraging existing technology, but also about pushing the boundaries of innovation. The development of optical frequency repeaters using planar lightwave circuits (PLC) marks a significant advancement in achieving ultra-high precision frequency transmission, particularly in noise-intensive urban environments. PLC technology involves creating integrated optical circuits on a flat substrate, which enables compact, efficient integration of optical components like waveguides, splitters, and multiplexers, crucial for fiber optic communication systems and various photonics applications. Additionally, NTT has developed a low-noise photoelectric conversion system, including an optical frequency comb and a prototype photoelectric conversion device, both instrumental in ensuring long-term stability and precision in timekeeping and frequency distribution.

The Optical Lattice Clock Network represents a fusion of precision timekeeping and practical application. By harnessing the extraordinary accuracy of optical lattice clocks for real-time measurements and communication stability, NTT is offering new methods in disaster prevention and the future of telecommunications.

NTT—Innovating the Future

Picture: Daniel O'Connor

Daniel O'Connor joined the NTT Group in 1999 when he began work as the Public Relations Manager of NTT Europe. While in London, he liaised with the local press, created the company's intranet site, wrote technical copy for industry magazines and managed exhibition stands from initial design to finished displays.

Later seconded to the headquarters of NTT Communications in Tokyo, he contributed to the company's first-ever winning of global telecoms awards and the digitalisation of internal company information exchange.

Since 2015 Daniel has created content for the Group's Global Leadership Institute, the One NTT Network and is currently working with NTT R&D teams to grow public understanding of the cutting-edge research undertaken by the NTT Group.