In this paper we propose a scheme for reducing the energy consumption of optical links by means of adaptive forward error correction (FEC). The scheme works by performing on the fly adjustments to the code rate of the FEC, adding extra parity bits to the data stream whenever extra capacity is available. We show that this additional parity information decreases the number of necessary decoding iterations and thus reduces the power consumption in iterative decoders during periods of low load. The code rate adjustments can be done on a frame-by-frame basis and thus make it possible to manipulate the balance between effective data rate and FEC coding gain without any disruption to the live traffic. As a consequence, these automatic adjustments can be performed very often based on the current traffic demand and bit error rate performance of the links through the network. The FEC scheme itself is designed to work as a transparent add-on to transceivers running the optical transport network (OTN) protocol, adding an extra layer of elastic soft-decision FEC to the built-in hard-decision FEC implemented in OTN, while retaining interoperability with existing OTN equipment. In order to facilitate dynamic code rate adaptation, we propose a programmable encoder and decoder design approach, which can implement various codes depending on the desired code rate using the same basic circuitry. This design ensures optimal coding gain performance with a modest overhead for supporting multiple codes with minimal impact on the area and power requirements of the decoder.
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