In this paper we investigate an interesting modulation format for fiber optic communications, set-partitioning 128 polarization-multiplexed 16-QAM (128-SP-QAM), which consists of the symbols with even parity from the symbol alphabet of polarization-multiplexed 16-QAM (PM-16-QAM). We compare 128-SP-QAM and PM-16-QAM using numerical simulations in long-haul transmission scenarios at bit rates of 112 Gbit/s and 224 Gbit/s, and at the same symbol rates (14 and 28 Gbaud). The transmission link is made up of standard single-mode fiber with 60, 80 or 100 km amplifier spacing and both single channel and WDM transmission (25- and 50 GHz-spaced) is investigated. The results show that 128-SP-QAM achieves more than 40% increase in transmission reach compared to PM-16-QAM at the same data rate for all cases studied for a bit error rate of 10−3. In addition, we find that in single channel transmission there is, as expected, an advantage in terms of transmission distance when using a data rate of 112 Gbit/s as compared to 224 Gbit/s. However, when comparing the two different WDM systems with the same aggregate data rates, the reach is similar due to the smaller impact of nonlinear crosstalk between the WDM channels in the systems with 50 GHz spacing. We also discuss decoding and phase estimation of 128-SP-QAM and implement differential coding, which avoids error bursts due to cycle slips in the phase estimation. Simulations including laser phase noise show that the phase noise tolerance is similar for the two formats, with 0.5 dB OSNR penalty compared to the case with zero phase noise for a laser linewidth to symbol rate ratio of 10−4.
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