The virtually unlimited bandwidth of optical fibers has caused a great increase in data transmission speed over the past decade and, hence, stimulated high-demand multimedia services such as distance learning, video-conferencing and peer to peer applications. For this reason data traffic is exceeding telephony traffic, and this trend is driving the convergence of telecommunications and computer communications. In this scenario Internet Protocol (IP) is becoming the dominant protocol for any traffic, shifting the attention of the network designers from a circuit switching approach to a packet switching approach. A role of paramount importance in packet switching networks is played by the router that must implement the functionalities to set up and maintain the inter-nodal communications. The main functionalities a router must implement are routing, forwarding, switching, synchronization, contention resolution, and buffering. Nowadays, opto-electronic conversion is still required at each network node to process the incoming signal before routing that to the right output port. However, when the single channel bit rate increases beyond electronic speed limit, Optical Time Division Multiplexing (OTDM) becomes a forced choice, and all-optical processing must be performed to extract the information from the incoming packet.
In this paper enabling techniques for ultra-fast all-optical network will be addressed. First a 160 Gbit/s complete transmission system will be considered. As enabling technique, an overview for all-optical logics will be discussed and experimental results will be presented using a particular reconfigurable NOLM based on Self-Phase-Modulation (SPM) or Cross-Phase-Modulation (XPM). Finally, a rough experiment on label extraction, all-optical switching and packet forwarding is shown.