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Japan's NTT develops next-gen communication tech with Intel, Kioxia, and SK Hynix

January 31, 2024 - Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN), the next-generation communication technology of Japan's telecommunication company NTT, is currently being developed in collaboration with Intel. SK Hynix from South Korea may also be involved. Japanese manufacturers are seeking to collaborate with the United States and South Korea to establish advanced next-generation communication technology and multinational standards to counterbalance China. This project is expected to receive subsidies of around JPY45 billion (US$300 million) from the Japanese government.


According to reports from Nikkei and TV Tokyo, NTT is developing a next-generation communication technology called IOWN. The goal is to utilize optical signals for transmission and reception to reduce energy consumption and eliminate latency. NTT has been promoting this new technology since 2019 and has formed a multinational alliance with companies such as Sony and Intel. NTT aims to establish the final standards for IOWN by 2024 and expects to implement it in 6G communication and network infrastructure by 2030.


Among Japanese manufacturers, companies involved in the development of optoelectronic fusion components include fiber optic equipment manufacturer Furukawa Electric, IC substrate manufacturer Shinko Electric Industries, and memory maker Kioxia, which is developing memory modules for optical signal and memory connectivity. Additionally, NEC and Fujitsu are developing equipment optimized for optical signal chip processing.


As part of these initiatives, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan plans to provide subsidies for three of these projects totaling around JPY45 billion through the research and development of 6G communication infrastructure.


In order to achieve the goal of commercialization around 2030, NTT and other manufacturers aim to develop production technologies for chips operating with optical signals by the fiscal year 2028 (April 2028 to March 2029), as well as memory technologies capable of storing data at Terabit (Tbit) speeds. Intel will provide technical advice on production technologies to reduce energy consumption by 30-40%. Regarding memory technology, NTT hopes that SK Hynix can provide the necessary expertise.


The urgency of reducing energy consumption in communication and network technologies is increasing. According to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), global electricity consumption is projected to reach 2.3 times that of 2022 by 2026. The proliferation of generative AI, such as OpenAI's ChatGPT answering a question consuming approximately 2.9 Wh of energy, is a significant factor, equivalent to 10 times the energy consumption of a typical Google search.

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