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What is IOWN and Why are Tech Companies Backing It?

July 2, 2024
The global forum pushing for all-photonics networks gained support from Big Tech.

It was reported by CNBC last week that tech companies including Microsoft, Intel, Google, and Sony are backing an initiative called IOWN, a global forum seeking to advance all-photonics networks and develop standards for the technology.

Current members of the forum include companies and organizations such as NTT, Ericsson, and Nokia.

IOWN stands for Innovative Optical and Wireless Networks and the association is led by Japan telecom giant NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telecom Corporation). It was formed in 2020 as a trade association with the purpose of developing a set of standards for All-Photonics Networks (APNs).

Here is the founding philosophy from the organization itself:

"IOWN is a framework involving devices, networks and information processing infrastructure built on optical and other innovative technologies, to deliver high-speed and high-capacity communications, and vast computing resources. IOWN consists of three key areas of technology: the All Photonics Network (APN), which applies optical technology; Digital Twin Computing (DTC), which enables advanced, real-time interaction between objects and people in cyberspace; and the Cognitive Foundation (CF),which deploys various ICT resources efficiently, including the aforementioned.

In a nutshell, the organization and the technology standards being developed hope to greatly increase the speed and efficiency of telecommunication networks. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this what we’ve all been trying to do since the nineteenth century? Yes, but IOWN believes that the APN technology specifically will be necessary to achieve these goals, and this is a technology that may not be at the top of everyone’s mind just yet.

It's believed that all-photonics networks will facilitate the growth of technologies such as AI and 6G, while mitigating the power demand to fully realize these technologies, which may explain the interest from both Big Tech and telecom.

What is an All-Photonics Network (APN)?

APN is what IOWN is using to describe their concept of telecommunications networks that use photonics across the network, replacing electronic transmission of data, including at the information-processing level, which the group says will be necessary with growing demand for data and computing resources that are taxing the power supply.

Photonic circuit technology is not exactly new, but as with most technologies, it takes years and a lot of innovation to get to the point where new concepts are practical.

About the Author

Joe Gillard | Executive Editor

Joe Gillard is a media professional with over 10 years of experience writing, editing, and managing the editorial process across a spectrum of innovative industries. Joe strives to deliver the best possible editorial product by focusing on the needs of the audience, utilizing the data available, and collaborating with a talented team. 


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