Optical vendors in terabit transport push

Image by Daniel Dino-Slofer from Pixabay.

Image by Daniel Dino-Slofer from Pixabay.

  • The battle is on to offer the highest capacity optical networking systems
  • Multiple vendors are currently battling to be top dog
  • Four have just unveiled their latest transport network products
  • Ciena, Fujitsu, Infinera and Nokia have all unveiled next-gen systems in the past few weeks

As the optical networking sector comes together for its annual gathering at the OFC 2023 conference and exhibition in San Diego this week, three of the sector’s biggest hitters have been battling for system capacity bragging rights in an effort to attract the attention of the telco community, especially those looking to replace Huawei gear in their backbone networks.  

Nokia got the ball rolling two weeks ago when it unveiled its sixth-generation coherent photonic service engine, the PSE-6s which, the vendor claims, “is capable of reducing network power consumption by 60%” and “supports the efficient delivery of high-speed services including 800 gigabit Ethernet (GE) over distances of 2,000km and beyond.” 

In addition, the transceiver, which integrates 5-nanometer coherent digital signal processors with Nokia’s CSTAR silicon photonics optical engine, supports what Nokia describes as a “unique chip-to-chip interface that enables them to be deployed in pairs to power the industry’s first 2.4 Tbit/s coherent transport solution.”

Optical transport networking products containing the PSE-6s are due to be available for telco trials in the second half of this year. 

“Coherent interfaces are close to reaching the theoretical maximum capacity of fibre. But successive generations continue to provide tremendous value by transporting more data per wavelength, improving energy efficiency, and supporting the latest Ethernet rates,” noted Kyle Hollasch, lead analyst for optical and packet transport at Cignal AI. “The PSE-6s brings these advances to Nokia’s broad portfolio of optical networking platforms with support for terabit wavelengths, multi-terabit line cards, and 800GE rates over distance – all while reducing power per bit.”

Gilles Bourdon, vice president of wireline networks at Orange Group, is impressed.  “The 6th generation of coherent optical engines supporting 130Gbaud operation and up to 1.2 Tbit/s per wavelength gives us confidence to increase the capacity of Orange backbone networks in the future, running at 800 Gbit/s per wavelength in long-distance links and providing a very efficient and reliable transport solution to interconnect our routers with 800GE ports.”

Ciena gets in on the act

Then two weeks ago, Ciena unveiled its WaveLogic 6 coherent optical chipset. It will “support up to 1.6 Tbit/s single-carrier wavelengths for metro ROADM deployments, 800 Gbit/s over the longest links, and energy-efficient 800 Gbit/s pluggables across 1,000km distances” and be available during the first half of next year, the vendor noted in its announcement

WaveLogic 6 is set to be the first chipset to enable a 1.6 Tbit/s wavelength over a single carrier, noted Dell’Oro Group vice president Jimmy Yu, and that’s noteworthy because “we believe 1.6Tbit/s wavelengths will be a critical technology to enable operators to sustainably grow their networks as bandwidth demand continues to grow annually at 30%. Hence, we anticipate that in five years over 50% of capacity additions will come from DWDM systems built with sixth-generation coherent DSPs [digital signal processors],” added the analyst. 

And Ciena customers are pumped too, with the likes of Meta, which operates its own long-distance optical transport networks around the world to connect its datacentres, keen to take advantage of the advances Ciena has made. 

“Network efficiency has been a big part of our DNA since we started designing our first datacentre facility in Oregon over a decade ago,” stated Meta’s VP of engineering, Gaya Nagarajan. “At OFC 2021, we challenged the suppliers to deliver a 50% power/bit reduction and a doubling of bandwidth/channel in Gen 6 transponder by 2024-25. These advances are critical to support our future network expansions. Based on Ciena’s announcement today, it looks like they are on track to meet these targets with WaveLogic 6,” added the Meta executive. 

Nicholas Payant, VP of operation services and core network at Bell Canada, also welcomed the launch. “Ciena’s WaveLogic 5 technology has enabled Bell to offer 400GE services to its wide range of customers and provide them with the ability to move massive amounts of data to the cloud. Bell’s national network is WaveLogic 6 ready and we look forward to the service delivery efficiencies that come with 800 gigabits per second connectivity,” he noted. 

Fujitsu fires up its offer 

Fujitsu has long been one of the leading optical transport networking technology suppliers and is keeping up with the pack with its latest offering, the 1FINITY Ultra Optical System, which enables 1.2 Tbit/s rates over a single wavelength with the option to upgrade in the future to 1.6 Tbit/s. 

The system will be made available in Japan, North America and Europe in the first half of the company’s fiscal year (between April and September). 

Fujitsu claims the system includes a state-of-the-art digital signal processor and “liquid-cooling technology with twice the cooling capacity of conventional technology,” as well as advances in optical signal amplification and ROADM (reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer) design, which enables the latest 1FINITY model to “handle multiple wavelength bands in a single product.” All of this enables high data rates over longer distances while delivering reduced carbon emissions and energy consumption, claims the vendor. For more information, see this announcement

Infinera weighs in

Nokia, Ciena and Fujitsu made their announcements ahead of the recent Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona as well as the OFC event, so they could talk to as many customers as possible about the developments, but Infinera waited until just days before the San Diego gathering to unveil the next generation of its infinite capacity engine (ICE), the 1.2 Tbit/s ICE7, which combines the vendor’s transmit-receive optical sub-assembly (TROSA) module (incorporating its photonic integrated circuit technology) with a custom digital signal processor designed for high baud rate transmission and enables 1.2 Tbit/s over a single wavelength. 

The company says ICE7-based platforms will be available from the first half of 2024 and will reduce cost-per-bit by up to 30% compared with current systems, and reduce power/space-per-bit by up to 60%. It is also designed to enable 800 Gbit/s services “nearly everywhere,” as Infinera claims it can enable “up to 3,000km, more than three times the reach of currently available technology and covering more than 85% of network links.” There are many more details in this announcement

In addition, Infinera unveiled a new portfolio of coherent optical subsystems and coherent pluggable optical engines “designed to help network operators cost effectively keep up with the relentless growth in bandwidth demand while streamlining operations and reducing carbon footprint” – see this announcement

And this quartet are not alone – they’re just the ones that have been making the most noise in the days leading up to OFC.

Cisco Systems, courtesy of its Acacia Communications acquisition of 2021, is already shipping its 1.2 Tbit/s Coherent Interconnect Module 8 (CIM 8) to customers and the technology is already in field trials with Tier 1 network operators, according to a recent company blog, which positioned CIM 8 as “the first commercial single optical carrier coherent transceiver that breaks into the terabit era.”

Bill Gartner, senior VP and general manager of optical systems and the optics group at Cisco, noted: “The ability to maximise transmission data rate across a wide range of multi-haul network applications is key for cost effectively scaling networks. Not only does the CIM 8 deliver exceptional performance but it also consumes less than half the power per bit of competing solutions, allowing us to support terabit transmission with a small pluggable module,” he added. 

As the world becomes more digital and cloud services dominate the enterprise sector, so network operators of all kinds, but particularly the datacentre operators and telcos, will need optical transport systems that can shunt increasing volumes of data around the world at lower costs and in an increasingly sustainable way. Fortunately for them, it looks like they have a very competitive and capable set of suppliers battling to meet their needs. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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