The fu­ture of fi­bre op­tics

Capacity - - Contents -

A NUM­BER OF RE­CENT TRENDS AND DE­VEL­OP­MENTS IN OP­TI­CAL FI­BRE TECH­NOL­OGY HAVE BEEN HELP­ING HARD PRESSED CAR­RI­ERS TO FACE UP TO THE FU­TURE. GUY MATTHEWS EX­AM­INES THE CHAL­LENGES THAT THESE IN­NO­VA­TORS HAVE FACED

Op­ti­cal fi­bre tech­nol­ogy re­mains of cen­tral im­por­tance to net­work op­er­a­tors as they seek to make sense of re­cent ex­plo­sive growth in net­work traf­fic.

In the last year or two, there have been de­vel­op­ments in the sci­ence of op­ti­cal fi­bre, some ma­jor and some mi­nor, which be­tween them of­fer con­fi­dence that the tech­nol­ogy will con­tinue to de­liver into the fu­ture. This in­no­va­tion has im­pacted ev­ery as­pect of fi­bre con­nec­tiv­ity, whether in the di­rectly at­tached fi­bre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fi­bre-to-the-premises (FTTP) de­ploy­ments that are trans­form­ing home en­ter­tain­ment and the de­liv­ery of busi­ness ser­vices, in metro and back­haul net­works or in the gi­ant long­haul sys­tems that are steadily shrink­ing the globe and in­tro­duc­ing emer­gent economies onto the global grid (see box­out on page 64).

De­vel­op­ments are boost­ing the power of new build fi­bre net­works, and help­ing to sus­tain older sys­tems by breath­ing new life into con­nec­tions that would oth­er­wise be near­ing ob­so­les­cence.

“We now have mis­sion-crit­i­cal low-loss fi­bres for longer dis­tance links, such as the lat­est sub­sea builds which enable higher band­width to be de­liv­ered,” says Mervyn Kelly, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor with op­ti­cal fi­bre equip­ment ven­dor Ciena. “These new fi­bres need to work seam­lessly across a net­work where the vast ma­jor­ity of traf­fic is car­ried over ex­ist­ing fi­bres, com­bin­ing to help op­er­a­tors dif­fer­en­ti­ate their ser­vices and gain com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in a highly-chal­leng­ing mar­ket­place.”

All op­ti­cal fi­bre, old and new, has part to play as car­ri­ers in­vest in the foun­da­tions of to­mor­row’s self-driv­ing, au­ton­o­mous, soft­ware-driven net­works. In­no­va­tions are help­ing to make these net­works more in­tel­li­gent and pro­gram­mable than ever be­fore.

For the first time, net­work op­er­a­tors are gain­ing the abil­ity to deter­mine what the op­ti­mal ca­pac­ity is for a par­tic­u­lar path across the net­work, as well as the abil­ity to strate­gi­cally tune in to dif­fer­ent ca­pac­ity lev­els to ad­dress the un­pre­dictabil­ity of web-scale de­mands.

“We’ve built this func­tion­al­ity into our new Wavel­ogic plat­form which will change the out­look for op­ti­cal net­works,” claims Kelly. “Hav­ing the flex­i­bil­ity to tune a chan­nel to the op­ti­mal ca­pac­ity for a spe­cific path is crit­i­cal for re­duc­ing costs. If that elas­tic­ity does not al­ready ex­ist in the net­work, these chan­nels will its end up run­ning with far too much mar­gin and costs will in­evitably start to in­crease.”

By pre­par­ing the net­work with un­prece­dented lev­els of tun­abil­ity, he says, op­er­a­tors can cus­tomise chan­nels to the op­ti­mum ca­pac­ity for any ap­pli­ca­tion, from metro to trans-pa­cific sub­ma­rine. When cou­pled with ac­cess to real-time mon­i­tor­ing in­for­ma­tion, net­work op­er­a­tors will be in a far bet­ter po­si­tion, he be­lieves, to deter­mine how ef­fi­ciently the net­work is work­ing and make au­ton­o­mous and in­tel­li­gent de­ci­sions to af­fect it.

Tak­ing in­ter­me­di­ate steps

Away from the deep blue oceans and down at the level of the ac­cess net­work, the old GPON stan­dard that has been the ba­sis of count­less di­rectly at­tached fi­bre links into home and busi­nesses is be­ing su­per­seded by newer and more flex­i­ble stan­dards. XGS-PON has emerged as an in­ter­me­di­ate step be­tween GPON and an even newer gen­er­a­tion of pas­sive op­ti­cal net­work (PON) de­ploy­ments. In time XGS-PON will prob­a­bly be sup­planted by NG-PON2, but has a medium term role in al­low­ing op­er­a­tors to sup­port sym­met­ri­cal 10Gbps ap­pli­ca­tions, avoid­ing the more cap­i­tal in­ten­sive

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