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Tags: Access and Aggregation, Innovation
September 23, 2019

A Revolution in Optical Aggregation Networks Is Coming

By Fady Masoud
Director, Solutions Marketing


The Value of XR Optics for Optical Aggregation Networks

Over the 23 years I’ve been in the optical networking industry, there have been just a couple of game-changing innovations. The inception of ROADMs and coherent transmission are two innovations that come to mind that completely changed the way optical networks are built.

Today’s announcement from Infinera, on the industry’s first multipoint coherent transceiver technology, could very well be the next major network inflection point. XR optics technology, leveraging an innovative approach on the use of Nyquist subcarriers, enables a single transceiver to generate multiple, individually routable optical signals. The result is a single high-speed transceiver that can simultaneously communicate with numerous lower-speed transceivers, each with independent, dedicated data streams.

Challenging the Conventional Network Architecture

XR optics technology addresses one of the biggest challenges in optical networking: while network traffic is inherently hub and spoke or point to multipoint, especially in metro networks, optical technology is only capable of point-to-point connections, resulting in a massive number of vastly underutilized optical interfaces and intermediate aggregation points.

XR optics provides an extremely efficient solution for hub-and-spoke traffic by being able to aggregate traffic from multiple lower-speed endpoints in a single transceiver, dramatically reducing the total number of transceivers and router ports at the hub or aggregation point.

But even beyond that, XR optics can completely transform the way people build optical transport networks. Rather than having to worry about port speed and matching transceivers on each end of a fiber, with XR optics the whole network world becomes a simple “N x subcarrier” equation. Any port can talk to any other port by simply steering the appropriate number of subcarriers. Increasing capacity for a certain endpoint can be done in a heartbeat by adding the required number of subcarriers.

With a single 400G transceiver you will be able to collect traffic from numerous 25G, 100G, or 200G transceivers – up to 16 endpoints can be connected to a single transceiver. No longer will network operators need to worry about which routers or switches are equipped with which ports – instead, operators can buy equipment with the highest and most efficient port speeds and use any of those ports for network or aggregation connections at will. This kind of peace of mind has been dreamed of for years!

XR optics technology comes at a particularly good time for network operators struggling to cost-effectively manage the impending tidal wave of traffic coming from applications like 5G, fiber deep, and cloud-based business services. And their impact will be significant.

Improving Service Performance

All service providers have a similar networking challenge in the short term – how to expand their optical networks to be closer to customers.

  • For 5G operators, speeds are going up for customers, so each of their towers will soon have at least 25G of capacity, and the number of radios and towers will increase by five times.
  • Cable companies, or MSOs, are in the midst of an initiative to improve customer experience called fiber deep, which will result in many more and higher-speed endpoints in their networks.
  • Service providers, or telcos, are witnessing a significant increase in demand for bandwidth from business customers, fueled by the migration to cloud applications, as well as residential customers, with their ever-growing consumption of streaming applications (video, music, etc.).

Regardless of the type of network, traffic requires transport and ultimately aggregation into hub and application-serving locations. And in those aggregation or hub sites, instead of having to buy a massive number of lower-speed transceivers – one for each endpoint – network operators can now leverage far fewer and more cost-effective higher-speed transceivers than can collect data from numerous endpoints of varying speed simultaneously.

After all these years, optical networking finally has a solution that is designed to support actual metro network traffic patterns. By enabling the reduction of network transceivers by more than 50%, reducing the number of router ports required, enabling the universal use of efficient higher-speed ports, enabling the elimination of intermediate aggregation locations, and generally enabling any transceiver and hence any network port to talk to any other network port irrespective of transceiver/port speed, XR optics is poised to enable massive improvements in network architectures that will enable network operators to cost-effectively deliver all the new high-bandwidth services that end users are looking for.