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APAC at an Optical System Inflection Point

Edward Koo

June 18, 2024
By Edward Koo
Senior Director, North East Asia Sales

It’s Time for Compact Modular Platforms

Living in Singapore and traveling across the APAC region to meet with service providers to help them evolve their networks and optical transport solutions to meet new and changing demands has been incredibly rewarding. During our customer events, like our Infinera Xchanges held in Seoul and Tokyo in late 2023, as well as in numerous other discussions, we have noticed a growing trend in the APAC region: the increased adoption and commercial deployment of compact modular optical platforms.

APAC at an Inflection Point

Throughout most of my career, we have delivered optical transport solutions using large half-rack or full-rack chassis featuring centralized switching and large, vertically mounted line cards. While these solutions have served us well, North America and EMEA have increasingly outpaced the APAC region in the adoption and deployment of smaller, disaggregated, compact modular optical platforms. As seen in Figure 1, that trend is shifting, with APAC becoming the fastest-growing market for compact modular platforms between 2023 and 2028.


Figure 1: Compact modular (or DCI) market by regionFigure 1: Compact modular (or DCI) market by region

Compact Modular for All

Compact modular was pioneered by Infinera around 2015 and has been adopted by most optical vendors. We are now closing in on 10 years of compact modular deployments and product evolutions. What was previously a one rack unit (1RU)  or 2RU disaggregated transponder or muxponder with a mechanical housing and power supply has turned into a Lego-like suite with a variety of 1RU, 2RU, or 4RU chassis with 300-mm or 600-mm depth that support a variety of compact, horizontal sled-based modules in a mix-and-match approach. What also began as a rigid separation of optical line system functionality in one chassis and optical engine functionality in a separate one has blurred with the latest equipment like Infinera’s GX Series – enabling service providers to mix and match engine and line-system functionality to optimize their configuration for a diverse set of deployment locations. This mix-and-match approach supports small, medium, and large deployments while also minimizing space, power, and cost. Carrier-grade resiliency with field replaceability has been added for all functions, including controller cards, fan trays, and power supplies. The product evolution is important as I believe it is the basis for this inflection point and increased adoption in the APAC region. The prior objections or resistance to compact modular adoption in APAC are eroding and service providers are increasingly embracing compact modular deployments for both Layer 0 and Layer 1 optical transport needs.

Figure 2.: Compact modular platforms like Infinera’s GX Series

Figure 2: Compact modular platforms like Infinera’s GX Series

New APAC Deployment

One such example is a leading global network operator based in Northeast Asia. Over the years, they’ve built a robust network. However, with bandwidth demand in their network growing at 50% per year, they need to ensure their network is leveraging the latest technologies to maximize fiber utilization while at the same time being supportive of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives. They need a modern platform that is cost effective and optimized to meet today’s capacity demands while also being easily extensible to meet tomorrow’s growth. Equally important to them is the need for a platform that plugs into their automation framework with support for common data models and open APIs.

The Right Fit

The solution that best fits their needs is Infinera’s GX open optical line system coupled with the latest optical engine technology including ICE6-powered transponders. The compact modular platform enables both line system and transponder functionality that translates into significant space and power savings. Support for 6.1 THz Super C spectrum enables the operator to move beyond today’s capacity limits and deliver 27% more capacity on their existing fiber. The GX platform is also L-band-ready (Super L-band at that), which means the operator can double their capacity once Super C is exhausted. Given the cost and time required to trench new fiber, having both Super C and Super L designed into the platform is a huge advantage.

Let’s Go Global

Now that Infinera’s GX is successfully deployed, the operator intends to expand the solution throughout its global footprint.  As many of the operator’s global sites are leased, the small footprint and power efficiency of the compact modular platform benefits their operational expenses. Fiber is also frequently leased in overseas geographies, which means that maximizing fiber transmission capacity with Super C (and future Super L) will help them avoid the cost associated with leasing additional fiber pairs.

The Real Winners

APAC is becoming the new home for compact modular optical platforms like Infinera’s GX. With live commercial deployments and a growing pipeline of adoption, I believe we are at an important inflection point where compact modular will become the norm for new deployments. By enabling space-, power-, and cost-efficiency for today’s capacity demands and easy expansion for tomorrow’s growth, network operators will be the real winners.