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DWDM and Coherent: The Pandemic Heroes for Optical Networks

Portrait of Russ Fordyce

October 21, 2020
By Russ Fordyce
Director of Marketing

How DWDM and Coherent Optics Technology Are Helping Us Shift Our Technology Habits

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, network operators have reported double-digit increases in traffic on their networks. This comes as no surprise as the types of applications we use are changing, we are shifting to longer Netflix binges and deeper dives into Facebook, and we are optimizing for our new work-from-home routines, like all-day video conferences. All this is driving significant shifts in traffic patterns and increases in demand for network capacity.

But what are the technologies that enable network operators to deal with these massive network capacity shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic?

DWDM: Making Each Fiber Better Since 1996

The first is dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM). This allows a fiber optic system to pack multiple wavelengths of data on the same fiber optic cable. DWDM was a huge leap forward as prior technologies only allowed for one wavelength per fiber optic cable. With DWDM, network operators can now send about 100 wavelengths on the same fiber. This alone is a powerful tool when operators need to add new capacity to congested routes or when they add new services for new customers or applications to the network.

Coherent Optics: Making Wavelengths Better

Coherent optics is our other hero. In layman’s terms, “coherent” is the system to tune amplitude modulation and phase modulation. Prior to developing coherent optics, the industry standard was simple on/off keying (OOK), which was fine for up to 10G or 40G, but when modulation was increased to boost capacity, fiber impairments limited reach.

Coherent optics can carry far more data, up to 800G on a single wavelength, and they can transmit that data even further than OOK. With this new flexibility, operators can tune for the maximum data rate to connect cities over land, in submarine networks, in data centers, or really almost anywhere.

Change has always been constant in operator networks, but the pace of change is certainly accelerating with the pandemic. Operators must continue to adapt their networks to shifts in use and traffic patterns, and coherent optics are a critical tool in that mission.

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