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Innovation on the Fast Track

portrait of Fady Masoud

June 9, 2021
By Fady Masoud
Director, Solutions Marketing

Introducing the Open XR Forum

True game-changing technologies that redefine how things are done come along only a few times in a professional lifetime. In the optical networking industry, dense wavelength-division multiplexing and coherent transmission come to mind. The significant positive impact of such innovative technologies often triggers industry collaboration to accelerate and facilitate their deployment, whether through forums, working groups, MSAs, alliances, etc., increasing the number and type of network operators that can benefit from their positive impact.

XR optics is the latest example of such a game-changing technology. Why? It solves a challenge that has existed since the inception of optical networking.

There are two distinct types of traffic patterns in optical transport networks.

In the network core, including submarine, long-haul, and metro core networks, traffic patterns are primarily a mesh of point-to-point demands. At the network edge, including mobile, residential, and business services, traffic patterns are almost exclusively point to multipoint, with traffic aggregated from numerous lower-speed edge points into a smaller number of aggregation and hub locations.

While existing optical transmission technology is well suited to support point-to-point traffic demands, there has historically been a significant misalignment between the traffic patterns at the network edge and the technology used to transport that traffic.

Traditional optical connectivity solutions use strictly point-to-point technology, where each end of the connection is required to operate at the same speed (1G, 10G, 25G, 100G, etc.). For the multipoint traffic demands at the network edge, the result is an inefficient transport architecture that requires large numbers of bookended transceivers, as well as numerous intermediate aggregation devices to “up-speed” traffic flows.

XR optics is the next major inflection point in optical transceiver technologies. In addition to supporting traditional point-to-point applications, XR optics is the first optical technology capable of connecting multiple lower-speed interfaces to a few higher-speed interfaces through aggregation in the optical domain, without the need for electrical aggregation devices.

XR optics utilizes digital signal processing to subdivide the transmission and reception of a given wavelength spectrum into a series of smaller-frequency channels called digital subcarriers. These digital subcarriers can be independently modulated, managed, and assigned to different destinations, enabling the industry’s first scalable point-to-multipoint, direct low-speed to high-speed optical transceiver connectivity.

It’s been an incredible journey since XR optics was first introduced to the optical networking industry. In addition to receiving numerous industry recognitions for its innovation, engagements, joint technical and economic analyses (e.g., with BT), and lab demonstrations have been conducted around the globe. It has driven many engagements and lively discussions, but one thing is clear – XR optics is a next-generation optical networking transmission technology with a transformative architecture that drives significant positive impact for business and operational models.

Technical and economic analyses performed on real networks have revealed reductions of over 70% in total cost of ownership. Service providers have also highly valued XR optics’ dynamic capacity management and provisioning that accelerates service velocity and eliminates truck rolls.

This week’s announcement about the creation of the Open XR Forum marks a significant milestone in this journey. This is an industry collaboration that will accelerate the widespread adoption and deployment of XR optics’ innovative technology by a broad range of network operators in a wide variety of applications.

Open XR Forum members will ensure the products and services developed align with existing standards and operational models by driving standardization of network interfaces and electro-mechanical hardware interfaces, demonstrating interoperability, establishing multi-sourcing potential, and developing and publishing new specifications as needed.

Through the contribution of the Open XR Forum, a wide cross section of the optical networking industry, from network operators to equipment vendors and component vendors, can benefit from the technology innovation of XR optics.

  • Network operators benefit from the Open XR Forum through the seamless deployment and interoperability of XR optics in the network. Moreover, the accelerated innovation cycle of XR optics, fueled by the ongoing contributions of active forum members, will enable a faster positive impact on network operators’ business and operational processes. Network operators also benefit from multi-sourcing purchasing schemes to avoid vendor lock-in and ensure business continuity through dual-supplier agreements.
  • Network equipment vendors benefit from the Open XR Forum by enhancing their product capabilities with open XR optics transceiver compatibility with minimal R&D investment, delivering improved port utilization and the ability to better meet end-customer requirements without the cost and risk of rip-and-replace upgrades. Equipment providers will benefit from differentiated value-add services for the next generation of smart coherent optical pluggables, inclusive of XR optics.
  • The Open XR Forum benefits component vendors by expanding the application space and hence the total market size for coherent transceivers by driving coherent optics to the access edge. The Open XR Forum reduces the cost of new product development and accelerates time to market by providing access to enabling technology building blocks that are compatible with existing transceiver designs and optical components. Furthermore, the Open XR Forum extends product life cycles and enables smooth industry transitions to higher data rates by enabling the ongoing use and sale of transceivers with lower data rates that are compatible with new generations of higher-data-rate transceivers.

The foundation of the Open XR Forum is a major milestone for the optical networking industry, with a goal of creating open standards for XR optics-based transmission technology and fostering a collaboration of key industry players. With the Open XR Forum, network operators around the globe can benefit from this transformative technology in the era of 5G, high-speed broadband, and cloud-based services.