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Jay-Z Says Auto-Tune Should Die. We Wholeheartedly Disagree!

Jon Baldry

March 2, 2020
By Jon Baldry
Director, Metro Networking

How Autotuneable Optics Will Transform 5G, DAA, and Fiber Deep Networks

Back in 2009, rapper Jay-Z caused a bit of a ruckus by releasing D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune), a song that highlighted and criticized the rising use of Auto-Tune technology in the music industry. While we’d fully agree with him that artistic integrity in the music industry isn’t really helped by technology that simplifies the art of singing, that doesn’t mean that other industries can’t use similar concepts to bring benefits to their end customers. The optical networking industry has started doing just that with the introduction of autotuneable optics.

In a similar way to the introduction of Auto-Tune to the music industry, autotuneable optics have been driven by a desire from some players in the industry to simplify something that was previously quite a challenge.

The aspiration to bring autotuneable optics to market was first driven by the challenges faced in fiber deep access networks, where tens of thousands to potentially hundreds of thousands of new DWDM access points are required to support new access architectures such as distributed access architecture (DAA) in cable networks and 5G in mobile networks.

These networks need a drastic simplification in the installation process so that pushing DWDM deeper into the access network can be achieved without adding additional operational complexity. Autotuneable optics utilize standard tuneable DWDM transceiver hardware with an innovative algorithm to automate the wavelength selection process for a specific location.

Rather than relying on an installation engineer using a tuning box or management system software to set the optic to a specific wavelength, the transceivers simply handshake and tune themselves. The process simplifies and speeds up the process of deploying DWDM access networks and eliminates installation errors that result from the installation engineer being given the wrong information for the site and accidentally selecting the wrong wavelength.

All this is achieved by the optics scanning across the DWDM wavelengths and using a passive WDM filter to suppress all the scanning wavelengths except the one that matches the actual filter port selected for the installation. Only the correct wavelength passes through the network to the paired optic at the other end of the link, enabling the two optics to lock to the correct wavelength.

To make the process work in a usable timeframe, it also encodes information into the scanning signals to speed up wavelength locking, so that a new channel in a 100 GHz-spaced 48-wavelength system can typically lock in approximately one minute, and in three minutes in the worst case. For high-density access applications, 50 GHz-spaced optics to support 96-wavelength extended C-band systems are also available, and typically lock in around two minutes.

One of the most interesting side effects of the move to autotuneability is that to be deployable in a commercial DAA or 5G network with existing equipment, autotuneable optics need to be host agnostic. This means that in addition to the field engineers treating these optics as if they are simply grey/non-DWDM optics, the host system does too, and is not required to play any role in the tuning process.

The host-agnostic nature of autotuneable optics enables them to be placed directly into third-party systems, removing the need for transponders at the edge of the network. This creates an opportunity to rethink how many access and aggregation networks, large and small, can be built, and results in significant CapEx reductions and ongoing OpEx reductions due to lower space, power, and cooling requirements.

Infinera’s patented implementation of autotuneable optics, Auto-Lambda, is experiencing a huge level of interest from operators across the globe for a wide range of access network applications and network architectures, from simple point-to-point networks to more sophisticated amplified DWDM access rings. Initial rollouts in these amplified DWDM access rings have created a capital expenditure savings of over 50%, as well as significant operational expenditure savings through the reduced space, power, and cooling requirements.

As network capacity will inevitably continue to grow in the coming years, driving up capacity requirements in access networks, Auto-Lambda is paving the way to higher-capacity access with 25G support coming soon, primarily for 5G fronthaul applications.

We will also introduce more passive filter options that can support Auto-Lambda for 10G/25G initially, and then 25G to 100G+ capacities utilizing the recently announced subcarrier-based point-to-multipoint XR optics later once capacity demands are higher.

If this new approach to access networks sounds interesting, make sure to watch our video to understand autotuneable optics and the positive impact they are having on access network designs and deployment. Unlike some music videos, we can guarantee that this one is safe for work and doesn’t contain any Auto-Tuned singing or rapping!