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March 20, 2019

OFC 2019: Vertical Integration Is More Valuable Than Ever

By Geoff Bennett
Director, Solutions & Technology

OFC 2019 is now over.  With three incredible days of customer, journalist and analyst visits to the Infinera booth now behind me, I’ve had a chance to take stock of how Infinera is stacking up against the world in the optical technology evolution cycle.

Infinera – The Only Live 800 Gb/s Demo

Surprisingly, given the fuss other vendors made about their latest developments, Infinera was the only vendor showing a live 800 gigabits per second (Gb/s) demo in our booth.  Our brilliant demo team accommodated a nonstop queue to deliver back-to-back demos of our sixth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE6) prototype technology.

As a 12-year Infinera veteran, I remain impressed by how ICE6 really does exemplify the technology leadership that Infinera has in the marketplace.  Further, it clearly demonstrates the increasing value that photonic integration brings to our customers, as well as our ability to compete with long-term technological differentiation.

ICE6 takes a new, far more dense approach to integration.  For the first time, ICE6 doubles density by integrating both the transmitter and the receiver optics for two 800 Gb/s carriers onto a single photonic integrated circuit (PIC), which is further co-packaged with our digital signal processor into a single digital coherent optical module.  Each carrier operates with up to eight Nyquist subcarriers, a unique Infinera-patented technology heavily used in ICE4 and improved dramatically in ICE6, establishing a clear lead on our competitors.  ICE6 leverages Infinera leadership in three key optical engine technologies, including high-performance optics based on indium phosphide, high-performance coherent electronics and industry-leading component packaging technology, which combine to ensure the delivery of robust, ultra-high baud rate 800 Gb/s carriers.

So, in essence, the ICE6 optical engine improves upon ICE4 technology by:

  • Combining the transmitter and receiver into a single package
  • Increasing the total of Nyquist subcarriers managed per PIC from 24 to 32
  • Handling total transmission/receiving throughput of 3.2 terabits per second (Tb/s) vs. ICE4’s 1.2 Tb/s per optical engine

As the only company demonstrating 800 Gb/s at OFC, it’s clear that Infinera has the lead in raw data rates for the next generation of coherent transmission.  But with the addition of bidirectional integration and the extreme parallelism of Nyquist subcarriers, we continue to demonstrate the unique value of PIC technology for subsea, long-haul, metro core and data center interconnect networks.


While ICE6 gives us a glimpse of the future, ICE4 remains a market leader.  I was recently interviewed by Popular Science about the amazing achievement of the first operational trans-Atlantic 16 quadrature amplitude modulation (16QAM) transmission over the MAREA subsea cable.  Dr. Pierre Mertz gave a summary of the key advantages that ICE4 was able to deliver for this link in the OFC technical sessions.  For those of you who missed it, you can hear Pierre and Dr. Jeff Rahn of Infinera, along with Dr. Steve Grubb of Facebook, discuss this achievement in a Light Reading webinar recording.

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