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Southeast Asia – A Vibrant Region Driving Optical Networking Innovation

Michael Keefe

July 9, 2024
By Micheal Keefe
Senior Director, Southeast Asia Sales

The Southeast Asia region is currently booming with economic growth at a rate that continues to outstrip many other regions across the globe. The region contains approximately 700 million people, just over double the population of the U.S., making it a significant market for telecommunications network operators. With a population that is largely embracing both the modern digital world and mobile communications, analysts view this region as highly “digital native” and “mobile native.” Overall, this is good news for the telecom industry within the region, supporting a large population that relies on the connectivity these operators provide. However, the telecom industry in Southeast Asia also faces many challenges, such as regulatory uncertainty, infrastructure gaps, and fierce competition. In this blog, we will explore some of the key trends that my team and I see across the region as network operators use innovative technology to differentiate their networks and services.

First a little context: I run the Infinera sales team in the Southeast Asia region. My team covers the region via a direct sales team and a strong network of regional partners. Together we have built up a solid customer base that is highly innovative in how they run their networks, which has generated several significant “firsts,” which I’ll outline in this blog. As you’ll see, this region is really embracing the move to pluggable optics at all speeds.

100G+ Coherent Is Coming, But Don’t Forget 10G in Access Networks

It is clear that transport networks are rapidly moving to higher and higher speeds, with 400G-800G transport in the core of the network and 100G coherent pushing ever closer to the edge of the network. But in the Southeast Asia region, we still see a lot of traction for 10G DWDM access at the edge of the transport network, which we see as a different network architecture than most of the rest of the APAC region due to geography and population density. This is especially the case in networks that can be very cost critical, such as 5G or residential broadband backhaul. Average revenue per user (APRU) can be lower in the region than comparable networks in other APAC regions or in the west, so these networks have to be extremely cost effective for the network operators, both for Day 1 CapEx and ongoing OpEx in terms of space and power costs.

Due to this focus on cost-effective backhaul capacity, we have a lot of interest in the region for 10G Auto-Lambda optics. These host-agnostic autotuning DWDM optics are mounted directly into third-party devices such as cell site gateway routers, which removes the need for DWDM transponders, with a very positive effect on driving down both CapEx  and OpEx in these very cost-sensitive networks. Back in 2021, we announced Globe Telecom in the Philippines, which at the time was the industry’s first wide-scale deployment of autotuneable optics over sophisticated amplified ring architectures. If you want to learn more about this architecture, then check out this blog post, which explains how the architecture helped Globe cost-effectively scale their networks to support 5G rollout.

CapEx and OpEx Savings from Auto-Lambda 10G Access Networks
CapEx and OpEx savings from Auto-Lambda 10G access networks

Leveraging ICE-X 4 x 100G Breakout in Metro Access

As these Auto-Lambda-based networks continue to grow and scale, we reach the point where some nodes in the network need to migrate to 100G coherent optics, but not necessarily all access nodes. ICE-X intelligent coherent pluggables are the natural evolution path for these networks as we can selectively upgrade nodes to 100G and take advantage of the coherent breakout feature to use 400G optics, thereby only burning one router port, in the aggregation nodes to support up to four access nodes at 100G per node.

Extending ICE-X Applications to Optimize Metro Aggregation

Another great first for our region was the recent announcement that Allo Technologies in Malaysia is the first network operator globally to deploy point-to-multipoint optics within a DWDM transport network as part of their new XTM Series metro aggregation network. Again, those who want to dive into this announcement in a little more detail can check out this blog post that covers the top four advantages of adding ICE-X pluggables to access and metro networks.

Leveraging the Power of Digital Subcarriers for Single-fiber Networks and PON Overlay

That blog also outlines how we can use ICE-X pluggables based on XR optics subcarrier technology to address single-fiber networks with coherent optics. This can be both for point-to-point applications, such as data center interconnect where fiber is either scarce or expensive to rent, or point-to-multipoint applications such as PON overlay, where we can scale residential access networks to also deliver a broad range of higher-capacity services.

The new single-fiber point-to-point and PON overlay applications are driving a lot of interest here in the region. In the PON overlay case we are also seeing a broader range of possible applications than perhaps other regions see. We of course see the usual cases of 5G xHaul services, higher-capacity business services, or backhaul of a remote PON OLT over the single-fiber network. But here in the region we are also seeing considerable interest in other use cases driven by the challenging environments many operators have to work in. This includes examples such as using the PON overlay solution to carry a 100G coherent link over the PON network to provide an alternative protection path for access routers to an alternative aggregation router deeper in the network to help protect against the impact of fiber cuts.

Exciting Times for the Southeast Asia Region!

So, to wrap up, I’m super excited about the opportunities that we see in the Southeast Asia region. I’m also very proud of the work my team and our highly innovative customers have done to lead the world and be the first to deploy multiple new technologies. We have plenty of really interesting applications under development with these customers to address some of the region-specific challenges we see, and I’m looking forward to some more possible “first to deploy” announcements from the region!

If you found this interesting, then please take a look at the blog post my colleague Edward Koo recently wrote outlining some additional trends he sees across the whole Asia region.