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March 18, 2019

Top Three Trends for 5G Transport Networks: Reflections from MWC19

By Jon Baldry
Director, Metro Marketing

MWC19 in Barcelona proved to be full of many interesting developments…over 109,000 attendees, multiple foldable mobile devices and a great deal of focus on the technology and solutions required to rapidly bring 5G to market.

Infinera came in force with The Infinite Network, a framework of end-to-end solutions that includes a significant number of technological breakthroughs.  Similar to the requirements for 5G networks, the Infinite Network spans optical, ethernet and IP solutions, along with game-changing network management and automation solutions. The solutions and demos effectively demonstrated the strength of the new company portfolio, and were combined with a new Infinera look and feel that came across through a new brand, new colors, a new logo and a lot of energy.

Key technological breakthroughs displayed by Infinera included the new 800 gigabits per second (800G) per wavelength sixth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE6) photonic integrated circuit, which delivers 1.6 terabits per second in a single tiny, highly integrated (digital signal processor + lasers) package.  ICE6 will be available in late 2019, with ICE6 solutions shipping mid-next year.

Key areas of customer discussions focused on 5G rollout solutions, the impact on transport networks and key technology innovations that enable a better 5G experience. Here is a summary of the top three issues we discussed at the event with carriers from across the globe:

  1. Disaggregation in IP platforms. Infinera has a long heritage in routing in mobile networks, with over 200,000 8600 Series routers deployed globally and over 300,000 connected cell sites. Infinera is using this experience to lead the charge in embracing the migration to an open, disaggregated IP architecture where software and hardware are split into separate purchasing decisions. This move brings data center-style economics and speed of innovation to mobile networks, while also addressing historic vendor lock-in concerns that are common in IP networks. In fact, during the show Infinera announced that the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), an operator-led industry body pushing toward disaggregation in networks, approved Infinera’s Converged Network Operating System (CNOS) disaggregated IP software for the TIP Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway (DCSG) white box project.
    At MWC19 there was great interest in disaggregation, as well as in the range of third-party white boxes that we had on display. This range included white boxes from Edgecore Networks, including the new TIP DCSG, and Infinera’s own DRX-30 and DRX-90 application-optimized white boxes that have the same open architecture but include additional carrier-focused functionality such as global navigation satellite system (GNSS)/Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers and stacking ports to enable larger-scale switching and enhanced resilience. This combination allows operators to get the right price/performance combination for each location in the network and run a common CNOS IP software over the whole network. While disaggregation is well established in the data center world, the trend is just starting to take hold in carrier networks, so it will be very interesting to see how quickly the mobile world capitalizes on the trend.
  2. The need for cognitive networking (network orchestration and automation). Inherent to any 5G network, services will require high-performance network architectures, including options for multi-access edge compute (MEC) and network slicing, which in turn will require sophisticated software-defined networking (SDN)-based control and orchestration software tools. Numerous demonstrations, the majority of which involved our Transcend SDN transport network orchestrator, displayed Infinera leadership in automating multi-vendor 5G networks, network slicing across the IP and packet-optical transport layers, POD control for MEC networks and multi-vendor network visualization and operation.
    Common customer questions that were discussed during the demonstrations highlighted demand but also raised concerns about orchestration solutions across the transport domain as customers start their migration to 5G. While many transport vendors now offer SDN control of their own equipment, it was clear that managing service level agreements across multi-vendor domains is a must. Without this level of control, 5G reality risks becoming 5G hype, creating more focus on the need for advanced software tools to support 5G implementation.
  3. Automating network edge rollout. Innovations that drew a lot of interest included those around automation to enable speed of network implementation.  Infinera’s new Auto-Lambda optics modules are uniquely designed for scalable 10G optical deployment at the edge of the network with plug-and-play simplicity, enabling the deployment of thousands of sites in hours rather than months.
    Auto-Lambda optics bring two advantages to the dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) edge in applications such as 5G crosshaul:

    • Autotuneable optics – Automated optics that learn their required wavelength from the network can eliminate the need for field technicians to carry multiple colored optics, greatly simplifying and reducing the cost of rolling out 5G access networks.
    • Host agnosticism – The tuning mechanism is totally contained within the pluggable optic, meaning tuneable DWDM optics can be placed directly into third-party devices, creating a “zero-touch provisioning transponder on a stick” that can significantly cost-reduce the DWDM transport network too.

No doubt, MWC19 showed off a great deal of innovation and a dose of reality to the hype of 5G mobile networks.  The Infinite Network is well positioned to enable transport networks to bring high-volume, high-performance yet cost-effective 10G to the edge of the transport network to enable scalable 5G rollout across the globe.

You can learn more about these trends via the links above, and disaggregation in IP networks via our recent Mobile World Live webinar.

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