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What a Year! Infinera’s Top Five Highlights from 2020

Christain Uremovic

December 17, 2020
By Christian Uremovic
Director of Marketing

The year 2020 will stay in our memories for a long time due to COVID-19. The worldwide pandemic had, and still has, a huge impact on our lives, and it has changed quite a few things. We have had to be patient and careful and reduce our in-person contacts to help avoid larger spread of the virus.

However, COVID-19 has significantly boosted digitalization, and many industries, including governments and schools, were challenged and had to speed up to keep pace with the digitalization process. COVID-19 also had some impact to network operators; however, we have seen a very smooth and flexible adoption by the operators to the new traffic flow changes and the higher capacities being required.

We at Infinera also had a remarkable 2020, with two new record-breaking technology demonstrations with ICE6, as well as with XR optics, our innovative new product that won awards from Light Reading and ECOC this year.

But there is more that happened in 2020 – so here are my top five 2020 Infinera highlights:

1) 800G per wavelength – ICE6 optical engine

Of course, for optical transport networks, the year 2020 is the year of 800G per wavelength technology. The sixth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE6), the latest innovation from Infinera’s Optical Innovation Center, is a 1.6 Tb/s optical engine that delivers two independently programmable wavelengths at up to 800 Gb/s each. ICE6 utilizes second-generation digital Nyquist subcarriers, advanced PIC technology, and 7-nm DSP silicon to break performance and spectral efficiency barriers, including 800G single-wavelength performance over 950 km in a live field trial. While 800G is the headline rate, ICE6 is also shattering optical transmission expectations for 700Gb/s, 600 Gb/s and 400 Gb/s per wavelength.

ICE6 is an important technology step as it enables network operators to meet the demands of rapid bandwidth growth by providing the greatest capacity at the longest reach, resulting in a solution with the lowest cost and power per bit and the highest spectral efficiency possible.

Infinera also demonstrated record-breaking performance with ICE6 with Windstream and Verizon in 2020.

2) Point-to-multipoint coherent transceiver technology – XR optics

The year 2020 is also the year when, for the first time, coherent optics was enabled for point-to-multipoint transmission. XR optics, another innovation from Infinera’s Optical Innovation Center, provides the industry’s first scalable solution optimized for point-to-multipoint traffic flows. Built upon innovation in Nyquist subcarriers, XR optics enables a single transceiver to generate numerous lower-speed subcarriers that can be independently steered to different destinations.

XR optics breaks the inherent limitations of traditional point-to-point optical transmission solutions and paves the way for disruptive network economics as 5G, fiber deep, and hyperscale cloud connectivity impose new challenges on operators.

This year we demonstrated significant potential network savings with XR optics at British Telecom (BT), among others.

3) 5G network rollouts

Probably the most mentioned technology in our industry in 2020 was 5G. For a transport network supplier like Infinera, the first phase of 5G rollouts was mainly about an uptake in capacity being deployed in networks. However, operators are lining up their strategies for the upcoming second phase of 5G, which brings new ultra-reliable low-latency communications (uRLLC) services and massive machine-type communications (mMTC)-based services.

In addition to implementing the standalone 5G core, operators are planning to support network slicing and multi-access edge compute (MEC), along with considerably rearchitecting the underlying transport network as a means of supporting these new service types. Our optical transport platforms for xHaul solutions in the Infinera XTM Series, as well as our carrier-grade disaggregated IP routing solution with DRX and CNOS combined with Infinera Transcend Software Suite for network automation, are being deployed to address all the challenges associated with 5G transport networks, from stringent network synchronization to modern, disaggregated, open, pay-as-you grow and power-as-you-grow scalability.

Infinera was selected for numerous 5G-related projects in 2020, such as the second phase of a U.K.-wide network expansion with SSE Enterprise Telecoms, one of the U.K.’s leading connectivity providers.

4) Network automation and SDN 2.0

Across the board, operators have started to implement network automation in their networks for various reasons. Next to increasing efficiency in their operations in all areas of day-to-day work and increasing customer satisfaction, one of the main drivers they report is to speed up and simplify service creation and service management across multi-layer and multi-vendor networks. Legacy network infrastructure is being enabled by SDN for this type of larger-scale network automation.

SDN has also moved beyond a mixed bag of SDN tools to a more sophisticated and integrated automation enabler. It’s no longer just about having open standardized interfaces – it is now about the capability to integrate network telemetry, monitoring, and big-data analytics, which marks the new evolved SDN, or SDN 2.0.

Among others, Infinera has been awarded major business with a large Tier 2 operator in EMEA for network automation.

Another aspect of network automation is the enablement of products for comprehensive network automation to meet open networking standards such as those from IETF and OIF. Support for open standard APIs like NETCONF and YANG, the use of common data models like OpenConfig YANG and Open ROADM MSA, and support for streaming telemetry via gRPC and gNMI are the means to ensure seamless integration of automation solutions into the operational environments of network operators. For more information and the latest around OIF interoperability, see our recent blog on the subject.

And of course, with Infinera’s products – the industry’s first flexible grid open line system, FlexILS; the industry’s first DCI appliances,  Cloud Xpress (CX) and XT-3300; and the industry’s first compact modular system, Groove (GX) Series – operators can leverage automation today.

5) ICPs ramp-up submarine networks

Traffic growth was substantial on submarine networks in the year 2020. The unprecedented growth in submarine fiber networks is forcing operators to build and capitalize on more fiber routes, faster than ever before. Infinera’s submarine solution delivers industry-leading optical performance and forecast tolerance to provide cable operators with the lowest total cost of ownership on all submarine cable types.

Infinera had numerous wins in the submarine market in 2020. One of our recent wins was with Asia-Africa-Europe-1 Consortium (AAE-1), where we are doubling the capacity on the longest modern submarine cable system in the world.  In contrast, Kanawa, a new subsea cable owned and operated by Orange in the Caribbean and powered by Infinera, is now offering reliable, high-capacity network services for its existing customers, operators and internet content providers who require additional capacity.

With all these innovations in our pockets, we are ready for 2021 to come and excited to enter the new year with flying colors.