There has never been a better time to be in optical communications. Major communication trends impact everyone’s lives, such as UHD video, cloud services, big data and the move of mobile internet from LTE to 5G. They all reflect themselves in an evolving optical networking architecture and paradigm changes of how and where to use optical gear.
Many industry experts are calling data the ‘new oil’ and just as oil once created amazing economic opportunities, it also produced many challenges in drilling for and distributing the oil. The same is true today with data, except the challenge is making the entire pipeline faster, while also ensuring that networks become easier and more cost-effective to deploy.
The optical fibres that crisscross our globe are often described as having ‘infinite capacity’, but that’s not strictly correct. While optical fibres do represent an extremely efficient communications channel – a single optical fibre can carry more information than all of the wireless spectrum combined – their capacity is not truly unlimited.
Since products based on coherent super-channels hit the market in mid-2012, this technology has transformed the way that service providers deploy long-haul capacity. A super-channel is an evolution in DWDM technology in which multiple optical carriers, implemented on a single line card, are seen as a single unit of capacity, and are brought into service in one operational cycle. Super-channels take the spectral efficiency that is delivered by a coherent transponder and make it operationally scalable beyond 100Gb/s.
As internet traffic grows year on year, service providers have to deliver more capacity at cheaper rates. Simply putting more fibre into the ground is a very expensive solution to the problem in most cases, so network providers are under pressure to come up with innovative solutions that will increase the capacity of fibre that has already been deployed within the network infrastructure.
Cost and compatibility can make a compelling case for pushing 100Gb/s bandwidth over a single optical channel, both as individual links and supporting 400Gb/s Ethernet, finds Andy Extance
Robin Mersh takes a look at how the industry is creating next-generation optical access fit for 5G
Technological advances to aid the increasing demand for bandwidth, on the path towards the terabit network, should lead to optical signals that are flexible and adaptive, like water, argues Dr Maxim Kuschnerov and Dr Yin Wang