Optical Pluggables Evolution: Higher Performance Brings Extended Usability

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • The next generation of digital optical pluggable interfaces will have deep implications on traditional optical transport platforms.
  • The attraction of pluggable form factors, and further standardization, will shape the optical transport market going forward.

When networking giant Cisco acquired optical solutions specialist Acacia Communications in 2019, one of the proclaimed goals of this high-profile move was powering the next stage of IP-optical integration. Mating Cisco’s routers with miniaturized coherent pluggable optical interfaces allows clients to simplify their transport networks and, in some scenarios, eliminates the need for some optical transport network elements in the architecture. This approach works best in metro aggregation scenarios, where span lengths match the capacity sweet spot of the currently available crop of pluggables, like 400G-capable 400ZR. Continue reading “Optical Pluggables Evolution: Higher Performance Brings Extended Usability”

25G PON Goes Live, Needs More Deployments to Break into Mainstream

Summary Bullets:

  • 25G PON is market ready and likely to become the technology of choice for operators seeking faster-than-10 Gbps FTTP now and in the near future.
  • Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

    The future of 25G PON directly depends on the magnitude of early operator demand and adoption of advanced use cases requiring 25G-specific capabilities.

The Nokia/Proximus announcement of world’s first 25G PON deployment at the end of May was a significant milestone for the global broadband industry. It primarily showed that the 25G PON technology is market ready and significantly outperforming XGS-PON, which is only now becoming mainstream. It also symbolized the increased importance of Europe as a competitive battleground for fixed broadband, which will only continue heating up with increased broadband investment fueled by national broadband plans and post-COVID recovery funds. Finally, the launch served to validate unique capabilities of Nokia’s Quillion chipset, currently the only vendor solution capable of delivering 25G PON. Continue reading “25G PON Goes Live, Needs More Deployments to Break into Mainstream”

TIP Spells Out What WAN SDN Controllers MUST Do

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • TIP MUST intends to accelerate SDN adoption in the WAN by defining requirements for WAN SDN based on real-life operator use cases.
  • The resulting architecture is open and will likely help fill the gap most vendors are unwilling or unable to address: the hierarchical controller space.

From the onset of attempts to implement SDN into telco WAN infrastructure, operators have faced two obstacles that severely limited its usefulness: lack of multi-vendor support and inability to control legacy environments. Telco equipment vendors have not been able to come up with a technical consensus that would solve these issues, for various reasons. Instead, most WAN SDN implementations have so far been restricted to one vendor’s equipment or have entailed costly integration of multiple vendors’ equipment under one domain controller. The results of these developments have so far been underwhelming; the market landscape remains fragmented, SDN adoption is slow, and the costs are high due to custom integration and operational support overhead. Continue reading “TIP Spells Out What WAN SDN Controllers MUST Do”

2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Fixed Access This Year

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • Fixed access deployments will continue in the accelerated tempo brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 10G and symmetrical connectivity will become the new gold standard, but not the norm.
  • The rift between the Chinese and Western vendors around future PON technologies will continue to drive leading broadband access markets on diversifying paths.

10G Adoption Accelerates, Benefiting Vendors with Mature and Market-Ready Solutions

Fixed broadband access has for a long time been a relatively stagnant market, due primarily to two factors: increased consumption of mobile connectivity and poor adoption of services that were to ‘fill up the pipes’ of residential broadband and generate bottom-up demand for faster internet. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have practically obliterated these two limiting factors, driving consumption of streaming video, two-way video communications, and general capacity demand stemming from online gaming and large file downloads. With multiple home-bound users using one home broadband for work, education, and entertainment at the same time, home broadband technologies stemming from designs deployed since the 1990s are quickly showing their weak spots. This has generated increased demand for 10G-capable fiber technologies like XGS-PON. This, in turn, accelerated finalization of the DOCSIS 4.0 standard, which is designed to enable cable operators to provide 10G services as well. Continue reading “2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Fixed Access This Year”

2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Optical Transport This Year

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • The impact of 5G will start showing in optical transport revenues in earnest in 2021, and the ensuing capacity increases will translate into accelerated upgrade cycles in the metro packet-optical domain.
  • Vendors competing in coherent solutions will put more emphasis on overall fiber capacity and spectral efficiency and present their capabilities across several dimensions, reducing focus on maximum wavelength capacity as the industry currency.

5G Transport Needs Will Shape Packet-Optical Access and Metro

The impact of 5G on the CSP network technology ecosystem beyond the radio access will be substantial, and transport is the first domain where this has become evident. Beyond capacity requirements an order of magnitude higher than was the case with 4G, 5G also needs stringent timing and synchronization and defines very low-latency system-wide latency budgets, which translate into very strict requirements for each network element in the communications link. As opposed to 4G, where most deployed base stations were macro, 5G architecture is much more versatile and opens the way for significantly more disaggregation between different elements of radio access. This directly translates into a much greater role for fronthaul and midhaul that need to seamlessly connect these disaggregated parts of radio network access. Taken together, the new speed, precision, and latency requirements of 5G have already led most operators to renew and augment their mobile x-haul portfolios. Additionally, the continually increasing volume of new connections and the need for flexibility to support functions like network slicing have brought on a realistic and urgent need to deploy automation and orchestration solutions across the transport networks. Continue reading “2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Optical Transport This Year”

SD-WAN for the Cloud Era: Enterprise Priorities and Telco Opportunities

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • SD-WAN adoption is growing and the number of vendors in the market stays high, but the architecture of SD-WAN mimics legacy WAN infrastructures, not necessarily aligning with public cloud adoption trends and evolving traffic patterns in the enterprise.
  • SD-WAN solutions need to evolve by adding capabilities that align with enterprise ‘cloud-first’ priorities and allow operators to use their edge infrastructure as a competitive differentiator.

The history of SD-WAN started with the first solutions designed to offer enterprises a way of building secure and controlled WAN environments, without resorting to costly and often scarce telco services like MPLS. The market has grown to dozens of vendors, and most telecommunication operators offer one or more SD-WAN solutions in their portfolio. But the development of the market so far has brought to light two main shortcomings of most SD-WAN solutions, affecting enterprise users and telco operators, respectively: Continue reading “SD-WAN for the Cloud Era: Enterprise Priorities and Telco Opportunities”

CableLabs and SCTE/ISBE to Merge as Insular Cable Industry Consolidates

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • CableLabs and SCTE/ISBE signed a letter of intent to combine, with the process likely to be finalized in December with the expected endorsement by thousands of SCTE/ISBE members.
  • The move marks yet another sign of cable industry consolidation, itself a product of impending cable MSO technological transformation.

The two largest R&D engineering houses focused on innovations for cable operators announced plans in November to join forces.  CableLabs, whose membership comprises only cable system operators in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Australia, announced it will align with the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers/International Society of Broadband Experts (SCTE/ISBE), which represents both operators and vendors.  In point of fact, the two bodies have complemented each other’s work for a long time.  The merger is supposed to bring the two constituencies closer together and accelerate the pace of commercialization of new standards – primarily the impending introduction of symmetrical 10 Gbps services (or 10G for short).  After the combination, SCTE/ISBE will become a subsidiary of CableLabs on January 1, 2021.  The activities of the two organizations will continue virtually unchanged though, and SCTE/ISBE will continue to offer memberships to potential members not affiliated with CableLabs. The combination signifies that the already insular cable industry is coming even closer together.  However, as the technology landscape outside of the cable ecosystem changes rapidly, further focusing of the cable sector might not be the most important change the industry needs.  A number of technical and non-technical challenges will continue to loom: Continue reading “CableLabs and SCTE/ISBE to Merge as Insular Cable Industry Consolidates”

Next-Gen Transport and Routing: Key for 5G Success

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • 5G transport needs to provide enough capacity, but it also needs to cater to vertical 5G use cases with high-precision and low-latency connections, provided on intelligent infrastructure.
  • Another key issue that operators will need to tackle is 5G transport diversity and complexity; as 5G radio site types diversify, operators will need to build more diverse transport networks to cover all types of sites in their network.

In the first wave of 5G deployments, operators and other players in the telecommunications ecosystem have focused primarily on innovation in radio access, allowing for key improvements next-gen radio brings to existing services like mobile broadband. But as operators start to focus on truly game-changing 5G functionality that will enable IIoT and other advanced use cases, the importance of rebuilding and rethinking transport networks for 5G becomes very clear. Continue reading “Next-Gen Transport and Routing: Key for 5G Success”

U.S. vs. Huawei: Everybody Loses

Summary Bullets:

• The U.S. Department of Commerce’s (DoC) move to prohibit Huawei from buying components manufactured using U.S.-made foundry machines and silicon design tools has major implications for Huawei’s continued operations.

• However, it will also bring immediate negative effects on component suppliers (some U.S.-based), impact competition among ICT vendors, and produce uncertainty going forward.

New sanctions announced by the U.S. DoC on May 15 prohibit foundries using U.S.-made machines and software from selling chips to Huawei. In practical terms, this means that Huawei’s key silicon suppliers – Taiwanese TSMC and Chinese SMIC – would likely need to halt production of Huawei subsidiary’s HiSilicon chip designs. The immediate prospect for Huawei is especially bleak considering that the great majority of the world’s foundries use U.S.-sourced hardware or software in some parts of their process. Continue reading “U.S. vs. Huawei: Everybody Loses”

Huawei’s Liquid OTN Promises More Flexible and Granular Optical Transport

Emir Halilovic – Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • OTN transport provides excellent performance in traditional transport use cases, but standard OTN has disadvantages that hamper its use in networks carrying 5G, IoT, and private line traffic.
  • Huawei’s OTN offering aims to future-proof OTN and promote its use in a wider set of use cases.

With operators facing limitations in flexibility, granularity, and traffic differentiation in their OTN networks, Huawei is introducing extensions to the technology – called Liquid OTN. It aims to improve OTN’s applicability to traffic types like 5G transport, IoT, private lines, and AR/VR, but also with a view toward making the networks more flexible and amenable to automation. Continue reading “Huawei’s Liquid OTN Promises More Flexible and Granular Optical Transport”