Summer 2019 - Optical Connections Magazine

ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019


KEEPING IT CLEAN Testing fibre networks p22

TRANSCEIVER TESTING The road to reliability p10

ROADM DEPLOYMENTS Why are they on the rise? p18

ADAPTING TO PAM4 Small steps on a long road p20



4 8

Industry News

The image projected by the fibre optic communications industry, and indeed much of the media, is one of a bright future, characterised by data flying along fibre optic cables at previously unimaginable speeds. The fact is however, the fibres are only one part of the jigsaw. Transceivers for instance, are plugged into the switches and are often left for years at a time and largely taken for granted – until they break down, that is. In this issue, Ellen Manning looks at the tough testing regimes that transceivers are put through to minimise the likelihood of developing a fault. Meanwhile, Antony Savvas takes a look at the progress of PAM4 and the test and measurement challenges that modulation scheme is presenting as the technology develops. This is not to say, of course, that fibre optic cables are immune from failure. Although most cables have a nominal life of around 25 years, they are subject to temperature cycles due to the changing seasons, vibration from traffic and the inevitable damage from utility companies digging up roads or installing new plant. All these things are constants and are taken into account when designing fibre optic cables for external use, and rarely present problems on a regular basis. Damage to or dirt upon the fibre ends and connectors is an ongoing issue however, and as John Williamson explains, the adoption of multi-fibre MPO/MPT technology has complicated the test and inspection process. With the conference season in full swing, Optical Connections ‘inside man’ Per Danielsen reports from OFC on everything from self-driving cars to sub-sea cables and everything in between. We also take a look at the major issues that came out of the FTTH Europe Conference and Expo, not the least of which was the formulation of strategies for switching of copper networks and getting full fibre to every home and business in Europe. We are also looking forward, in both senses of the phrase, to the likes of ANGA COM, which this year promises to be bigger and better than ever. Connected Britain in London, UK is happening at a particularly interesting time. The government has made a commitment to support full fibre roll-out across the nation by 2033, for which it has promised a £200 million fund to kick start the programme. However, full fibre infrastructure providers are keen to ensure that rural businesses aren’t left behind. Evan Weinburg, CEO of rural full fibre provider Truespeed, expresses his concerns in this issue. Finally, we take in Laser World of Photonics in Munich, which will be showcasing the latest developments in light-based technologies. It promises to be a very busy summer! TESTING TO THE LIMIT

Evan Weinburg Full Fibre in the UK

10 Ellen Manning 13 François Couny

Testing Transceivers

 Optical Component Testing For 5G

16 Peter Dykes

The View from Prysmian

18 Brandon Collings Global ROADM Deployments 20 Antony Savvas 22 John Williamson Doing It Right 24 Per Danielsen OLC Wrap 27 Peter Dykes FTTH Council Wrap 29 Peter Dykes ANGA COM Preview 31 Peter Dykes

Adapting to a PAM4 World

Connected Britain Preview

32 Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes Contributing Editor, Optical Connections

Laser World of Photonics Preview

33 Event Focus 34 Product Focus




Optical Connections is published by NEXUS MEDIA EVENTS LTD

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ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019

“Reliability is the watchword when it comes to transceivers.”


EllenManning – see page 10

Global optical transceiver market back to 14% CAGR?

According to the just released LightCounting April 2019 edition of the Optical Communications Market Forecast Report, the global optical transceiver market will be overdue for growth after two slower than expected years in 2017-2018. Most likely, it finds, 2019 will be another slow year. The research company then asks: what would it take to put this market back on track for 20 years of 14% CAGR for 2003-2024. LightCounting reckons it should not take much. This is the company’s short wish list for 2019-2020: China and the United States reach a trade deal in 2019, deployments of 5G roll out A new report by the UK’s House of Lords Select Committee for the Rural Economy, has called on the government to rethink its strategy for the provision of rural broadband across the UK. One of the main criticisms in the report entitled Time for a Strategy for the Rural Economy, is that the Universal Service Obligation (USO), which is the minimum speed infrastructure operators must provide, is set too low at 10Mbps. One witness to the Committee said that while the USO might meet the minimum standards for a small family, it fell far below the standards required by businesses, particularly in regard to the 1Mbps guaranteed upload. The report implies that rural areas of the UK have a high proportion of SMB’s who would require at least 100Mbps for their businesses to thrive. Another point of concern is the £3,400 USO threshold –

2018. Will history repeat itself in 2020-2024? LightCounting states that the problem is that there are too many different next generation products on the roadmap now. Google is deploying 2x200GbE SR8 and FR8 transceivers, Amazon plans to use 4x100G DR4, and Facebook is staying with 100GbE for now, and plans to use 200GbE next. Other cloud companies have not publicly finalised their plans yet. Because of this fragmentation none of the products will reach very high volumes, justifying price declines observed in 2018. This may not be great for the customers, but it would be a well overdue break for suppliers. build out their digital edge strategies, said Equinix. Last autumn, Circle B, Rittal and Switch Datacenters launched the first European Open Compute Project (OCP) Experience Center. managers at enterprises can benefit from the open source data centre technology hyperscalers like Facebook have put to good use to aid their bottom line. Equinix’s south-east Amsterdam campus includes AM1, AM2, AM5 and AM7. The acquired AM11 data centre will now be tethered to AM7, enabling customers to easily interconnect with business ecosystems available on Platform Equinix, which includes cloud service providers and content and digital media companies. Equinix currently operates 200 IBX data centres in 52 markets. Eugene Bergen, president for EMEA Equinix, “Amsterdam is a key interconnection point for Europe, with leading enterprises and cloud service providers making it a primary hub for IT infrastructure. The Experience Center demonstrates how IT

but very steep price declines (up to 50% in 2018) limited growth in sales revenue. Normalised average price of Ethernet transceivers declined from above US$6/ Gbits/s in 2016 to US$3/ Gbits/s in 2018. Despite projected moderation in price declines in 2020- 2024, the normalised price is projected to drop to just above US$1/Gbits/s by 2024. Annual price declines reached -37% in 2018, beating the previous record of -33% set in 2011. The normalised ASPs tend to drop more steeply as shipments of new higher speed product reach high volumes. This was the case with 10GbE in 2011, 40GbE in 2014 and 100GbE in 2017- Equinix has acquired Switch Datacenters’ AMS1 data centre in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in an all- cash transaction for €30m (US$34m). The facility, which will be renamed Equinix AM11 International Business Exchange (IBX) data centre, is in close proximity to Equinix’s existing campus in south- east Amsterdam. Switch Datacenters has two other data centres in the Amsterdam area not subject to the transaction. The acquired facility, Equinix’s ninth data centre in the Amsterdam metro area and the eleventh in the Netherlands, will help meet growing demand for fibre connectivity in the Amsterdam and broader interconnect footprint with Switch buy Equinix expands Dutch

as expected, lifting demand for wireless fronthaul and backhaul optics, shipments of next generation Ethernet modules, including 2x200GbE, 4x100GbE and 400GbE will reach decent volumes in 2020, and price declines in the Ethernet market return to their historical average. The company says the lastpoint is the most critical for the market growth in 2020-2024. Ethernet is already the largest segment of the global optical transceiver market, and it is projected to account for 64% of the total in 2024, up from 45% in 2016. The report finds that demand for 100GbE Ethernet transceivers was very strong in 2017-2018, beyond which home owners or business must bear the additional connection costs. The problem with the USO threshold is that has been structured so that groups of neighbouring properties can share the additional connection costs, meaning the cost of connecting isolated communities and businesses would be a significant burden on their residents and owners. Don Foster, Committee chair, Liberal Democrat peer and former MP for the West Country city of Bath said, “Rural communities and the economies in them have been ignored and underrated for too long. We must act now to reverse this trend, but we can no longer allow the clear inequalities between the urban and rural to continue unchecked. A rural strategy would address challenges and realise potential in struggling and under-performing areas, and allow vibrant and thriving areas to develop further.

House of Lords calls for rethink on UK rural broadband strategy

European markets, as businesses continue to


| ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019


Physical Optics’ Zero G optical fibre tech launched to ISS

Fastweb and Infinera in 500G single-wavelength trial

Infinera and major Italian telecommunications operator, Fastweb have successfully demonstrated

at an accelerated pace, a scalable and simple network approach is required to satisfy the growing demand for bandwidth. This trial confirms the outstanding performance provided by Infinera’s innovative solution, which enables us to deliver a best-in-class customer experience at the highest transmission speeds.” Infinera’s 7300 Multi- Haul Transport Platform, mTera Universal Switching Platform and Groove 600G technology are part of Fastweb’s backbone network spanning over 650 nodes. This is designed to support the flexibility and future development and delivery of a range of programmable high-speed end-user services at 400G, 500G, and up to 600G. Infinera’s solution enables Fastweb to scale Internet exchange point capacity up to 24 Tbps. Glenn Laxdal, senior vice president, Product Line Management, Infinera says, “Our ability to introduce higher-speed transmission over existing infrastructures is a key part of our mission

500 Gbits/s (500G) single-wavelength

In Physical Optics Corporation’s first

sensing, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), high power lasers, multi/hyperspectral imaging, atmospheric monitoring, and optical data communications.” Ranjit Pradhan , POC’s VP of Applied Technologies, commented, “It is a great honour for us to be selected as one of several scientific Station. If this experiment is successful, there are many fields that should benefit from higher quality fibre optic materials, such as telecommunications, laser surgery, and other industrial and military applications.” Physical Optics Corporation, based in Torrance, California, is a systems integrator of advanced technology, serving military and defence, homeland security, and selected commercial markets. Since its founding in 1985, POC has grown to over US$100M in revenue, with over 270 employees, including 30 PhDs and 112 engineers. Andy Stevens, CEO of Coherent Solutions says, “We are fortunate to support this innovation and are incredibly excited to work with ficonTEC on new automated test and measurement solutions for manufacturers. Our complementary product platforms and design philosophies enable rapid customisation and deployment and provide a clear upgrade path as technology advances and products evolve. For customers, this increases ROI and helps them bring new products to market faster and cheaper. Together, we will provide customers with unique products and unrivalled value and support.” experiments going to the International Space

service connectivity in a production network. The demo, the first in Italy, used Infinera’s configurable technology on the Groove platform, and spanned over 180 km on Fastweb’s low-latency long-haul backbone network, between Milan and Turin. According to the participants, the 500G single-wavelength trial demonstrated Fastweb’s capability to easily and efficiently scale its infrastructure network to meet the increasing bandwidth demands of its end-user customers. The trial was implemented over Fastweb’s existing optical infrastructure without special amplifiers, tuning, or changes. “Providing our customers with resilient, high-quality, and innovative solutions is in Fastweb’s DNA,” said Andrea Lasagna, chief technology officer, Fastweb. “As the market for high- performance long-haul transport continues to grow ficonTEC Service GmbH of Achim, Germany, and Coherent Solutions Ltd. of Auckland, New Zealand, have entered into a collaborative partnership to advance electro-optical measurement capability for use in volume testing within the manufacturing cycle of integrated photonic devices (PICs). According to Ignazio Piacentini, business development director at ficonTEC, “Wafer-level testing of PICs differs substantially from that of conventional semiconductor wafers and requires the integration of three major ingredients: Firstly, high- accuracy, sub–µm optical

space-based optical fibre manufacturing project, an engineering prototype developed by its Applied Technologies Division was this month launched into orbit to meet the International Space Station (ISS). This NASA-sponsored advanced materials research study is intended to evaluate the feasibility of producing high-quality, manufacturing environment is believed to eliminate the defects in the manufacturing process that occur on Earth, said POC.The elimination of these defects should increase the transmission characteristics of these fibres by a factor of 10, says the company. Such optical fibres will provide what POC calls a “a unique optical transmission spectrum and have potential use in space-based applications such as remote environment. As ficonTEC’s PCM (ProcessControlMaster) software is also based around LabVIEW, integration of the two is seamless and enables the creation of sophisticated and fully-automated test solutions to match individual requirements. Alternatively, to achieve the same goal within non-LabVIEW and alternative instrumentation environments, Coherent measurement capability in a range of compact, modular benchtop and IOT-focused test equipment that can be equally well interfaced to ficonTEC’s process control software. increased bandwidth optical fibres in zero gravity. A zero gravity- Solutions additionally offers the same optical

to help our customers to effectively meet their increasing bandwidth needs.”

Mixed-signal electro-optical measurements for integrated photonics

positioning with fast-active alignment capabilities. Secondly, some form of combined electro-optical probe head, and thirdly, modular high-channel- count instrumentation. ficonTEC and Coherent Solutions already provide the necessary capabilities for the first and last ingredients, and together we are actively researching electrical/optical probe head concepts.” Coherent Solutions’ broad portfolio of photonic test and measurement instruments includes a line-up of modules for the popular PXI platform that leverage

National Instruments’ established LabVIEW graphical programming


ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019


“What is the current take-up of PAM4?”

Antony Savvas – see page 20

Emtelle eases FTTx installations with flexible burial solution

are currently carrying out live trials of the solution in the UK, Middle East and USA and so far, customers’ expectations of this new solution have been met.” FibreFlow™ WEBFLEX can be laid in an open trench and installed into a micro trench using an Emtelle Vertex product for maximum microduct capacity. Or, by combining the solution with Emtelle’s Multifu system – where fibres are pre-installed – during the installation, tubes can be broken and branched, or they can be branched in future by pulling the fibre back. Emtelle will showcase its full range of blown fibre and microduct solutions, at Booth A11, Hall 7, at ANGA COM 2019, in Cologne, Germany, which takes place from Tuesday, June 4th until Thursday, June 6th. “Many operators plan to take a step-wise approach when expanding their networks using 10G GPON technologies, aligned with the specific needs of their business,” observes Teresa Mastrangelo, principal analyst, Broadband trends. “A large majority of these service providers will focus on XGS-PON for the first phase of their rollouts, while future-proofing their networks for the advantages of NG-PON 2” The 5200 family of smart gateways offer choice between 10/10G symmetrical PON technology and 10G Active Ethernet using SFP+ optics for more seamless connectivity to existing FTTx and Enterprise business subscribers over a single common network. Initial models allow for one fixed 10G copper LAN port and four GE ports, with options for voice or PoE+ / PoE++. Leveraging a common platform, new models in the 5200 family will support NG- PON 2 as the availability and price/performance of optics make a positive business case.

Emtelle, a manufacturer of blown fibre, cabling and ducted network solutions has today announced the launch of a flexible direct burial solution – FibreFlow™WEBFLEX, designed to simplify branching microducts when rolling-out Fibre-to- the-x (FTTx) networks. FibreFlow™ WEBFLEX is a flexible and easily accessible direct burial tube bundle, designed for installation using conventional and micro-trenching technology. Consisting of 12 microducts joined together in a branch formation, the solution’s design makes it easy to strip and branch the desired MACOM Announces Industry’s First Analogue CDR-Based PAM-4 Portfolio MACOM a supplier of semiconductor solutions, announced a complete analogue and silicon photonics portfolio for seamless integration in 50 Gbps, 100 Gbps, 200 Gbps and 400 Gbps optical modules targeted for compliance with the newly formed Open Eye Multi- Source Agreement (MSA). Optimised for volume-scale deployment in high-density cloud data centre links, MACOM’s components will enable faster, lower cost and more power efficient optical modules as defined by the upcoming Open Eye MSA industry standard. MACOM’s end-to-end transmit and receive portfolio features low-cost, low- power extensions to its existing line-up of Clock and Data Recovery (CDRs),

the rising demand for FTTx networks and our new FibreFlow™ WEBFLEX is the perfect addition, providing operators with a flexible and easy-to-use direct burial solution. We’ve specifically tailormade this design as a result of listening to some of the occasional difficulties operators experience during installs,” said Scott Modha, International Business Development at Emtelle. “In an ever-crowded market place, we are continuing to introduce the latest and most dynamic solutions to aid our customer’s FTTx projects, whilst reducing their operational costs and on-going expenses. We Fibre access specialist DASAN Zhone Solutions (DZS) has announced the introduction of its 5200 family of multi- protocol smart gateways. Compatible with 10G and architected end-to- end to support greater choice among standard 10G technologies, DZS’s portfolio of multi-service optical network terminals (ONTs) and optical line terminals (OLTSs) has been designed to improve the life and profitability of multi-service FTTx networks. DZS says that, fuelled by 10G deployments globally, the price premium for 10G GPON solutions is in decline. The company adds that the 10G GPON business case coincides with an increase of new cloud-based consumer entertainment choices that rely on an enhanced Internet connection experience. These choices include ultra- HD 4K/8K and 360-degree video, eSports and MMOs,

microduct with minimal disruption or risk of damage to the remaining microducts. Emtelle says this eliminates the need for connectors which are typically required during branching, whilst enabling fast and easy sheath stripping, reducing the number of failure points throughout the network. FibreFlow™ WEBFLEX also reduces the amount of waste compared to other ‘break and branch connector solutions’, as no extra drop ducts are required, meaning installers can utilise much more of the tubes within the bundle. “We are constantly drivers and Transimpedance Amplifiers (TIAs), adding a companion integrated 200G FR4 L-PIC optimised to reduce customers’ module costs through dramatically improved ease of assembly, calibration and test. These components are designed to eliminate the need for expensive, power-hungry signal processing and 53 Gbps EMLs, enabling streamlined optical module architectures targeted for 200G and 400G connectivity. MACOM’s full CDR- based and L-PIC-based portfolio comprises the MAOM-38053 four-channel transmit PAM-4 CDR with an integrated driver, and an L-PIC transmitter and on the receive side, features a MATA-03819 quad TIA, MACOM BSP56B photodetectors and the MASC-38040 four-channel receive PAM-4 CDR. This approach is anticipated to deliver over 25% reduction in power consumption while simultaneously driving the cost per gigabit down as compared to today’s CWDM4 and digital signal processing (DSP)-based PAM-4 solutions. Cloud customers can now double their link rate with only minor, incremental power and cost. growing our technology portfolio in response to

DZS intros new family of 10G ONTs

and new evolutions in gaming such as Google Stadia.


| ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019


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FULL FIBRE IN THE UK Are Rural Businesses Being Left Behind?

In an exclusive article for Optical Connections, Evan Wienburg , CEO of TrueSpeed, a provider of full fibre infrastructure in South West England, says it’s the time to put UK rural businesses back on the infrastructure agenda.

T he need for a future-proof digitally-driven economy has been universally acknowledged. It is now Government policy. For all of the challenges that lie ahead in delivering full fibre infrastructure to the whole country, excitement about the opportunity is palpable across the telecoms industry. But of course, such a rollout must be carefully managed, scrutinised and assessed from the outset, which is why the draft of UK regulator Ofcom’s latest Annual Plan has been subject to far closer interrogation than might have been the case just a few years ago. In fact, just weeks ago the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) asked Ofcom to go back to the drawing board and extend greater focus towards the business broadband market.

a dozen references to business needs, compared to almost 80 references to consumer priorities. It’s not my intention to indulge in regulator-bashing. Ofcom’s role is challenging in many ways already, before we even consider the added complications of protecting consumers during the inevitable ‘gold rush’ to get full fibre out to all UK homes by 2033. The question here is a simple one: are businesses truly a part of Ofcom’s remit or not, and if they aren’t, who is going to be responsible for ensuring that all businesses benefit equally from the full fibre revolution? The question is particularly pertinent to the thousands of rural businesses operating outside the major UK cities that contribute upwards of £229 billion to the UK economy, according to a UK parliamentary report. All of these

On reading Ofcom’s 2019/20 Annual Plan in detail, the problem is clear from the first goal onwards: “Promote competition and ensure that markets work effectively for consumers. Our aim is to ensure consumers and businesses benefit from a range of communications products and services, with the market providing a range of choice, price, quality, investment and innovation. We do this by ensuring that markets work effectively, through regulation where appropriate, so consumers can benefit from competition and investment.” Generic though this statement may be, one can’t help but feel as though the word ‘business’ has been thrown in as an afterthought to ensure that all bases are covered, rather than as a genuine commitment. This is backed up by the plan at large, which contains fewer than


| ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019


businesses rely heavily on the internet – they’re no different to their urban counterparts in that regard – and at the moment inadequate infrastructure is hampering rural business growth and productivity. Data suggests that around 12% of businesses still don’t even have ‘Superfast’ Broadband (over 24 Mbps), and let’s be unequivocal here: Superfast is not actually fast and does not do a good job of supporting many of the cloud-based software tools that today’s businesses require as essential services. It will not be fit-for-purpose in a few years’ time. Further, just two in five businesses can access Ultrafast Broadband (over 100 Mbps), and a mere 4% can access full fibre directly to their premises, without having to shell out for wildly expensive leased line connections. The ISPA is right to flag the need for the regulator to ensure that businesses, whose specific connectivity needs are usually more complex than consumers, don’t get de-prioritised in the race to full fibre. But within the business community itself, a further priority has to be bridging the divide between urban- and rural- based businesses. In the Superfast stakes, 11% more urban businesses are covered compared to their rural counterparts, rising to 22% compared to business premises in deeply rural areas. To date, these rural businesses have been left bemused by a succession of ill-conceived stop-gap solutions to try and stop them falling even further

The ISPA is right to flag the need for the regulator to ensure that businesses, whose specific connectivity needs are usually more complex than consumers, don’t get de-prioritised in the race to full fibre.

be seen as a utility, for it is as vital as electricity in any home or office, and building a truly future-proof broadband infrastructure in rural communities is vital to ensuring the UK holds its own in world over the decades to come. But more than that, creating rural infrastructure provides a foundation for a more balanced economy – one in which local communities are no longer eroded by the ongoing drain of talented workers to the cities, in which entrepreneurs genuinely believe they can build and grow successful companies in any and every corner of our country. Let’s hope that when Ofcom returns with its finalised plan, the balance has been corrected and the rural businesses of Britain can all breathe a sigh of relief that they’re finally on the radar.

behind, when actually, we shouldn’t be thinking purely in terms of keeping these organisations open for business. This is about equipping our country with an infrastructure capable of enabling several future generations of business to thrive and prosper. That’s why closer regulatory scrutiny is required now, at this formative stage of our full fibre future, avoiding the mistakes of the past when regulators have ended up being sent in after the fact to mop up the mess. Without scrutiny, full fibre providers will flock to the cities and prioritise the areas in which deployment is easiest, quickest and achievable at lowest cost. The full fibre rollout will appear just as uneven as the original broadband rollout has ended up looking. Today, fast and reliable internet must


ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019


TESTING TRANCEIVERS The Road to Reliability

The length of time an optical transceiver spends plugged into a switch and the amount and importance of the data it carries means that reliability is paramount. Ellen Manning looks at the rigorous testing procedures put in place to ensure maximum reliability.

T hey’re arguably the unsung heroes of optical networks, transforming data into light that can be beamed around the world, and back again at the other end. And while they may not be as high-profile as some other components within the network, the importance of transceivers is reflected in the growth of the market. In March 2019 Market Research Future (MRFR) predicted a 15% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the global optical transceiver market between 2017 and 2023. Unsurprisingly, it put this down to rising internet data traffic, a growth in the adoption of cloud-based services, as well as demand for smartphones and

does the need for transceivers, says Tim Smith, Group CTO at TXO Systems. And as demand across the board for different transceivers from TXO’s range increases, he says they have noticed growth in the demand for those that deal with higher data rates. “There is a real demand for 40G and 100G speeds and in telco networks now 100G is the de facto standard so we are definitely seeing an increase in demand for the higher data rate transceivers.” To ensure reliability when it comes to dealing with the ever-increasing requirements on transceivers, their manufacturers put testing at the heart of what they do. “Telcos have high standards and they want to know if they

other mobile devices, bringing with it the demand for low-cost transportation of data over networks. With a role this key, reliability is the watchword when it comes to transceivers. As demands on networks increase, so does the pressure on transceiver manufacturers to ensure they deliver. The addition of more and more fibres brings a need for transceivers with ever-smaller form factors along with the ongoing drive for lower power consumption as networks grow and data-centres face increasing pressure. All of that, and the inevitable increase in the numbers of transceivers required, means reliability is vital. As demands for capacity increase each year, so too

Telcos have high standards and want to know if they are going to put something into their network it absolutely has to be of carrier grade and has to be tested


| ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019


batch testing. The aim is to get to 100% quality, says Clarkson, and to do that requires stringent quality management. That includes ProLabs’ Data Traveller Process, which effectively follows each part through the production process, monitoring quality every step of the way. The introduction of 100% testing late in 2017 when ProLabs merged with AddOn Networks has paid dividends, says Clarkson, with ProLabs’ failure rate at 0.03% compared to a typical industry failure rate of 2-3%. That rise in quality doesn’t come without a cost, with overheads rising as a result of the rigorous testing, but it’s worth it to meet customers’ demands for quality and the ensuing growth in business thanks to its reputation for reliability. “It’s about reducing the chances of failure when a part gets to site because if you build a network often the cost of the transceivers is less than sending someone to replace it,” Clarkson adds, “so it’s very important to make sure it works first time and works every time.” But as networks grow - and grow quickly - could the speed with which technology is progressing render existing form factors and capabilities obsolete? While many transceivers are

are going to put something into their network it absolutely has to be of carrier grade and has to be tested,” says Smith. TXO has its own in-house testing lab so it can test transceivers before they are shipped to customers and carries out a variety of checks to ensure they can deal with the task at hand. The first is interoperability - ensuring the transceiver is compatible with the equipment a customer is planning to use it in. “In our testing labs we have a wide range of different types of equipment or hardware that the telco operator is using,” he says. “We consult with the customer first, find out which devices they will be using, which software version, then we replicate the customer’s environment in our testing lab.” Another test involves looking at the optical parameters, testing both the transmitting power and sensitivity of the receiver then comparing them to the data sheet to ensure they marry up, says Smith. TXO also carries out a Bit Error Rate Test (BERT), which involves passing traffic over the transceiver and checking to ensure every single bit and each packet that is transmitted is received. Since the distance over which transceivers can transmit and receive is also a factor, it is also tested, says Smith.

Tim Smith, Group CTO, TXO Systems

number of white papers and documents relating to the issue. Despite this work, Smith doesn’t see standardisation as a huge issue, saying from his point of view, most of the MSAs are already doing a good enough job. “There are a lot of standards there in terms of different form factors and different requirements for each form factor,” he said. “It’s already pretty much standardised and that’s great for us because all manufacturers are working towards the same standards.” Unsurprisingly, as speeds get faster networks become more complicated, along with the parts used to build them. That is behind the demand for higher bit-rate transceivers, says Tim Smith, as well as the ongoing need for quality. “The telcos are always going to be concerned that any component is fit for purpose and carrier-grade,” he says. They are always going to want that standard.” That means for any manufacturer that doesn’t focus on quality, potential problems could arise, but not for those who put it at the heart of what they do. “I think the desire for quality will always be there,” says Smith. “The only thing is more speed - 200G is coming, 400G won’t be far behind that so the big change will be rates.” Similarly, Clarkson doesn’t see the challenges of future networks insurmountable when it comes to transceivers. “We just have to adapt and make sure that we apply the same level of quality.” And while consolidation within the industry and differing requirements often mean that transceiver manufacturers have to meet a range of requirements, he says they already have solutions to manage that, such as multi-code option that enable different OEM vendors at each end of the cable. “There’s a lot of consolidation going on but there’s also a lot of growth coming,”

While differences in quality may seem small, they make large differences in the likelihood of failure at volume


made under Multi-Source Agreement (MSA), the arrival of 400G and potentially 600G bring a whole new range of form factors, challenging any notion of standardisation. It’s an issue the Consortium for On-Board Optics (COBO) is tackling in a bid to develop future-proof solutions. Brad Booth, chair of COBO and principal network architect for Azure hardware at Microsoft, previously told Optical Connections that many MSAs aren’t designed for shock and vibration requirements and that the increased power consumption that comes with faster speeds won’t necessarily be sustainable on current interfaces. Consequently, COBO is working towards a standardised footprint for optical transceivers that offers the ability to support 100G, 400G and other future network developments, as well as providing flexibility that isn’t present in MSAs. On top of this, COBO has put funding into research and compliance boards and is planning on releasing a

He adds, “With transceivers, it’s not just speed, it’s also the distance that the transceiver can actually transmit the data over. We have got various fibre spools in our lab to make sure that the transceiver can achieve the distance. Those spools can replicate distances from 10km up to 80km, verifying that the transceivers are capable of transmitting data as far as it needs to go.” Fellow transceiver manufacturer ProLabs differentiates itself from other companies by carrying out 100% testing, says its Technical Director, EMEA & India, Anthony Clarkson. While differences in quality may seem small, they make large differences in the likelihood of failure at volume. ProLabs has found that at 500 units, an increase of 0.48% in quality can bring about an 82% drop in the likelihood of failure - a hefty difference when the company is shipping hundreds of thousands of units per month. That increase in quality is brought about by testing each and every transceiver that is sent to customers, rather than relying on

says Clarkson. “There are new incumbents coming along and

challenging the big guys and when you bring all that together it’s finding the best solutions that work for everybody.”


ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019

INTEL® SILICON PHOTONICS High volume optics through wafer scale manufacturing


in a rapidly evolving 5G world The Photonic Integrated Circuit is becoming an increasingly important area of development in the field of optical communications as demand for speed and throughput ramp up. The impending onset of 5G has added even greater impetus to innovation in photonics, however new developments raise new challenges when it comes to test and measurement. Exfo’s François Couny looks at how optical component testing techniques are evolving to meet these challenges. OPTICAL COMPONENT TESTING

Backgrounder Ever since low loss optical fibre was introduced in telecom networks, fibre-based components have been evolving to address new challenges. The examples are many–from couplers allowing easy signal redirection to multiplexers combining several optical signals with low insertion loss. These devices called for innovation in the test & measurement industry to measure power and wavelength with the help of lasers. At the same time, phenomena such as chromatic dispersion, return loss or polarisation dependent loss (PDL), became more important parameters to consider as the optical telecom market started to grow. New challenges Nowadays, testing passive components has become a routine task that typically involves measuring devices over a limited number of parameters to reduce costs. Some characteristics, such as chromatic dispersion, may not be as

used to record the optical power of each output port of the device under test. Lasers have an obvious advantage: the high optical power offered by these sources makes it possible to measure the characteristic loss of devices over a much larger dynamic range than

problematic as they used to when it comes to impacting overall network performance. Others like PDL are now more critical. And there’s more; new optical characterisation challenges are popping up with the bandwidth boom and the advent of 5G. Tests on 5G devices are increasingly stringent and need to be performed reliably, putting more pressure on existing test and measurement systems. The arrival of compact components based on integrated photonics also adds to the need for test and measurement methods to evolve. Measuring loss of passive components To take reliable loss measurements efficiently for today’s complex components, the best option is the swept laser technique. In this setup, a continuously tunable laser is used to scan the wavelength across the spectral range of interest. Operating jointly with the laser, a component tester is then

Fig 1. Spectrum of an optical filter acquired with a laser with high SSSER (green) and low SSSER (red). Transfer function is the additive inverse of insertion loss.


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techniques using a broadband source. This accessible dynamic range is further enhanced when using tunable lasers with large signal to source spontaneous emission ratio (SSSER), where high insertion loss can readily be measured (Figure 1). The component tester is a specialised instrument that has very short test times and excellent accuracy: it records the test wavelength and output power simultaneously as the laser is being swept, as opposed to a stepped wavelength measurement where the laser is moved one step at a time. The technique allows wavelength resolution of the order of the picometer, sometimes even smaller, with a full spectrum acquired within a few seconds. A larger spectral range, important when characterising components spanning all telecom bands, can also be tested using several tunable lasers, each covering a portion of the total spectrum under test and concatenating the insertion loss or return loss result into a single spectrum. It is also the only method to provide picometer-resolution PDL spectra within a reasonable timescale. Figure 2 shows a typical setup for the swept laser technique and the resulting spectrum when measuring four output ports of a WDM demultiplexer. In this configuration, each laser will successively perform a sweep, the component testing unit taking care of switching between lasers, recording wavelength and the output power on all four ports. The results are then displayed with 1 pm sampling resolution and a 5 pm resolution for PDL measurements.

Fig 3. Photonic integrated circuit parametric testing directly on wafer. Optical and electronic characterisation can be performed by the component tester.>

Photonic integrated circuits (PIC) and the future Integrated photonics is set to be the next disruptive technology, particularly for the development of 5G across the globe. Some key developments of the technology are also underway the electronic processors, photonic integrated circuits are imprinted onto wafers, before being cut into individual chip. To reduce operating costs, PIC manufacturers need to characterise each chip directly on the wafer. Advanced passive optical components now include opto-electronic or electro- optic functions that also need to be in medical, sensing, or military applications. In the same way as

tested. Some component testers can test chips both optically and electrically across a spectral range, drawing a more complete picture of the component characteristics. As the telecom landscape continues its transformation, optical test and measurement vendors and PIC manufacturers are already working together to provide fast and reliable characterisation setups, where the results can then be analysed to sort defective chips, to better understand fabrication tolerances and improve yield or to record those characteristics in a database to improve simulation and PIC design.


Fig 2. Typical Setup for a component characterisation over the full telecom range. Bottom right: Spectrum of WDM demultiplexer obtained with an EXFO CT440 component tester.


François is EXFO’s Product Line Manager for NEMs Manufacturing Design & Research. He has nearly 20 years of experience in the test and measurement sector and holds a Ph.D. in Photonics from the University of Bath. François is EXFO’s go-to-expert on tunable laser sources and optical component testing for photonic integrated circuits characterisation. EXFO’s leadership in testing fibre optics is recognised worldwide. EXFO helps NEMs, carriers, data centres and webscale companies in overcoming

transformation challenges as networks and services evolve.


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LANGMATZ: SYSTEM SOLUTIONS FOR OPTICAL FIBRE NETWORKS An innovative medium-sized enterprise from the German Alps

A ll across Europe, the constantly receiving high numbers of orders for products that we have developed for optical fibre expansion. The strong growth in turnover is particularly accounted for by the investments our customers are making in infrastructure for setting up high- speed internet and more powerful data networks’, reports Stephan Wulf, Chairman of the Langmatz Executive Board. Langmatz works in partnership with municipal authorities, public utility companies and telecommunications operators to deliver broadband expansion projects in Germany and many other countries. Langmatz, which has received many awards for its innovative and sustainable product solutions, has opted to specialise in the field of telecommunications alongside power and traffic engineering. As such, it unstoppable expansion of optical fibre continues apace. Langmatz GmbH is also feeling the effects of this boom: ‘We are

supplies custom-tailored system solutions for FTTB/H optical fibre expansion under a tag line of ‘fibre future’. All-in-one FTTB/H solutions from a single source Langmatz has developed a coherent concept for its customers that features mutually compatible products. These include protection and monitoring systems, central office optical distributors, polycarbonate manholes, above-ground optical fibre network distributors, underground distribution systems, building cable & pipe entry systems, and optical distribution and termination boxes. All FTTB/H products from Langmatz are innovative, tried- and-tested components that enable FTTB/H infrastructure to be set up economically. Our range of modular variants provides all the prerequisites for custom solutions and expansion options tailored to the customer’s network structure. Due to our use of high-grade, recyclable plastics and metals, the products are sustainable,

highly robust and durable. They’re also easy to use and meet the necessary IP protection class requirements. To complement these solutions, Langmatz supplies comprehensive protection and monitoring systems for safeguarding critical infrastructure. Setting up communications networks Communications networks which are set components that accommodate optical fibre technology. Indeed, the optical fibre access network extends from the central office – featuring elements such as the central office optical distributor with splice and patch systems – to manholes, optical fibre network distributors in above-ground outdoor cabinets, underground distribution systems with flood proof compartments and active cooling, as well as building cable and pipe entry systems, which are used to route the optical fibres to the termination box. up using products from Langmatz comprise a wide variety of system

Langmatz’ FTTx products Source: Langmatz


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The Prysmian Group is a €11.5 billion company operating in over 50 countries globally. It is the leader in the global cable industry. At the recent FTTH Council Europe exhibition, Peter Dykes talked to Philippe Vanhille, Prysmian

Group’s executive vice president of telecom business about the company and the market in which it plays. THE VIEW FROM PRYSMIAN Staying

OC Where does Prysmian sit in the global cable market? PV It’s a very fragmented market in which we are comfortably number one, making and selling all kinds of cables from the very basic building wiring to very sophisticated links for power and data etc. Inside this activity, I’m in charge of the telecom part of the group, everything relating to telecom is my responsibility and that activity is about three things: developing and selling solutions for the external network plant for telcos including cables, boxes and connectivity hardware. Then there is the indoor side. We can split these two things because the indoor is for local area networks and inside data centres. As such it is a completely different segment. In both these areas, we sell traditional copper products as well as optical products of course, always one of the two or both, depending on the customer’s requirements. PV To sustain all this, one key element is to have the fibre- making technology. Compared to copper, making fibre is another world because making fibre is making a glass wire with some plastic around it, a very thin kind of hair, and for that, very few companies have the technology. Prysmian is one of the very few owners OC How has Prysmian managed to gain its market leadership?

ahead of the game


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of an optical fibre technology because the company is the consolidation of the European industry. We own one of the three technologies in the world to make fibre, one is American, one is Japanese and shared between the Japanese players, and one is European. The European is Prysmian, because over time we have consolidated that market by buying the assets and the intellectual properties of those companies that have invested in fibre over the last 40 years. They all gave up, the likes of Philips, Alcatel and Nokia. They were in that business making fibre but at some point, they all decided to give up and we bought the technology. Our strategy is basically two things; we are and want to remain the leader in the cable, telecom and energy industries, also, we want to grow by acquisition because in such a fragmented market, value can only be created by buying the others and creating synergies. OC How big is the global cable market? PV If you take the cable market, globally it is worth between €120 billion to €150 billion and we’ve got 11 of these billions and are by far the number one and twice the size of the second largest company in the market for cables in general. Also, we are more or less equal to the other seven big players in optical cable. If you take the optical cable world, this year, 500 million kilometres will be installed globally. This market is shared by those having enough technology to be a big player on the optical side of things and we are one of seven significant players. Each of these players have more or less 10% of the optical market worldwide, so we each have between 40 and 60 million kilometres of sales. Then you have lower, tier two players, but there aren’t many of them because it is a difficult market to access. You need the technology and you need to invest significantly to be able to make fibre. It’s a relatively closed world, but it’s global. The same fibre will go in a network in China and in a network in the US and in Europe. It’s an open world dominated by these seven players. PV It is about two things: proposing the real solutions that our customers will need by understanding the customer, for which you need to be local. You do not understand BT if you are not British and you do not understand Orange if you’re not French, for example. Customers have their own specificities and they don’t want the same cables exactly. They have different CapEx constraints, different rights of OC How does Prysmian intend to maintain its position in the market?

Philippe Vanhille, EVP, Telecom Business, Prysmian Group

ways etc., so we work very closely with them to always optimise our solutions for their specific needs. The other side of the coin is to always be in the lead in terms of cost, because the five big Chinese competitors do not stand still. They are clever, they are more or less playing a fair game commercially and they can benefit from different fiscal or government grants, so they are tough guys and are always going on price. So, we always have to be able to take a fight occasionally. It’s a combination of investing a lot in R&D and being able to fight, so we permanently work to improve our costs, which we achieve by working on the processes and being in the right places for production to be as cheap as possible, but it’s an ongoing process. The other side is to work with customers. When we work with customers, our value to them is to reduce their CapEx. When they have to build a network, they have to invest massively of course, which is a burden for them and our products represent something like 10% of their CapEx. The rest is installation. They have to pull our cables into civil works and they have to find the right ways to do it. So, we offer them easy to install cables or smaller solutions that are going to be easily installed, thereby saving them a lot of money. We always make our cables smaller and more flexible and time- saving, which is part of our success. It’s very technical because a cable’s lifetime is about 25 years and I can guarantee that a cable installed today in for example a street in London, will suffer a lot in these 25 years, because of natural fatigue caused by temperature cycling throughout the year. Also, there are permanent ongoing civil works, so the cable has to be robust, it has to be easy to install and this is why the companies that like us have an advantage because we create value for our customers in terms of robustness and easy of

installation. It is very much about designing the right cable for a particular situation. OC What would you say are among the most significant market trends at the moment? PV We are having a hyperscale datacentre boom, which of course is a very significant trend in the market, but we also have edge computing. Putting data ever closer to the consumer, which leads to smaller- scale datacentres everywhere in the network. Basically, these two trends are happening in parallel. Hyperscale data centres are like cities, and we have developed specific products for them because these big data centres need the interior cabling but they also need very strong connections between the buildings on the campuses. For that we have developed the biggest cable in the market, which has 6,912 fibres in a single cable which we have just launched [at the FTTH Europe expo]. We have however got traction [for the cable] from our traditional customers as well, because one of their issues is that they have congested ducts everywhere, so if they can put more fibre in one square millimetre, they love it because it saves them money. We are always going to put more fibre in our cables, but this one is a breakthrough. We developed it first for some customers who came to us with a request for a high-capacity cable. We developed cables of up to three thousand fibres, and now we are up to nearly seven thousand, but it’s still relatively small and it will still go into a two-inch duct. It is also important not to be intrusive. In some parts of the world it does not matter if a cable is visible, but 5G is on its way and there will be an antenna every 200 metres and you will need a cable to feed the antenna with data and power, so we are working on that as well.


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