Spring 2021 - Optical Connections Magazine

Bringing the World the Latest in Optical Communications News

Q1 2021

XGS-PON SURGES Passive market gets aggressive | p8

TUNEABLE LASERS The evolving market | p14

THE VIEW FROM HUBER+SUHNER Preparing for 5G | p12

VIRTUAL ECOC 2020 WRAP The best of Brussels | p18




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While countries around the world adopt different approaches to mitigating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic with widely varying degrees of success, the fibre optic communications industry continues to see growth and innovation. Indeed, to a considerable extent, progress in the industry is being driven by the global crisis as more people opt to work from home, communicate remotely and stream video and game content – all of which were existing trends which have been accelerated by the pandemic. In this issue, we look at some of the ways the industry is responding to the demand for delivering greater speed and bandwidth to homes and businesses. John Williamson looks at how XGS-PON is rapidly becoming the technology of choice for FTTH/FTTP, high-speed residential and business services, rural communications provision and more. In the photonics sector, Antony Savvas examines the evolving market for tuneable optics and lasers supporting data centre connectivity, metropolitan connections and links to the edge. Of course, 5G will be an important part of the communications technologies mix going forward and optical connector technology will provide the vital links from the RAN, all the way back to the core fibre network. Manufacturers are meeting the challenges from the densification resulting from the high antenna count necessary to provide adequate 5G coverage, so HUBER+SUHNER’s Fabian Huber , VP Market Management, Cell Sites, kindly took time out to mull over some of the issues with Optical Connections editor Peter Dykes . Although no-one was planning to hold virtual trade shows at the beginning of 2020, it soon became evident that it was an inevitable consequence of the pandemic and one which is going to impact on the industry for the time being at least. It hasn’t had a major effect on the industry’s ability to network and do business however, as proved by the success of Virtual ECOC 2020. In this issue, we take a look back at the ever-popular expo and conference, plus Market and Product Focus presentations and the winners of Optical Connections’ first ever ECOC Industry Awards. It is to be fervently hoped that the world will one day soon emerge from the current crisis and that life will return to some semblance of normality. In the meantime, telecommunication, and in particular the fibre optic industry, will continue to provide the vital links between people who must otherwise be apart. FIBRE OPTICS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER


Industry News


Intel Integration at the wafer level


John Williamson XGS-PON Surges

12 Peter Dykes

The View from HUBER+SUHNER

14 Antony Savvas Tuneable Optics

16 Event Focus

17 David Binder

The Evolution of pluggable transceivers

18 ECOC 2020 Wrap

20 ECOC 2020 Market Focus Presentations

21 ECOC 2020 Industry Awards The Winners

Peter Dykes Contributing Editor, Optical Connections

22 Product News

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Q1 2021


Ethernet transceiver sales rise with more to come - report

later, SiP-based products account for less than 20% of optical transceiver sales, but adoption of this technology is finally accelerating. The company says that it is certain that customers will start evaluating CPO as soon as it is available, and very likely that Cloud companies and very large enterprises will make limited deployments of CPO in 2025-2026, but massive adoption of CPO may have to wait until well after 2026. Pluggable optical transceivers are set to remain the dominant solution for Ethernet connectivity for the next 5 years and probably for a lot longer than that.

LightCounting’s latest High Speed Ethernet Optics Report says that sales of Ethernet optical transceivers set a new record in 2020, reaching US$3.7 billion – up 33% from a slow 2019, when the segment declined by 18%. Suppliers of optics recovered promptly in Q2 2020 from the disruptions caused by COVID-19, and demand for all products ranging from 1GbE to 400GbE exceeded expectations for 2020 in total. Sales 400G and 2x400G (800G) modules will sustain the growth of the global market for Ethernet

consumption, end users have to accept CPO as a viable approach for continuing cost reduction. Facebook and Microsoft advocate for creating a new eco-system around CPO and industry standards for manufacturing optical engines, but initial products will be based on proprietary designs. This will be a significant barrier for the largest customers that are spending US$0.5 billion or more on optics annually. It adds that in 2010, some analysts predicted that Silicon Photonics (SiP) would replace all other optical chip technologies in the next 3 years. A decade

transceivers in 2021-2026 at a CAGR of just above 10%. Sales of 100GbE modules are projected to remain steady at just above US$2 billion per year. The total market for Ethernet connectivity is projected to reach US$6.8 billion in 2026, not including sales of optics co-packaged with switching ASICs, called Co-Packaged Optics (CPO). LightCounting says that CPO is an exciting technology, but it is important to set realistic expectations for its adoption by the market. Apart from numerous manufacturing challenges and meeting the targets set for lower power

NeoPhotonics demo’s 400 Gbps over 800km

Aqua Comms taps Ciena for 2x subsea capacity

NeoPhotonics Corporation has demonstrated that its 400ZR+ QSFP-DD coherent pluggable transceiver can effectively transmit at a 400 Gbps data rate over a distance of 800 km in a 75 GHz-spaced DWDM system with more than 3.5 dB of OSNR margin in the optical signal. The transceiver module is based on NeoPhotonics high- performance coherent optics and its ultra-pure colour tuneable laser, and achieves a reach of 800 km while staying within the power consumption envelop of the QSFP-DD module’s power specification. This 800 km transmission

Ireland-based Aqua Comms has upgraded its two Trans-Atlantic submarine cable routes with Ciena’s GeoMesh Extreme submarine network solution to meet digital connectivity demands across the US, Ireland, Denmark, and the UK. The Aqua Comms network serves global data centres, cloud-based networks, and internet content providers. Aqua Comms is also utilising Ciena’s technology to enhance the 7,650 km AEC-2 network to support up to 500G Trans- Atlantic channel rates and the introduction of

demonstration was carried out on NeoPhotonics Transmission System Testbed and utilised 75 GHz spaced channels. The QSFP-DD uses NeoPhotonics Silicon Photonics based Coherent Optical Subassembly (COSA) and its ultra-narrow linewidth Nano-ITLA tuneable laser. The longer reach was enabled by the superior performance of these optical components along with a commercial digital signal processor (DSP) using proprietary forward error correction (FEC). The company expects these modules to be generally available within the second quarter of 2021.

spectrum sharing and backhaul capabilities for its customers. Aqua Comms owns two major subsea networks: AEC-1 that connects the US, Ireland, the UK, and AEC- 2, which connects North America with Scandinavia, Ireland and the UK. With Ciena, the AEC-1 path, that spans 5,521 km and connects New York to Ireland and the UK, has been completely modernised and upgraded to support 400GbE services leveraging Ciena’s WaveLogic 5 Extreme (WL5e), doubling the cable’s capacity to almost 20Tbps.


Q1 2021



New microcomb could reduce power consumption in optical networks

In a recent article in the journal Nature Photonics, eight researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, described a new kind of microcomb on a chip, based on two micro resonators. The microcomb is a coherent, tuneable and reproducible device with up to ten times higher net conversion efficiency than the current state of the art. Since almost any measurement can be linked to frequency, the microcombs offer a wide range of potential applications. They could, for

distributed so the microcomb behaves like a ‘ruler made of light’. The device can be used to measure or generate frequencies with extreme precision. “The reason why the results are important is that they represent a unique combination of characteristics, in terms of efficiency, low- power operation, and control, that are unprecedented in the field,” says Óskar Bjarki Helgason, a PhD student at the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers.

resonators – instead of one. This arrangement results in the unique physical characteristics. Placed on a chip, the newly developed microcomb is so small that it would fit on the end of a human hair. The gaps between the teeth of the comb are very wide, which opens great opportunities for both researchers and engineers. A microcomb is a photonic device capable of generating a myriad of optical frequencies – colours – on a tiny cavity known as micro resonator. These colours are uniformly

example, radically decrease the power consumption in optical communication systems, with tens of lasers being replaced by a single chip-scale microcomb in data centre interconnects. They could also be used in lidar for autonomous driving vehicles, for measuring distances. The Chalmers researchers are not the first to demonstrate a microcomb on a chip, but they have developed a method that overcomes several well- known limitations in the field. The key factor is the use of two optical cavities – micro

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Q1 2021


Intel Silicon Photonics Wafer

You know a technology is going to be big when major players start getting involved, and there aren’t many players more major than Intel. So, when the company says its photonics technology is a game changer, it’s probably worth listening. To find out more, Optical Connections sat down with Robert Blum , Intel’s Senior Director of Marketing and New Business, and Darron Young , Intel’s Senior Director of Product Management, both in the company’s Silicon Photonics Product Division, for a deep dive into the company’s photonics strategy going forward. INTEL PHOTONICS: INTEGRATION AT THE WAFER LEVEL

How did Intel first get into photonics?

photonics has significant benefits for integrating passive components, but for us the ability to make active devices on chip is equally, if not even more, relevant.


RB The initial research dates back to about 20 years ago, but our first qualified product was released in 2016. It’s been quite an incredible journey since launching this first 100G PSM4 transceiver for data centre applications, ramping photonics to high volume production and getting all the benefits of a mature silicon photonics process. We’re now shipping two million transceivers a year, with excellent reliability, and we can say that not just based on our internal qualification data but from years of deployment in the field. Manufacturing optics as wafer scale and the resulting products have really disrupted the industry.

What sectors of optical communications is Intel targeting with its photonic products?


100G PSM4

in a wafer level process,

DY As Robert said, the first transceiver was a data centre product, and this continues to be our focus. All of our data centre revenue today is from pluggable transceivers, and we have shipped more than 5 million 100G transceivers and generated over $1 billion in revenue to date. We started with 100G, 4 to 5 years ago, but we also see this exponential traffic growth in the data centre, with data doubling every two to three years. So it’s really a cadence going from 100G to 200G to 400G, and both 200G FR4 and 400G DR4 are ramping this year. We have also started sampling 800G DR8 transceivers. One of the reasons why silicon photonics is unique and why we believe it’s an enabling technology, and we’ve been saying this from day one, is that pluggable transceivers with discrete optics will not be able to keep increasing in data rate for much longer, and we’re running into these limits now. 800G is really, I think, the last generation where using standard pluggable transceivers make sense - the next step is

including writing the gratings in the silicon. This allows us to make highly complex chips that integrate multiple lasers with different wavelengths together with many other passive and active components. The ability to integrate optical gain on the photonic chip is a significant benefit. Our DFB (Distributed Feedback) lasers, for example, are fundamentally different in design from discrete lasers, with inherent reliability advantages, including not having any exposed facets. We are also able to burn them in and fully test them at the wafer level. All this allows us to make highly complex structures. For some of the LiDAR applications, we can put multiple SOAs (semiconductor optical amplifiers) on the chip as well, to really boost the optical output power. That really changes the game as opposed to, for instance, using an external fibre and an EDFA (Erbium- Doped Fibre Amplifier) outside of the chip. I think many people are aware that silicon

What makes Intel’s photonics so different?


The game changer is being able to integrate and make optics at the wafer scale with all the associated


benefits such as tighter process control, better performance, cost, and scalability. And on our platform we manufacture both passive and active devices at the wafer level – we basically put the Indium Phosphide epitaxial material down on the wafer, pattern it, and then make the lasers


Q1 2021



Intel 1.6T photonic engine and 100G CWDM4

really co-packaging. It’s putting the optics and the electronics

together on the same substrate, in the same package. And silicon photonics enables you to do this co-packaging of optics and electronics. We did a 12.8T co- packaged Ethernet switch demonstration in 2020 using 1.6T photonic engines, and other industry players, such as Broadcom, have also talked about their plans for co-packaged Ethernet switches. So there’s a big push to make 51.2T switches and certainly 102.4T switches with co- packaging optics a reality, and this includes work in the standards bodies.

(at CES 2021) is coherent LiDAR for automotive applications. LiDAR and other photonic chips also have uses in many non- automotive sectors for surveillance applications, such as drones for

farming. And urban air mobility or robotics in general will require a suite of sensors. Biotechnology and personal health are other areas that use or will use a lot more photonics moving forward.

Are you concentrating on data centres, or are you looking at longer distances?


the ecosystem as open as possible. So I think we are seeing some focusing of effort right now around co-packaged optics. We will have to see how that all evolves, but I think it’s important that there is agreement on some of the more obvious things.

RB Our focus is really for inside the data centre today. All of the transceivers we’ve done so far are between 500 metres and 10 kilometres of reach. Coherent communication for longer reaches is certainly an area that we’re looking at, but we don’t have any products to talk about right now. There’s obviously clear value in using silicon photonics for making coherent receivers or IQ modulators for long distance communications, and the likes of Acacia, now Cisco, have demonstrated it. But the demand for these modules is one to two orders of magnitude lower and our current focus is on high-volume applications, which are all inside the data centre today.

You mentioned standards earlier. Is Intel taking part in any standardisation bodies for



Absolutely, we believe this is the right thing to do and obviously, we know where the industry is


So, if there’s one takeaway, what would it be?


headed, but to really enable broad market adoption especially in the data centre you need more players and you want to standardize on some of the electric interfaces, maybe some other factors too. There’s work ongoing right now within the optical internetworking forum, the OIF, to work on some of those co- packaged optics standards. We’re actively participating in that because it’s clear that you need more than just one or two companies to move an entire industry and supply chain in a new direction. What we have seen in the optics industry is that a lot of things have been driven through multi-source agreements (MSAs), and so it doesn’t have to be a formal standard, but you do want at least two or three players to agree on doing certain things the same way. The market demands that we keep

Well, if I’m to step back, it’s really that now we can truly manufacture optics at scale and


this has huge implications. Silicon photonics has advanced from R&D

prototypes and low volume production to high volume manufacturing at scale with outstanding quality and reliability. The initial product deployments have been in data centres, because that’s where the volumes are, but now photonics is expanding into new applications, where it’s going to be noticeably more visible in our everyday lives. In a few years we will see it in our homes, in our cars, and even in bio and health sensing, and other kinds of applications. It will be a new era of high volume, wafer scale optics. It’s a truly exciting time for photonics.

Are you looking at any other applications for this technology?


Yes, there are many applications beyond just the data centre that could benefit from photonics that


is much smaller, lighter, cheaper and more scalable than discrete optics. The first application we talked about in detail

Intel Mobileye LiDAR SoC

Intel Co-Packaged Optics Ethernet Switch



Q1 2021



Officially adopted by the ITU-T as the G.9807 standard, Next Generation Symmetric-Passive Optical Network (XGS-PON) is rapidly becoming the optical broadband technology du jour for different operators around the world. It’s currently being deployed in roles as diverse as FTTH/FTTP, high-speed residential and business services, mobile anyhaul, triple play, video streaming and HDTV, smart cities and the IoT, and rural telecommunications provision. According to an analysis by Jeff Heynen, VP of the Dell’Oro Group, total XGS-PON OLT and ONU revenue could grow from just over $121 million in 2019 to $2.7 billion in 2024. Veteran telecoms journalist John Williamson takes a closer look.

PONDER THIS… A key driver of symmetrical 10 Gbps XGS-PON market is an increasing and pervasive background demand for higher bandwidth. “Our estimate shows that minimum bandwidth needed for digital life is now 50 Mbps,” reports Ana Pesovic, head of Nokia’s Fixed Networks fibre marketing activities. “And for advanced users, it goes above 100 Mbps or even 120 Mbps. With 32 users on a PON and 1 Gbps headroom reserved for peak usage, the need to upgrade GPON to XGS-PON has accelerated by 3 to 4 years.” The PON landscape is populated by several different technologies, with GPON being the most widely deployed so far. XGS-PON has a number of superior features. As described by Pesovic, it has four times the speed of GPON and is a cost-efficient technology compared to 10 Gbps NG- PON2, which requires costly tuneable lasers. She says the symmetrical bitrate property of XGS-PON is important for enterprise services and mobile anyhaul. If anything, the significance of symmetrical capability has been boosted by the coronavirus pandemic

solution for mass deployment of remote cell sites. “By design XGS-PON is based on TDM, which brings accurate timing for the delivery of packets in the radio networks, and for other delay sensitive applications – for example, online gaming,” says Clarkson. He also observes that XGS-PON’s higher split ratios introduce more flexibility in service provision, which allows for users that don’t require continuous high bandwidth to share ODNs efficiently at a lower cost. ROUTE CAUSES While the overall market is rapidly heating up, different operators and service providers have different agendas and ambitions for XGS-PON. Golja differentiates between FTTH/ FTTP markets that have already seen substantial investment in fibre and PONs, and those that were copper- centric for a longer period. He believes the former are likely to embrace XGS- PON more cautiously than the latter who may be prompted to play fibre and PON catch-up. “If an operator has an already built network, with GPON

imposing the necessity for many to work from home or use remote education applications. “There’s much more uploading today,” observes Mitja Golja, business development director of Business Unit Broadband at Iskratel. “Symmetrical access is much more important than before.” XGS-PON’s versatile service support repertoire, as outlined above, is another main attraction. “All of these applications have different requirements – not just for speed but also for latency, QoS and so on, and these requirements may differ in the upstream and downstream directions,” points out Anthony Clarkson, technical director EMEA and India for Precision Optical Transceivers Inc. “XGS-PON allows for a multitude of different services to be provisioned on the same PON to leverage the ability to reach all of the different access network segments and applications by using different configurable QoS mechanisms for each service provisioned.” Moreover, with the predicted importance of 5G in the future PON market mix, XGS-PON is a good


Q1 2021



that steps towards disaggregation and open-ness can be made using pluggable optics and ONUs from specialist providers other than the Network Equipment Manufacturer, and that these specialist providers can help with the integration of components in to the network to ensure that operation is not inferior to a solution provided by a single vendor. LOOKING AHEAD None of the forgoing is to imply, in a re-hash of Francis Fukuyama, that XGS- PON represents the end of PON history. Although Nokia reckons XGS-PON will provide enough capacity for residential services for many years, the group is looking at a progression to 25 Gbps PON on account of the mature eco-system of 25G optical technologies massively used in data centres. It’s also involved in 50G standardisation, which needs a new generation of laser technologies, and in February 2021 Nokia Bell Labs and Vodafone showcased a 100 Gbps PON. Likewise, Thomas is confident that this year the BBF’s Broadband Acceleration Seminar (BASe) series will feature news of work and trials already started on the future successors to XGS-PON, including 25G, 50G and 100G PON solutions. Given the different innovation cycles of PON and Wi-Fi, at the customer premise end Golja sees a trend towards a two-box solution, with the ONT function separated from the residential gateway. Additionally, he anticipates the wider adoption of cloud technology in the optical access network. Meantime, Clarkson suggests ONU- on-a-stick solutions could play a large part in achieving open-ness, and it should be possible to connect a radio node directly to an XGS-PON using an ONU-on-a-stick – negating the need for a dedicated ONU device. Clarkson also looks to the potential of white box PONs. “In a ‘modular’ white-box solution, one could add OLT blades alongside switching and routing blades for flexible functionality,” he concludes. “By integrating an OLT into a pluggable optic, it is possible to create a PON network without any dedicated OLT or ONU hardware – simply by using pluggables at all ends of the ODNs and integrating these pluggables into existing switches/CPE, be it white-box or not.”

a variety of ONUs and once certified, vendors can deploy their ONU products with greater interoperability to existing OLT equipment already deployed,” states Thomas. “Attaining XGS-PON market readiness with the BBF.247 certification ensures that vendors’ products are trusted and proven, and therefore operators and equipment manufacturers have the confidence that the products will provide their end-users with the seamless service they require.” OPEN SAUCE? Standardisation and conformance certification lead on to considerations of further open standards, software- defined access, virtualisation and the disaggregation of network pieces. “As more vendors and operators seek to accelerate the time-to- market of new services and unlock new revenue streams, industry open standards will continue to play a huge role in ensuring ease of deployments, network interoperability and helping the broadband ecosystem thrive,” asserts Thomas. Pesovic describes how operators are increasingly considering software defined access network introduction to benefit from simplified, automated networks and open multi-vendor environments, or to implement network slicing to deliver different services and traffic types over one network in a smarter way. “Introducing XGS-PON in the network is also a good opportunity to introduce virtualisation,” she says, but cautions that it should not be a ‘must’ but should be dictated by an individual service provider’s business priorities, operational goals and migration strategy. Clarkson thinks ‘yes’ and ‘no’ is the answer to the question: do the moves towards open and disaggregated network architectures and virtualisation complicate XGS-PON deployment? “On the one hand there is the drive towards development of open OLTs and ONUs, particularly with white-box hardware becoming increasingly available,” he comments. “On the other hand, the software for these open solutions is still relatively immature. The complete solutions offered by the Network Equipment Manufacturers are the easiest ways for service providers to roll out XGS-PON with the minimum of effort.” However, Clarkson concedes

running now, XGS-PON will take the form of an upgrade, but initially it may be one line card per location to see how many subscribers will upgrade,” he ventures. Iskratel’s head of Broadband Marketing Tomo Bogataj opines that, as well as past technology history, current access to outside investment funding can be a critical component in the XGS-PON deployment story. He notes that interest should be higher in the case of operators in receipt of subsidies from local, national or regional development bodies. Greenfield networks are also prime candidates for XGS-PON roll-outs. “There you’re trying to build networks that will last longer,” says Bogataj. Pesovic agrees, remarking that the overall cost difference between GPON and XGS-PON is small, because the biggest part of the cost – typically 70% - is in the outside plant, digging the streets and laying the optical cables. “So in greenfield deployments it makes sense to invest immediately in XGS- PON and avoid upgrade cycle any time soon,” she reasons. “The recent examples include Ireland, which is deploying XGS for 0.5 million users in rural areas.” In addition, Golja describes how XGS- PON deployment options can vary by service provider type with, for example, classic, vertically integrated telcos in urban markets maybe preferring chassis-based solutions, while rural and sub-urban service providers may choose lower bandwidth ‘pizza box’ OLTs. UP TO SPEC Standardisation is one thing. Conformance certification is another, and is viewed by experts such as Craig Thomas, the Broadband Forum’s VP of Strategic Marketing and Business Development, as essential to mass market, commercial deployment of new technology. In 2011, the Broadband Forum (BBF) initiated the BBF.247 G-PON Certification Program to verify the conformance of G-PON products and their adherence to the ITU-T G-PON standard and to Broadband Forum specifications. In mid-2020 the BBF announced that it had expended the BBF.247ONU Certification Program to include XGS-PON. “The Certification Program addresses

Craig Thomas, Broadband Forum

Mitja Golija, Iskratel

Tomo Bogataj, Iskratel

Anthony Clarkson, Precision Optical Transceivers Inc

Ana Pesovic, Nokia


Q1 2021





S ince January 2019 it has been necessary to install FTTx cabling with metal clips inside all buildings according to chartered Fire Safety experts Malcolm Broomfield Safety Consultants, here are some of the implications for optical networks across the UK. Malcolm Broomfield CMIOSH: “It has been known by the industry that BS6701 A1 2017 (Telecommunications Equipment and Telecommunications Cabling) legislated for the design and usage of fibre optic cabling and included fire safety standards. However, this standard does not include the installation of telecommunications and in particular fibre cabling in buildings – which is actually governed by BS 7671 18th Edition. BS 7671 points to BS 6701 for telecommunications cabling installation and as a result BSI have acted to implement requirements appropriate to the world of telecommunications cabling within the published Amendment. The implications for installers across the UK are quite large. BS7671 18th Edition requires that ALL cabling is installed using metal fittings which prevent premature collapse of cables in the event of a fire – which in the past has caused death to firefighters from entanglement. Cable fittings which melt or burn such as adhesives or plastic clips and

cleats should be replaced by metal fixings. Which means that any cable installation since January 2019 just using adhesives or plastic fixings alone are technically non compliant. This has huge implications not just for installers today but into the future where cables have been installed incorrectly since January 2019 – without metal fixings. It was not realised until late in 2020 that BS 7671 governs BS 6701. This means that possibly many hundreds of miles of test cabling installed into buildings since January 2019 may have been installed incorrectly, which would need to be addressed. It also means that a metal clip solution for installing cabling under BS 7671 needs to be found to cover installers going forward. One such is the Firefly Push Grip clip which has been specifically designed to support small cables and does protect fibre cable as narrow as 0.9mm from damage. The Firefly Push Grip clip was commissioned and fire tested by the leading network installer in the UK. It is important that all installers catch up fast as full-fibre installation starts to unroll into homes and offices. Malcolm Broomfield Safety Consultants has produced a 12-page EVIDENTIAL report launched January 2021 explaining the connection between BS 7671 and BS 6701 which can be downloaded from the Firefly website click here. Senior design engineer at Firefly Fixings, David Banks-Fear, says: “We do

have a solution available which covers cable sizes 0.9mm, 2.0mm, 3.0mm and 3.8mm and these are manufactured in the UK. They are fast and easy to install and practically invisible to the eye and they are specifically designed to protect fibre cables. All you need is the correct size drill bit and a simple tool to push the clips into the wall/ceiling recess accurately. The recommended spacing is 300mm between clips. Firefly has a range of metal cleats which hold larger cables in place in sizes from 12.5mm up to 50mm diameter and dress the cabling beautifully. We have also produced custom clips to fit inside point-of- entry boxes to prevent cable collapse if these boxes are ever caught in a fire”. With the industry now set to roll out fibre cable to the home and to business premises it is imperative that the correct fittings are now used to install fibre cabling to prevent premature collapse in a fire.

Find out more. Download the Special Report.



Q1 2021



When most people think of 5G, their thoughts usually turn to the speed, capacity and remarkable advances in the radio access network (RAN) needed to bring the technology to fruition. But there are other advances being made which, more often than not, escape attention but are nonetheless vital to enable 5G to be deployed in the real world. Optical connector technology provides the vital links from the RAN, all the way back to the core fibre network, and manufacturers are meeting the challenges from the densification resulting from the high antenna count necessary to provide adequate 5G coverage. HUBER+SUHNER’s Fabian Huber , VP Market Management, Cell Sites, kindly took time out to mull over some of the issues with Optical Connections editor Peter Dykes .

What are the implications of supporting 5G, from the point of view of a company such as yours?

with minimal training needs to be able to handle such connectivity solutions without doing anything wrong with it: “First time right.” We will probably never get there 100%, but that is our aim.

for maintenance or other work. It should be always the same so the field technician knows exactly how to handle it.


What do you need to do if anything?

Does this need for simplicity and ease of use extend to things like enclosures and distribution


It’s not that easy, we are still trying to get a grasp on that. 5G, including IoT, is such a big topic,


Installation and test equipment has been getting smaller and easier to operate in order to


points, when it comes to 5G?

but in the end, we associate 5G with more capacity, and more capacity usually also requires more connectivity. We are talking here about 10 times more cell sites in the next 10 years. On the one hand, this means more connectors, and there will be a challenge in regard to cost. No carrier can afford 10 times the cost compared to today’s cost of the network. So I think we need to aim to produce connectivity solutions at a 10th of the cost. Obviously, we’re not there yet, but that’s the goal. On the other hand, there’s the whole installation process. I think that’s where the big focus needs to be; simple to install connectors, a faster and more reliable installation process requiring less post-installation site visits and less maintenance. In the end, anyone

speed installation in recent times. What is HUBER+SUHNER doing to reinforce this trend?

Absolutely. Let’s take the example of lamp posts. That’s an application we’ve seen recently,


and there are a few other examples out there where you need to be extremely space efficient. Also, you still want to be able to provide the usual solutions and everything else in there, plus it needs to be approved by the municipality. Obviously, it’s really important that 5G antennas should be hidden, as much as possible, and the same goes for the connectivity. The more you can hide it the better. It means less pain for approval due to the smaller size of the solution and ultimately, it makes it easier to deploy for a carrier, a contractor or whoever does it.

We are miniaturising. That’s one of the aspects that means you can use connectors anywhere and you


don’t need to always have a different one depending on the application. It’s not just fibre to the home, mobile and so on, but it means in the mobile environment where you have to provide infrastructure, for example on a lamp post, a kiosk or advertising board, you probably want to reuse the same type of connector every time. So, the smaller and the easier a solution is to install, the easier it will be whenever you send somebody to a site


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there is a need for adaptation even within a city like London. There is a wide variety of street furniture, depending on which area of London you’re in, and there is always a slightly different ‘normal’ lamp post from one area to another for example. And we expect this kind of variation.

that direction. The more you can cover with your networks, mobile estates, enterprise or other areas, the more services you can provide from one fibre. The better it is done, the more it makes sense for somebody to actually deploy it and pay for it, hence the cost of the network becomes less challenging.

Would you see that as being proprietary issue, or are standards being developed


around connectors for 5G applications?

I haven’t seen much development of standards, but overall, the market is heading for


Speaking of reducing the cost of deployment and installation, presumably little, if any, existing

I guess it’s not exclusively a UK issue, but there are a lot of historical cities and buildings in



more standardisation. It’s definitely something we are actively looking at. Again, it relates to cost, supply chain and availability of connectivity solutions.

infrastructure could be redeployed and there’s nothing in the ground or in the air at the moment that is reusable retrospectively?

Britain where it is challenging to lay new infrastructure or adapt street furniture. Does this present any specific challenges for the company? In this regard, we are also doing a lot with passive and active WDM to accommodate those historical aspects in cities. Together with our small connectivity solutions such as FH connectors, distribution boxes and even small sized antennas, we can uniquely integrate infrastructure into historical and always changing assets. There is a lot of interest in those areas because it adds value.

Thinking about the core network, and for example the POLATIS all-optical switch


That’s the other big challenge. It’s almost never green field, while there are still some areas where


product line from HUBER+SUHNER, having recently expanded the capacity for connectivity, presumably they don’t have to handle it in the future.

there are some green field applications, but it’s nearly always brown field, or even worse. You will always get those existing form factors and you need to adapt, so that’s another challenge. On a local level we adapt, but that’s also where we can really differentiate and make a difference because we can adapt to those local needs in certain areas. Among other things, we sell street furniture, which has been my particular focus recently, and

Future proofing is a big topic and POLATIS all-optical switches are a great example of our overall


approach. It’s closely related to more connections, or less space with existing connections, so operators will still have space available when they need to expand. Absolutely, everything goes in

Thank you




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There is an evolving market for tuneable optics/lasers supporting data centre connectivity, metropolitan connections and links to the edge, Antony Savvas takes a look.

T uneable lasers offer failed optical layers. And compared to fixed-wavelength lasers that rely on an intelligent network to switch their signals to termination, tuneable lasers ensure that the criteria for switching is inherent in the wavelengths. The tuneables market is a growing one as a result of rapidly increasing network traffic and surging bandwidth demand, driven by cloud computing, video on demand services, data the ability to remotely provision wavelengths, deploy all-optical switching and regeneration and provide restoration to analytics processing, the Internet of Things, the move to 5G mobile and the feverish building of hyperscale data centres. The “tunability” offered when easily and cost effectively adding or deleting/reducing bandwidth remotely is in turn supporting the growth of more on-demand services around the technology.

GROWING MARKET The global tuneable laser market was valued at $10.12 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach 16.79 billion by 2026, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.7% over the forecast period, according to Mordor Intelligence. Those figures include the use of tuneables in not only telecoms/optical networking, but also in the manufacturing/ industrial, healthcare markets and other sectors. The major players in the market include the likes of Coherent, HÜBNER, Newport Corporation, Santec, Agilent Technologies, Daylight Solutions, EMCORE, Continuum, II-VI, Fujitsu Optical Components, NEC, JDS Uniphase, NeoPhotonics, Yenista Optics, Santur, Lumentum, Thorlabs, Sacher Lasertechnik, Nexus Photonics, NKTPhotonics and Acacia Communications (recently acquired by Cisco Systems). The overlapping optical transceiver market, according to MarketsandMarkets, is expected to

grow from $5.7 billion in 2020 to $9.2 billion by 2025 globally, at a CAGR of 10%. The optical transceiver market for data centres is expected to grow at the highest CAGR, said MarketsandMarkets, due to the growth of cloud storage and increased applications around machine learning and artificial intelligence, for instance. Optical transceivers are used in interconnect networks for connecting two or more data centres over short, medium or long distances, and also for intra-connectivity in data centres for connecting networks within facilities. The potential value in the whole tuneable laser market is perhaps illustrated by the three-way race to acquire leading player Coherent, which began at the beginning of 2021. Lumentum, MKS Instruments and II-VI all put in bids for the company. As of mid-March 2021, the industry was still waiting to see who would win out, but at the last count Coherent was


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II-VI’s Flextune embedded configuration protocol enables transceiver pairs across a given link to self-configure to a common wavelength channel. The 25 Gbps system supports an “optical budget” of up to 18 dB with a link reach of up to 15 km, said II-VI. Matthias Berger, vice president for II-VI’s coherent optics business unit, said, “This differentiated product combines a monolithically integrated indium phosphide tuneable laser and modulator with software intelligence in a standard pluggable transceiver module. It offers a vastly more cost- effective alternative to pulling fibre, with a product that’s just as easy to deploy as any standard pluggable transceiver.” SERVICE PROVIDERS AT THE EDGE Ciena says service providers in various markets are helping to expand the tuneables market as services need to be supported across different and evolving network footprints. Patricia Bower, senior manager for portfolio marketing at Ciena, says, “There are various drivers for business and network transformation for service providers and one key trend is the need to provide real-time services at higher bandwidth and low latency closer to the user (enterprise or broadband or mobile subscriber) at the network edge.” She says, “These services will be driven by emerging applications such as IoT, edge-compute, AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality) and high-definition video streaming that require higher bandwidth for the best user experience.” She said network edge connectivity is currently supported by transport optics based on 10 or 25Gb/s capacities which, in turn, are based on direct detect technologies. In order to support the higher bandwidths needed for new edge services (at 100Gb/s and higher), the transport optics will migrate to coherent technology, said Bower. “100+Gb/s coherent optics at the edge will pave the way for higher

capacity over existing fibre networks, lower overall link engineering costs - through greater ease of use - and a multi-vendor ecosystem thanks to the focus on generating interoperable standards through global communications standards bodies,” Bower says. EVOLUTION Evolving form factors to address changing markets are taking shape too. CompoundTEK and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore are combining different technologies to address market needs. KS Ang, chief operating officer at CompoundTek, says, “There are many ways to build a tuneable laser. What sets our technology apart is the ability to integrate with Silicon Photonics (SiPh) devices which offers low propagation loss and high integration densities. In our co-developed solution, the tuneable laser consists of a Ⅲ-Ⅴ gain section and a silicon- based photonic integrated circuit. It is a solid-state laser diode based on integrated optics and will be compact and resistant to environmental vibrations.” Professor Wang Hong, principal investigator for the Silicon Photonics Programme at NTU, adds, “The type of lasers we are developing will be a critical technology in transceivers and co-packaged optics. As with all technologies, miniaturisation and scalability are key. Our Ⅲ-Ⅴ / SiPH hybrid wavelength tuneable laser technology places us in a good position alongside future trends. Of interest to our customers is the possibility of smaller form factors without sacrificing performance and we look forward to delivering on their needs in 2023.” It is clear that a combination of more established and newer tuneable optics players is steadily moving forwards to satisfy the evolving deployment, configuration and operational management needs of telcos, service providers and data centre operators in this growing market.

being valued at almost $7bn, which is impressive for a player specialising in a relatively new market.

FLEXIBLE ADVANTAGES Joe Mocerino, packet optical

solutions lead at Fujitsu Network Communications, outlines why the tuneables market is growing rapidly. He says, “Tunability provides flexibility of system configuration and ease of inventory management compared to fixed wavelength lasers for reduced Opex. “Legacy DWDM systems using fixed wavelength lasers previously had to assign a spare fixed wavelength laser in the C-band and keep it in their inventory in case of failure of an operating fixed laser.” Smart tuneable optical transceivers automatically self-tune to the correct wavelength without intervention by the host system or a field technician, simplifying operations to ensure fast system turn ups, higher performance and SLA compliance - while reducing the total cost of ownership over the life of the network. INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS To serve the needs of customers, partnerships are forming across the industry. HFR Networks and Fujitsu Network Communications, for instance, recently introduced 25G smart tuneable optics for 5G xHaul deployments. The technology is integrated with HFR’s intelligent xHaul RAN transport and edge access solutions. The offering reduces deployment and operational costs while simultaneously supporting 4G LTE, 5G and Ethernet services. “These self-tuning optical transceivers enable 5G applications, automate fast service turn-up and include full operational visibility on xHaul transport links for proactive management of active or passive remote sites,” said Mocerino. Mocerino said intelligent self-tuning optics in this market enable network operators to maximise valuable fibre capacity while saving on space and power at remote sites by using only passive components. “This is critical for operators around the world as they continue deploying additional LTE capacity in parallel with quickly ramping up new 5G services,” he said. Paul Crann, CEO at HFR Networks, confirmed, “By enabling converged 4G/5G services across RAN vendors and overcoming constraints due to limited fibre we are able to simplify operations.” The 5G space for tuneables is a particularly active one. II-VI’s 25 Gbps wavelength-tuneable transceivers, for instance, meet the CPRI 10 standard for 25 Gbps front-haul links in a standard SFP28 pluggable form factor.

Patricia Bower, Ciena

Joe Mocerino, Fujitsu Network Communications

Matthias Berger, II-VI



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