Summer 2021 - Optical Connections Magazine

Bringing the World the Latest in Optical Communications News

ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021




SUPERFAST BROADBAND Ensuring a swift rollout | p10


CO-PACKAGED OPTICS The way forward | p20

ECOC 2021 PREVIEW Live in Bordeaux | p26


2021 5M units shipped


2020 400G release

2020 4M units shipped


2019 2M units shipped


2018 1M units shipped


2017 100G CWDM4 release

2016 100G PSM4 release


100G Silicon Photonics in production since 2016 Maturity

800G with path to photonic integration Roadmap

Expanding SiPh beyond data center into 5G, sensing, DCI Opportunity

Integration of lasers/ components in 300mm CMOS line

Visit to learn more about Intel® Silicon Photonics


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Industry News

The View From Sentry Dan Tibbitts 10 How to Ensure Swift Rollout Paul Churm 14 Inphi Buyout Puts Marvell in Prime Position Nigel Alvares 16 Subsea Optical Systems John Williamson 18 Filling the Skills Gap Neil Bessant 20 Co-Packaged Optics Antony Savvas 23 Optical Connections’ Webinars 24 OFC Wrap 25 AngaCom Wrap 26 ECOC 2021 Preview 27 ECOC 2021 Call for Speakers 28 Product News


Welcome to the summer 2021 issue of Optical Connections . We regularly read about new fibre backbones being laid and the number of homes passed by local fibre access networks, but what about the companies that put the cables in the ground, install the street-corner cabinets and hang the drop wires from poles? In this issue, we take a look at this vital area of the industry with a chat with new- market entrant Sentry, a company which traditionally supplied the green energy network market in the US, but which sees big opportunities for its expertise in FTTH and fibre transport infrastructure construction. We also talked with Rehau, a UK-based construction company about the best physical ways of speeding up fibre rollout. Of course, the many facets of fibre optic telecommunications construction require highly skilled personnel at all levels to make them reality, and Neil Bessant, Fusion Splicer Divisional Manager at Fujikura Europe looks at how technology can help meet the demand for skilled engineers. One of the biggest stories of the year so far has to be Marvell’s purchase of Inphi, so Optical Connections shared a screen with Nigel Alvares, Marvell’s vice president, Solutions Marketing, to take a deep dive into the impact the purchase has had on the company’s present and future plans, as Marvell aims to “develop and deliver semiconductor solutions that move, store, process and secure the world’s data faster and more reliably than anyone else.” Speaking of deep dives, veteran journalist John Williamson explores the scale of present activity, and the intense and intensifying pressure to greatly expand the operations and performance windows of subsea optical systems, both by upgrading extant cables and planning and installing new, more efficient plant. On a more micro level, telecoms expert Antony Savvas technology looks at how co- packaged optics can solve the thermal and power consumption problems around high-speed opto-electronics, while reducing form factors. We hope there’s enough in this issue to fire your imagination and raise your interest in our vibrant industry over the summer, and look forward to meeting our loyal readers and subscribers in Bordeaux, when ECOC 2021 will be live once again.

Peter Dykes Contributing Editor, Optical Connections




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ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021

“Submarine cable fibre systems support 99% of international telecommunications traffic”


JohnWilliamson - see page 16

XGS-PON OLT spending up over 500% year on year

According to a newly published report by Dell’Oro Group, total global revenue for the Broadband Access equipment market increased

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. A recent demonstration of the ultimate reach performance of Lumenisity’s NANF ® hollowcore cable suggests that there appears to be no fundamental limits to the technology’s data transmission distances, according to the company. The demonstration was carried out by the Politecnico di Torino university and the LINKS Foundation research group in their joint PhotoNext lab facility. Using the lab’s advanced testing set-up, some channels reached almost 6,000km.

• Total PON ONT revenue was down quarter over quarter, but unit shipments

• Total broadband access equipment revenue was down 6% from the record revenue of 4Q 2020. • Total cable access concentrator revenue increased 15% year-on- year to US$243 million. Though DOCSIS license purchases were down, new hardware purchases in the form of CCAP chassis, line cards, and DAA nodes and modules helped push revenue higher.

remained above 30 M globally for the second straight quarter.

to US$3.3 B in 1Q 2021, up 18% year-on-year,

with growth coming from spending on PON OLT ports, particularly 10 Gbps PON technologies. “The shift to 10 Gbps PON technologies is happening quickly and on a global basis,” noted Jeff Heynen, Vice President, Broadband Access and Home Networking at Dell’Oro Group. “The only thing preventing further expansions are supply chain constraints and increased costs.” Additional highlights from the 1Q 2021 Broadband Access and Home Networking quarterly report:

The Dell’Oro Group Broadband Access and

Home Networking Quarterly Report provides an overview of the Broadband Access market with tables covering manufacturers’ revenue, average selling prices, and port/unit shipments for Cable, DSL, and PON equipment. Next Generation Symmetric- Passive Optical Network (XGS- PON) is rapidly becoming the optical broadband technology du jour for different operators around the world, writes journalist John Williamson, in the spring edition of Optical Connections. It is currently

• Total DSL Access

Concentrator revenue was down 30% year-on- year, driven by slower port shipments worldwide as more operators shift their spending to fibre.

‘No fundamental limits’ for Lumenisity’s hollowcore fibre

Lumenisity’s CoreSmart ® hollowcore cable solutions use Nested Anti-resonant Node-less Fibre (NANF) patented technology. Using the latest version of the technology with reduced inter-modal interference (IMI), the PhotoNext lab reported record new transmission distances. 11.5kmof 5-tube NANFs were used in two recirculating loop experiments. The first comprised of NANF and some PSCF (Pure Silica Core Fibre), where 41xPM-QPSK C band channels at 32GBaudwere recirculated up to 2,070km. The second recirculating loop used only NANF, pushing themaximum reach further and achieving 4,020km, with several channels reaching beyond 5,000km. Lumenisity says its CoreSmart ® NANF ® technology is robustly single-moded which provides

data transmission over 300 metres of photonic bandgap fibre. Fast forward eight years, change the technology to NANF and add invaluable collaborations with Lumenisity and the PhotoNext Lab, and multi-thousand kilometres become possible. There is more work still to be done, but the future looks bright for hollowcore fibres”. Mike Fake, Lumenisity’s director responsible for Product Management, said, “These results in fibre are complementary to those we have reported this week in deployable cable formats and further underpins our confidence in the technology platform we are bringing to market for high-capacity networks with the promise of not only achieving this in the Metro Network today but also in long reach applications in the future.”

with the ORC at Southampton and now with Lumenisity too, to prove the potential of NANF in all segments of optical systems and networks. The results have been so far fantastic.” Dr. Antonino Nespola, Head of the PhotoNext laboratory for the LINKS Foundation commented, “The transmission distance presented at this year’s OFC post-deadline session is more than six times longer than the previous record reported at OFC last year. At the current rate of improvement, the low loss and ultralow nonlinearity across very wide bandwidths could make NANF the trustable candidate for increasing the throughput and capacity of the next-generation optical systems”. Prof. Francesco Poletti added, “Hollowcore technology has made giant steps in recent years. At an OFC post deadline session in 2013 we reported

continuous, uninterrupted, simultaneous single mode transmission at 1,310nm, as well as over the full C and L bands and beyond, offering the promise of realising loss values at, or better than, conventional solid silica core fibres. It adds that the results show that the development of NANF® technology has substantially reduced IMI. As the current loss (~1dB/km) is reduced to levels comparable to standard fibres in the near future, while maintaining the IMI shown in these experiments, NANF could become a promising alternative for higher-throughput long haul systems and networks. Prof. Pierluigi Poggiolini, Coordinator of the OptCom Group of Politecnico di Torino, said, “NANF is one of the most exciting technologies currently on the optical landscape. We believed in it early on and started a close collaboration


| ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021


Openreach to invest in CommScope for UK fibre network build

BT spin-off Openreach is investing in CommScope to provide new technology as it ramps up its build of the Full Fibre network. As part of the Openreach collaboration, approximately 30-50 manufacturing engineers will be hired by CommScope in Rhyl, North Wales. They will assemble connectorised block terminals, the fibre connection point where individual fibres connect to a premise’s main fibre cable.

announced a strategic collaboration with digital network integrator STL for the supply of optical cable solutions for a ‘Full Fibre’ broadband network. Earlier in the year, Openreach and Canadian test and monitoring specialist EXFO announced their intention to collaborate on a major initiative to accelerate full fibre deployment, and enhance the quality of build and experience for Openreach’s UK customers.

innovations and techniques which Openreach uses to deliver world class build costs, whilst a major investment in 11 new regional training centres is helping to equip and skill thousands of new engineers. As a result, Openreach believes it can build Full Fibre to up to four million rural and urban premises a year, which is around 75,000 per week, under its commercial programme. In April 2021, Openreach

These can be found on top of a telephone pole or within a chamber in the ground. CommScope configured the NOVUX platform specifically for Openreach’s build programme. Engineers will have access to NOVUX hardened terminals, designed to enhance health and safety with less time spent on the pole. Site visits can be achieved in a few hours with NOVUX. This partnership highlights just one of a range of

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ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021


US, European Tier 1 operators join with Infinera for Open XR Forum

to transform our access network through radical CapEx and OpEx cost reductions and seamless site upgrades while setting a clear evolution path to 800G pluggables. We are proud to be one of the founding members of the Open XR Forum and look forward to applying the same engineering passion and innovative experience that helped make Windstream a proven leader in optical networking to this consortium.” Launched at ECOC 2019, the technology has undergone trials with NBN, Australia’s wholesale open- access broadband provider, and in May 2021, launched a range of ICE-XR pluggables which support a range of transport rates, including 100G, 400G, and 800G.

The Open XR Forum has been launched with initial members including Verizon, Lumen Technologies, Windstream, Liberty Global, BT and Infinera. Open XR Forum is a consortium of network operators, equipment vendors and component vendors committed to building the foundation for a new generation of coherent optical solutions that enable seamless interconnectivity across multiple generations and support point-to-point and point-to-multipoint applications. Infinera’s XR Optics technology, which won the ECOC 2020 award for the most innovative product, is, says Infinera, the industry’s first coherent optical solution that can solve the challenges faced by network operators

Dr. Dave Welch, founder and chief innovation officer at Infinera said, “We’re excited to introduce the revolutionary concept of coherent subcarrier aggregation, one that will redefine the cost structure of next-generation transport networks. XR optics addresses a fundamental deficiency in optical communications technology and is expected to have a significant impact on any network that implements an aggregation function.” Art Nichols, vice president Network Architecture and Technology at Windstream commented, “As part of Windstream’s strategy to pioneer advanced networking solutions, we look forward to being at the forefront of bringing XR optics to market. XR optics has the potential

caused by the misalignment between network traffic patterns and the technology used to transport that traffic. The company says the significant growth in bandwidth driven by 5G, high- speed broadband and cloud- based services continues to put substantial pressure on network operators to keep up with demand. XR optics

provides a solution that can dramatically simplify

network architectures, reduce operating costs, and enable a dynamic and on-demand capacity allocation while paving the way for a network architecture that is compatible across multiple generations of optical technologies. Network operator studies have demonstrated that XR optics can provide a reduction in total cost of ownership by as much as 70%.

Vendors collaborate to simplify 5Gmobile pluggables

of innovation in high-speed full-band tuneable pluggable transceivers, pioneering the category more than a decade ago. We are well-positioned to meet customer needs in 5G and next-generation mobile networks.” The companies say that driven by the broad global 5G buildouts, MOPA aims to accomplish a common view and understanding in the industry regarding which optical solutions are required for 5G transport, such as fronthaul and backhaul. This serves to improve the current challenge for operators, system vendors, and optical pluggable suppliers to make the right technology choices and focus on the most relevant needs. MOPA benefits the ecosystem to ensure timely, cost-efficient, and optimised architectures.

Nokia, Ericsson, II-VI, Lumentum and Sumitomo Electric have jointly published a technical paper which recommends predefined optical blueprints for Mobile Optical Pluggables (MOPA) which connect cell sites to fibre networks. The companies say that streamlining the US$500 million MOPA eco-system will help industry focus on most relevant solutions and facilitate 5G rollouts. The first-time joint industry initiative lays out a set of Mobile Optical Blueprints which describe the most

of available optics strategies makes it easier to design and deploy 5G networks. We are pleased to be joining forces with Ericsson, II-VI, Lumentum and Sumitomo Electric on this vital initiative which will make the choice for fibre even more compelling in the transport domain.”

mechanical characteristics such as form factor, heat dissipation and operational temperature. Ian Redpath, Practice Leader, Transport Networks and Components at Omdia said, “In a 5G world, optical pluggables will be utilised to connect cell sites to the network core. Network operators are currently challenged with assessing many pluggable variations, increasing their qualification work load and slowing time to deploy. MOPA will streamline efforts for the connectivity community, enabling cost reductions and reducing time to deploy.” Stefaan Vanhastel, CTO Nokia Fixed Networks said, “Fibre is a critical component of 5G rollouts and provides unmatched capacity for 5G transport. A clear overview

“As high-capacity and cost-effective optical

solutions are critical to 5G and next-generation mobile networks, we are excited to participate in defining industry requirements which will both help the industry advance and increase the market opportunities for our highly differentiated full- band tuneable pluggable transceiver platform,” said Justin Abbott, Lumentum’s director of Product Line Management, Transmission. “Lumentum has a long history

optimised solutions of optical pluggables and

passive optical components. Recommendations include optical characteristics such as data rates, reach, power, wavelengths as well as


| ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021

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ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021



Demand for new fibre infrastructure and copper replacement has opened new business opportunities for contractors, particularly for those with experience in parallel sectors such as power and utilities. One such company is US-based renewable energy contractor Sentry Electrical Group, which has set up a new division to specifically address the fibre construction market. Optical Connections editor Peter Dykes , shared a screen with Dan Tibbitts , director of Sentry’s Fibre Optic division, to talk strategy.

think there’s a wider range of markets that have developed over the years in the fibre industry. That said, instead of going for the point to point or the campus environment, long-haul is definitely an area we’re targeting.

Having been involved in the renewables market, what made you set up this whole new division? Talking with Norm [Cowden], I knew that Sentry was going after the electrical industrial side and I thought that with my background

What are Sentry’s traditional markets?



These have been more on the electrical side, such as solar transmission and substations for the last 15 years. However, our owner approached me about starting a strictly telecom division to separate out the fibre aspect of the wind and solar projects, because the company was missing out on a lot of the fibre projects within those markets. Also, the company wanted to develop the telecom side, which is where I came in. I’ve been in telecoms for over 25 years and I’ve built a couple companies in the past. Sentry’s founder and president Norm Cowden, thought it would be a great opportunity to start getting into the telecom market, because the electrical side is only a small segment of the fibre optic industry. DT


Are you seeing much traction in the area of copper replacement, or are you mainly putting new fibre in local markets? I think these copper networks have been getting replaced now for around 15 to 20 years here in the States. The limitations on copper


in telecom and the contacts I’ve made over the years, it would be a pretty good fit to bring the telecom side into the company. It’s an awesome opportunity. It’s a little different when you build a company in a market, but it’s a lot different when you’re building it throughout the nation and I’ve had a learning curve with that, but I think the opportunities are endless. The reason I say that is because with long haul fibre, there are so many different applications. The biggest centres are popping up like crazy here. And you know, you’re not just putting in a 144-count cable, you’ll have ten 1728 cables coming in, and so I


are pretty high when you compare it side by side with fibre, particularly in relation to distance, speed and the economic and the environmental impacts. These are huge issues. The copper industry will always be there but it’s been scaled back so much because of fibre.


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I think our record on safety, quality and reliability are our other strong points. The organisation is really big on safety... I’ve raised standards even further and on quality when I turn over our test results, they’re always better than spec.

think that’s why a lot of people go buy a splicer and a trailer and they think they’re a fibre company. A lot of companies come into a project and don’t really understand what they’re doing. They’re in and out, they get their pay cheque and then they leave behind a mess. I’ve definitely seen my share of those, but I think Sentry is going to have a ton of opportunities, and I think our contracts are mainly going to be big telecoms companies. I’m looking at three or four big telecom companies to do their work, which along with the wind and solar projects will balance everything out.

There are new and more advanced splicers coming out on an almost weekly basis. Would you say the design of these devices is making up for the shortage of skilled technicians? Things have definitely changed. When I started, I had to line the fibre up using a scope, which took quite a while. But now, it’s

You said you were going to go for the big trunk routes, but what about FTTx? Do you see Sentry entering that market? We’ve actually just finished a section in the state of Mississippi for a fibre to the home project, and in states such as Mississippi and Texas it’s





going crazy, it’s a huge market. Depending on what segment you’re doing it’s really competitive, but I think it’s more geared towards a single contractor. It’s not for a bigger company like ours, but we took it on anyway to see what that market was like and we’ll definitely entertain it more in the future, as long as it aligns with what we want to do. There isn’t one standard fibre to the home installation, there are so many different applications that you never know what you’re going to get into until you see what equipment is being used.

pretty, easy. So far as Sentry is concerned however, there’s a ton of employment opportunities over here in the States. People can go on job boards, and even Facebook where there are private groups in fibre optics. With the shortage of trained people, replacing technicians is through the roof out here, which tells me that there’s a lot that you can gain in this market, and that’s what our goal is.

Looking ahead, are you planning to operate solely in North America, or are you thinking of entering other markets at some point? I don’t think Sentry will go overseas. We have everything in place in the North American market. It would be interesting to go to other continents



So how does Sentry deal with the skills shortage?


Do you negotiate things like wayleave permission if you have to go across private or government- owned land? We don’t really negotiate much on that aspect. Typically, how it works over here is the contractor or whoever is wanting the work to


because I know the European and Indian markets are going crazy with fibre, but I don’t think we’ll go outside of North America. That said, we do have a presence in Canada, but we haven’t crossed the southern border.

We have four fibre crews who are actually cross trained and know how to blow fibre, which is how I wanted to build it, so if at any point,



we had to pull somebody from a project to build more fibre, they’d be able to do it. We’ve been pretty lucky to find the right people. If they have the character and the quality, people can be taught, which is how I approach building crews.

Apart from previous experience in renewables, what else would you say gives Sentry an advantage in the fibre optic telecoms market? I think our record on safety, quality and reliability are our other strong points. The organisation is really big on safety. As far as quality is


be completed, will have that all negotiated before the contract starts. When we did this fibre to the home job, we ran into a lot of property owner issues and they had to go through the customer to get the okays. What we’ve done with fibre to the home as well as wind and solar, is we’ve signed on to a few companies that do schools. They build networks in-house for school districts, which is more in the telecom line of work. In my past, I’ve done CWDM and DWDM, so when we get those opportunities, I’ll be able to take those on. That said, we’re pretty much turnkey for any fibre installation, particularly as far as blown fibre is concerned. Also, I’m currently working on getting an aerial crew set up to do aerial work, but at present, our forte is splicing.

Where do you see most of the contracts coming from at the moment, transport networks or FTTx? FTTx is probably the biggest. I think fibre to the premises and fibre to the home have always been an evolving market and one that Sentry



concerned, that’s something Sentry has always had, but I feel I’ve raised standards even further and on quality, when I turn over our test results, they’re always better than spec.


was missing out on all of that, but now I’m getting my teeth into it and getting those contracts. From a business perspective however, it’s not a market you’re going to get rich off, it’s a pretty low price range. I

Thank you.



ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021



The pressure on the UK’s broadband network has been intense throughout 2020 and 2021, and will only continue post-pandemic as increasing numbers of homeowners and tenants hybridise home and office-based working. Yet with the UK’s current copper-based infrastructure unable to cope with skyrocketing levels of data demand, new alternatives need to be rolled out quickly. Taking this into account, Paul Churm , Telecommunications Specialist at REHAU Telecommunications UK, explores the technologies available to ensure a fast and effective superfast broadband rollout.

A ccording to figures from the UK’s Office of National Statistics last year, 46.6% of people in employment worked from home in some capacity. But with many reliant on fast internet speeds to effectively carry out their day-to-day duties, a lack of fast broadband speeds could impact both their own and their companies’ overall productivity. Many organisations forced to adapt working habits during the pandemic have taken lessons from this disruption, and now plan to hybridise employee working conditions to include both home and office working. This can be seen from a recent BBC survey of the UK’s 50 biggest employers, where 86 percent of respondents – 43 firms – said they do not plan to bring staff back to the office on a full-time basis.

landline phone communications in mind, rather than the high-speed internet that is now required.

are no longer a luxury for UK householders – they are a necessity.

This is further underlined by the growth of smart, data-intensive technologies that are being introduced into the country’s homes. According to Market Watch, the worldwide smart home device sector is set to rocket in value, growing from US$55billion in 2016 to US$174 billion by 2025, with the UK’s own smart home market – which was worth over £900 million in 2017 – also set for massive expansion.


Statistics from a February 2021 Ipsos MORI report into the Government’s Superfast Broadband Programme also make for interesting reading in this regard. Specifically, while the report shows that while 96 percent of UK homes can access superfast broadband, a previous Ofcom report calculated that 11 million compatible households are missing out on this potentially transformational technology. With the Government pledging to ensure all UK homes have access to gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, the question is simple – how do we ensure these 11 million hard-to- reach homes can be connected? One long-standing option for homeowners could be multimedia over coax (MoCA), which uses copper wiring surrounded by a concentric conducting shield and insulation. Thicker than a standard copper wire this coax cable can transmit larger data packets quicker to the home than its thinner counterpart, which was designed with the phone in mind.


With Market Watch’s projections in mind, uptake of smart technologies has doubtlessly increased since this report was first published. Additionally, innovation within this sector continues apace, with increasingly data-intensive technologies arriving on the market with each passing year. It is therefore clear that the twin pressures of hybrid working and the fast-growing smart technology market represent major challenges for the UK’s broadband infrastructure, which is predominantly copper-based. This is further exacerbated by the fact the network was built with older technologies like cable television and


The fact that flexible smart work models are here to stay is bound to have massive repercussions in a country where only 15% are currently connected to superfast fibre- optic broadband. Simply put, the events of 2020 have shown that fast internet speeds


| ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021


disruption can be more severe. This is because of the effect on the FWA’s virtual routing and forwarding – if impaired, the connection will drop out, leaving any homes reliant on FWA unable to access the internet. The backhaul technology used in FWA solutions also tends to be copper-based, which can be affected by heavy rainfall in the same manner as coax cabling. In such situations, attenuation – the loss of signal strength – may occur. For the increasing number of people working from home or reliant on smart technologies, this is an unacceptable situation.

for innovation. The development of an internally or externally-mounted box that could catch the cable when it enters the property would allow a single installer to quickly connect multiple homes from the distribution point, allowing for easier scheduling with existing homeowners. This, in turn, could allow the supporting installer to be deployed to additional projects, further speeding up superfast broadband rollout in line with government targets. Solutions like REHAU’s new EasyConnect box, which was designed with a house connection micro duct that is automatically sealed, water and gas-tight up to 0.5 bars of pressure, allow such benefits to be realised in a one-visit, one-technician approach. The ‘blowing-in’ process can be further streamlined if ducting up to the cable box on the side of the house had been installed when the property was first constructed. By doing so, a rapid installation within a few hours with best possible internet speeds could be realised when the homeowner requests fibre-optic broadband, as only a few drilled holes for cabling are required.

The key appeal of this technology is that coax capability already exists across the country, with the original thicker wiring firstly being used for cable television, and later by ISPs. Indeed, the technology has progressed over the years to the extent that the latest variation, MoCA 2.5, can support speeds up to 2.5Gb/s. As such, it can be inexpensive and efficient for ISPs to implement.


However, though MoCA is undoubtedly faster than standard copper wiring, the fact it is made of the same material means it is not futureproofed against rising data usage in UK homes. The fact that BT Openreach is planning to retire its copper network by 2025 might also means options to use MoCA technology are limited in the UK. Additionally, problems can still arise when connecting coaxial cables to rural homes from the toby box. A long-standing issue associated with this technology is that due to its thickness and stiffness, its efficacy for data provision declines the longer the cable is to the residence. The cable must also be grounded to avoid interference from the likes of surging power supplies and extreme weather, which could result in further disruption in the future.


Attenuation issues are alleviated in fibre- optic broadband through the use of robust and easy-to-install polymer micro ducts. Fibre-optic technology is traditionally the most high-speed option available to homeowners, and therefore the most ideally placed to handle exponentially growing household data transfer requirements. In order to provide fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connectivity, the cabling can be ‘blown in or pushed’ from the nearby toby box into the residence via these micro ducts, using high-speed compressed air. The cable is then caught on the other side and the home is connected. While simple-sounding, this has traditionally been a complicated process with several barriers for implementation. First and foremost is the fact that two technicians are required to carry out the installation – one at the distribution point, and another within the home to receive the cable. For already- occupied properties all linked up to a single exchange, this can be a logistical nightmare as homeowners’ schedules and ability to attend works can vary massively, resulting in a staggered, time-consuming process of coordinating connections. This problem is further compounded by a UK-wide shortage of skilled fibre technicians. Keeping two personnel on a single site for longer can hamper efforts for larger rollouts and quicker uptake across the nation. Consequently, and given fibre’s status as a high-speed and reliable solution, any innovation that can streamline this process could be key to reaching the goals set out in the Government’s ‘Project Gigabit’ plan – specifically, that all homes should be gigabit-capable by 2025.


Housebuilders are already becoming increasingly aware of this as a selling point for potential new buyers, with Barratt Homes now including ducting to the doorstep as standard on their new residential properties. Similarly, landlords of multi-dwelling units like student accommodation are beginning to realise the benefits of this sort of swift fibre-optic installation, giving occupants access to a vital utility at a rent reflecting this convenience. Such simplicity, combined with the benefits on offer, means it is easier to obtain a wayleave agreement for work on private residential properties. In conclusion, pressures on existing broadband infrastructure due to WFH arrangements and advancing smart technologies means innovation is required to ensure the country is fit for the future. Taking this into account, multiple options are available to ISPs looking to increase uptake and access to superfast broadband in line with the Government’s Project Gigabit targets, including MoCA 2.5, FWA and fibre-optic technology. However, while all come with existing positives and negatives, innovations in the home installation space have made it easier to pass on the benefits of fibre-optic broadband – including a high-speed and reliable connection – with minimal disruption.


Another popular way of implementing fast broadband to hard-to-reach homes is through fixed wireless access technology (FWA), which provides wireless connectivity through radio frequency (RF) links at two fixed points. Though backhaul technology is required to link the distribution point – in this case, a wireless radio tower – to the UK’s wider broadband infrastructure, no cabling is needed from this distribution point to the home. Known as a wireless local loop, this arrangement means FWAs can avoid the ‘last mile’ cabling issues that can be experienced by MoCA networks. This lack of works has resulted in FWA becoming increasingly popular with alternative network providers – networks not dependent on existing broadband infrastructure – in rural settings.


Yet while FWA is undeniably innovative, the reliance on RF signals does present certain drawbacks. Like coax cabling, these signals can be inconsistent and prone to disruption from external events such as electrical storms and power grid fluctuations. However, in contrast its copper-based counterpart, the consequences of this


With this in mind, suppliers such as REHAU have been focusing on cable blowing-in boxes as a potential avenue


ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021




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IT’S ALL ABOUT CLOUD DATA CENTER INFRASTRUCTURE! INPHI BUY-OUT PUTS MARVELL IN PRIME POSITION Fresh from its acquisition of Inphi, Marvell has set out its priorities for the future, backing them up with multiple product launches at OFC. Optical Connections editor Peter Dykes talks to Nigel Alvares, Marvell’s vice president, Solutions Marketing, about the impact of the acquisition and the company’s stated aim to develop and deliver semiconductor solutions that move, store, process and secure the world’s data faster and more reliably than anyone else. M arvell acquired Inphi for an estimated 2018. After we got Cavium into the fold, we determined we needed custom ASIC solutions, so we acquired the former IBM ASIC semiconductor group, Avera Semi, which has a multi-decade track record of delivering complex, large custom ASIC networking and accelerator solutions. Then in 2019 we acquired Aquantia, a leading multi gigabyte PHY technology innovator. Although we were a leader in that space, we acquired them to give us greater scale and expertise to address our growing number of opportunities particularly in automotive. Then in 2021, we acquired Inphi to give us the high-speed electro-optics leadership, and now we have the industry’s most complete data infrastructure portfolio that uniquely positions us in this marketplace.

US$10 billion in stock and cash. Given that in Marvell’s 2021 fiscal year (its 2020 calendar year) the company’s revenues were around US$3 billion company revenue last year, a figure which rises with the Inphi acquisition to around US$3.7 billion, the increase, while not insignificant, could not be considered massive. The point being that this acquisition was less about revenue and more about expertise, with an eye on the future. Indeed, over the last three years, Marvell has been building its know-how with a series of acquisitions, having decided in 2016 that its future focus would be on data infrastructure. Nigel Alvares, Marvell’s vice president, Solutions Marketing told Optical Connections, “Marvell had core assets in storage and networking and we discovered that for us to be a data infrastructure leader, we needed a leading compute and security portfolio, and so we acquired Cavium in


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In what amounts to a statement of intent, Marvell launched new products at OFC 2021. These included the Atlas™ 50Gbps PAM4 DSP chipset solution for high- performance cloud data centre, computing and emerging AI applications, which extends Marvell’s networking portfolio and its addressable market. The company also introduced the industry’s first 1.6T Ethernet PHY with 100G PAM4 electrical input/ outputs (I/Os) in 5nm. Marvell also expanded its Coherent Digital Signal Processor (CDSP) portfolio with the new Deneb™ ultra-low power, multi-mode 400G DSP. Explaining the thinking behind the new products, Alvares said, “If you look inside the data centre, you have servers that talk to top of rack switches that talk to core switches, so you can see where the PAM4 technology sits. If you open a switch box, you have copper links going to the servers, and optical cables going between switches. Depending on the distances, you might have a re-timer or gearbox, depending on the module. So, you can see Marvel now has all these pieces together with Inphi bringing its PAM4 DSP technology into the fold.” Two of the new products in this portfolio, are the Atlas™ which is the next generation of the Polaris™ family, but with more integration. The second is the latest addition to the Alaska™ family, which is the industry’s first 5nm 100G serial solution. Marvell has all the pieces: switches to optical and copper connectivity, spanning all the different capacities, I/Os, and Ethernet ports that connect both downstream and upstream, with a number of different chipsets. “Inphi, has been the PAM4 industry leader since day one, has introduced multiple industry firsts with the Atlas™ product being the latest innovation integrating TIAs and linear drivers into the proven Polaris architecture. We can now enable a 200G optical module, with 25%, less power, 33% less components, produced in a CMOS fab with no package supply chain dependencies.” One other benefit of the latest acquisition has been that the Inphi team are able to produce TIAs and drivers in CMOS. “That’s very important,” says Alvares, “because CMOS yields far greater and there are so many wins with CMOS especially when it comes to power and integration.” When asked what else was on Marvell’s roadmap now the company was so well-positioned to dominate the data centre market, he replied, “Well, we’ve hardly mentioned 5G yet, and that’s a whole other story.” Watch this space…

gives us a very strong presence in the cloud, but we also have an internal start- up focussing on automotive that we’re aggressively investing in. So, with disruptions in that market space with electric vehicles happening, we’ve been investing in data centre on wheels architectures. Essentially, enabling the network in the car with Ethernet solutions and the evolution from legacy proprietary interfaces. With our compute, storage, and maybe in the future with our Inphi optical technology, we’ll be doing some really creative automotive stuff.” However, at present Marvell’s roadmap leads directly towards dominance of the datacentre market. Increasingly, data centre operators are looking to offload CPUs with accelerators and replace them with DPUs (Data Processing Units) components which, says Alvares, were first developed by the Marvell Cavium team. He says, “Storage has been our bread and butter since the company was founded. We’re number one in HDD, SSD and Fibre Channel controllers. Security is the secret that no one knows about, but we are the number one security processor and cloud HSM player. If you go into hyper scaler data centres, you will see the top players use our HSM (Hardware Security Modules) solution, and going forward, we’re going to be talking more about our best-in-class security offerings and capabilities. In addition, the Inphi team brings a number one position in PAM4 DSPs, linear TIAs and drivers and coherent DSPs and Marvell has a number two position in Ethernet switching and copper PHYs.” He added, “So this portfolio, together with Inphi technology, is going to compliment not only our networking switches. You’re going to see the combination of that IP with our processors and storage products in the future as the world becomes more disaggregated. You need high speed connectivity between these components, so the Inphi crown jewels of high-speed electro optics are going to likely be integrated into those products.”

We’re very excited with all the high-speed optical interconnect technology that Inphi brings to the table and how it integrates with our portfolio.” Alvares was also keen to stress that following the acquisition of Inphi, Marvell would be accelerating its R&D efforts to address the rapidly-growing cloud, 5G and automotive opportunities, pointing out that in the last fiscal, Marvell was spending about US$900 million on R&D which was around 30% of revenues. He added, “Inphi was doing it [R&D] at a similar clip, so expect us to continue to invest heavily. This was not an acquisition for nought, it was for accelerating investment and giving us more scale. Also, Inphi had foundry relationships with TSMC and Jazz and we’re strong partners with these foundries, so we’ll continue to partner with them and grow those partnerships. Marvell’s biggest office is in Santa Clara and we have R&D centres all over the world and continue to grow with Argentina as the latest addition from Inphi.” So far as the company’s focus is concerned, it’s firmly on data infrastructure, says Alvares. He explains, “We’re enabling the infrastructure that we’re all relying on so much these days. 5G carrier is a big area where we’re investing aggressively, and if you go into a base station, you’ll see our silicon, from processors to baseband technology. Campus enterprise has been our bread and butter in the past, where we do a lot of Ethernet switches and PHYs. They go into OEM networking gear; we have a lot of shipping silicon going into this type of equipment, which is enabling the evolution to borderless enterprises.” Although Marvell has always been strong on the enterprise side, the acquisition of Inphi significantly increased its presence in the cloud space. Alvares says, “The last couple of years, we’ve been focusing more and more investment in the cloud space. The acquisition of Inphi accelerates that and


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It’s difficult to overstate the criticality of subsea optical systems to the functioning of the planet’s global telecommunications ecosystem, writes John Williamson. One estimate by Pioneer Consulting is that submarine cable fibre systems support 99% of international telecommunications traffic. Market research and consultancy TeleGeography calculates in early 2021 there were approximately 426 submarine cables in service around the world, extending over 1.3 million km. Subsea communications is also a giant business in and of itself. According to a report available from research publishing house StrategyR, the 2020 global market for submarine optical fibre systems was valued at US$14.1 billion, and this could reach US$32.7 billion by 2027.

N otwithstanding the scale of present activity, there’s intense and intensifying pressure to greatly expand the operations and performance windows of subsea optical systems, both by upgrading extant cables and planning and installing new, better-efficient plant. Several factors are at work.

managing director for Western Europe and Middle East at Ciena, also lists PCS, along with soft-decision Forward Error Correction (FEC), nonlinear mitigation techniques, selectable baud, and machine learning–based link monitor metrics that are accessible via open APIs, as some of the technologies that allow operators to massively increase the total information- carrying capacity of existing (and new) submarine cable networks. At the same time, she observes, with some of these technologies, costs are reduced by requiring fewer modems. Meantime, according to Luca Luchesini, Nokia senior director, subsea business development, there’s advances in component technology. He describes the continuous improvement of optical hardware via more sophisticated DSPs and integrated silicon photonics that have almost reached Shannon limit capabilities, and says that most vendors are moving to 7nm technology from previous 16nm and 28nm chipsets. “We can say that these systems allowed on average an additional 10 to 20% gain in terms of overall performance, that is, capacity for the same reach or reach for the same capacity.” He adds that there’s a race on to reach 5nm solutions but that gains here may be not so much in total capacity made available, but in performance and operability such as

practical way of increasing the capacity of an existing cable system is to deploy new terminal equipment - the Submarine Line Terminal Equipment (SLTE) that handles optical-to-electrical-to-optical conversion - at each end. And here, explains Bertrand Clesca, director of client solutions at Pioneer Consulting, coherent transmission has come to the fore. “Developed by Nortel about 12 years ago, optical coherent technology has offered a ten-fold increase in the capacity per fibre pair in the last decade,” he reports. Second generation coherent systems are further expanding subsea fibre capabilities. “We have a whole presentation on the toolkit of features that a modern transponder can use to maximise either the fibre capacity or the wavelength data rate,” states Bennett. “But two of the biggest contributors are Nyquist subcarriers and Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS).” Olivier Courtois, director, submarine product management, strategy and marketing, Alcatel Submarine Networks, reflects that all major vendors have today some kind of PCS-based solution in their catalogues, and PCS has been adopted in virtually all new cable deployments and upgrades over the last couple of years. “Classic modulation schemes like, for example, BPSK/QPSK are by now confined to legacy systems.”

A major one, says Geoff Bennett, Infinera’s director of solutions &

technology, is the circumstance that hyperscale Internet Content Providers (ICPs) are continuing to massively grow their share of international capacity. This is at a time when conventional Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are also exhibiting healthy subsea growth. In addition, he cites the major trend towards direct routes, and instances Ellalink linking Portugal and Brazil, with onward connections at both ends to Spain and the rest of Latin America. “Previously traffic would follow twice the distance – Europe to USA to Brazil,” he observes. “EllaLink’s route will halve the latency for applications like financial trading and gaming.


Since it’s not realistic or economically viable to recover and replace wet plant, the

Virginie Hollebecque, vice president and


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