Optical Connections Magazine Spring 2022


it means that they’re headed our direction.

incumbents who have built proprietary technology and we want to be a more open alternative to them, so that’s why we think it’s disruptive and special. The idea of having a more interoperable, more open architecture is pretty appealing and we’ve had a number of wins with the new product, probably the largest is with Rogers, in Canada. Ribbon was selected to help rebuild their Metro optical network and upgrade the 400G. So we’re hopeful that we’re really building some momentum around our 400G ZR+ solution.

yet what it means in a big way, but to give you a couple examples; probably six or seven years ago, Comcast here in the US, decided they wanted to take advantage of public cloud more effectively, so for years now, they’ve had an architecture that allows them to overflow into the public cloud, while they’ll do computing in their private cloud. If they need to spin up more capacity for their video service or their broadband service, they’ll spill into public cloud. That’s a really interesting way of getting the economics of private cloud and getting the flexibility to expand into public clouds.

What about the challenges of transitioning from non- standalone to standalone? I


would imagine further investment will be required for operators to do that.

Most of them are taking an evolutionary approach. There’s obviously, a big sense of urgency


to add more capacity and get more efficiency on the spectrum. So starting with a non-standalone implementation makes a lot of sense. But to really realise the benefits of 5G services, that’s where the standalone version comes in. In North America I think, T Mobile has got a standalone version operational now, and I know Rogers has claimed to have the first 5G standalone implementation in Canada, but I think it’s still pretty early days right now. PD Turning to Ribbon’s optical transport strategy, the company claims that its 400G ZR+ pluggable is ‘market disrupting.’ How do you justify that claim? I’ll give you the long answer to that question. The optical layer of the network, the transport layer, which started with SDH has evolved over time to WDM, has been a very specialised BM proprietary technology for generations, meaning once you pick a vendor and their implementation, you’re really locked into what they do. So in the early days, it was Nortel, Bell Labs and a few others, including the likes of Alcatel providing that technology. Today, 20 to 30 years later, it’s still proprietary, it’s still locked in on either end of the pipe. So what the industry has been working on the last couple years, and it’s been it’s been a dream for a long time, is to provide a more interoperable open ecosystem around the transport layer. The first version of this called ZR or ZR+, promises the ability of interoperability between vendors on either end. So, we’ve adopted that as kind of the mantra for our solution, and we’ve introduced 400G ZR+, which is the version of the standard that is full-featured and gives you long fibre runs. On our platform now, you can use plug-in modules, basically a fibre plug in modular form, that’s 400 gigabit per second on a single wave, and I think we’re the first ones to do that. People are using it for data centres and for very short fibre runs, but we’re really the first ones to put this on the market for use in regional networks. It’s totally different than what you’ll buy from any of the other

What sort of distances can you get with the 400G ZR+?


From Ribbon’s point of view, does 5G present any particular challenges? I have two specific thoughts on that, involving both our fibre optic transport products and the IP


One of the benefits of 400G ZR+ technology is it can increase and decrease the modulation and


speed to take into account the fibre link. So up to about 600 kilometres, you can get 400G full line rate. Basically, if you need to go longer, you can lower the modulation and the speed and go much longer distances. So we can do short runs or long runs, it doesn’t matter. And we can gear it up and down, and we can actually bond two of the modules together, if you need faster speed, and we can also bond them together virtually to create super-channels.


switching and routing products. As networks move from 4G to 5G, investment is being driven around those platforms. When expanding capacity for 5G you need more bandwidth, more connectivity, and of course the cell sites are reducing in size, so you need more fibre connectivity out to the edge, so 5G is a big catalyst. As you move to 5G standalone, you move to more advanced services, things like private enterprises and private slices of the network that have different SLAs and different characteristics which extend into both the optical network and the IP network. So, we built some special capabilities into the product that provide the ability to create network slices and firewall traffic, and handle the packets differently. So that’s when 5G becomes really interesting when you can start to run some of those advanced services. For the most part, that’s not happening in a big way today. Most of what’s getting deployed for 5G first of all, is non- standalone. Operators are using the existing 4G core and just augmenting capacity. But over time, there’s going to be more and more standalone networks. I was in India a couple of weeks ago, meeting with our customers and they’re trying to figure out the business case around 5G. They just spent a bunch of money to roll out 4G, and it’s going to cost many billions of dollars to put 5G in. How do you justify that kind of investment just for more bandwidth when the revenue for every user isn’t going up? And so they’re really looking at how do they deploy some of these advanced services, how do they run more private networks? That’s good from Ribbon’s point of view though, because

How is the company set up at present and how do you intend to take it forward?


BM We have two businesses today, we have a strong voice business with all the big carriers around the world, and somewhere around 20% - 25% market share. It’s a very profitable business and generates good cash flow for the company, however our real strategic objective is to grow to be a stronger player around optical transport and IP networking. We’re a small player there today but the way we’re going to do that is basically cross selling. To every customer I’m selling voice to today, I want to be able to sell the rest of the portfolio. Having worked with large carriers for years I know that’s not easy, but we’ve been making really good progress relative to how our competition is valued. I only joined the company a year and a half ago and have brought in new leadership, so we’ve got a really energised set of leaders in the company that have done business in this segment for years. We have a long way to go for investors to see the growth in the company, but as we do, I think we’ll become a much more valuable company. It’s really exciting and I think it’s fun to be the underdog.



ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022

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