Summer 2018 Optical Connections Magazine


we are upgrading the capability of our networks towards higher throughputs,” says Yves Bellego, director of network strategy. “We launched 1Gbps symmetrical FTTH offers in Spain for the enterprise market and demonstrated 25 Gbps at the beginning of 2018. We will continue to upgrade our networks so that we can deliver higher speeds as markets mature.” The company is also looking at 5G as a viable option in suburban areas in certain countries, he adds. Like other companies, Orange’s financial investment is confidential but its 2018 CapEx is set to be around €7.4 billion, following on from its 2017 CapEx of €7.2 billion. CREATIVE SOLUTIONS It is clear networks are growing, but this desire for higher capacity and faster speeds ultimately places the biggest burden on the engine that drives it all - the core network. “The core is really important,” says Professor Andrew Lord, head of optical research at BT. “It has to sit in the background not being noticed, not being a bottleneck for lots of other capacity applications that are being carried over it.” While Wavelength-Division Multiplexing (WDM) and coherence may have helped accommodate growing demands over the past two decades, growth rates of 30%-50% mean it’s vital for network providers to stay ahead of the game. You can put more fibre in, says Lord, but you start to hit barriers. “It’s taking up more space, using more power and costing ten times as much. It helps to some extent but it’s not the solution. The industry has always looked for creative solutions that grow at the same rate without taking up the same amount of space, cost and power.” These ‘creative solutions’ involve innovative technology that goes across both core and access networks. When it comes to core networks, it’s about looking at whether it is possible to get more out of existing fibre - eliminating the need to keep putting more fibre in. One method BT is looking at is its Flexgrid infrastructure, which makes it possible to carve up the spectrum more effectively. Other innovations include Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), which can increase the amount of traffic travelling through the same fibre optic cable and Software-Defined Networking (SDN), which Lord says will help give “much more dynamic, flexible control of my overall network resources”. At Orange, Bellego says they anticipated the growth in traffic and in customer’s speeds. “One consequence is the need to connect radio sites with fibre. At Orange, we’ve been aware of the demand for high bandwidth services for quite some time and addressed this by investing heavily in fibre, including in FTTN, [although] this wasn’t necessarily

Orange is investing heavily in fibre for backhaul

the case for the rest of the industry. We also anticipated that the pain points for our customers are evolving. With 4G+ and FTTH, access is no longer the bottleneck, neither in throughput nor in latency. This led us to work on solutions to improve the performance of the home network, on content delivery networks and caching. When it comes to its fibre, Orange’s FTTH GPON has the capability to evolve smoothly towards XGS-PON to deliver high throughput,” says Bellego. “The initial investment is mainly in the passive optical fibre layout, and the upgrade is done without any impact on the optical tree.” In addition, outside dense areas Orange is also testing millimetre wave, which could allow a fibre-like experience using a higher band of 24-28GHz. ALL TOGETHER NOW Expanding networks isn’t just about the fibre, Professor Lord reminds us. New technology requires new switches and new amplifiers, requiring network expansion which in turn means collaboration. Professor Lord recently chaired a workshop at the OFC Conference involving major players such as Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, Huawei and Facebook. “These are the companies that matter, all needing to use lots of spectrum in the future,” he says. “There were some differences but also some very common messages on how we make use of fibre in the future. That’s why BT’s research and innovation team undertakes plenty of ‘pre’ research as well as collaborating. We really want solutions that fit our country and the UK has its own particular geography and environment.” That means projects such as Flexgrid aren’t done alone but

with partners such as Huawei or Ciena as well as academic institutions like the University of Cambridge, he adds. Orange also sees the value in collaborating with partners, says Bellego. “We are working with partners in the telecom industry to evaluate the performance of technologies in real conditions, to guide the choice of the most promising technologies to accommodate new uses and the needs of our customers. It’s these tests and trials that enable us to assess cost and gain the experience necessary to design our networks for the next decade, for 5G, for the evolution of FTTH, for virtualised networks. One example is Orange’s collaboration with Huawei looking at 5G as well as a partnership with Nokia and Kathrein to design a smart antenna that manages 4G/5G connectivity.“ That kind of partnership work is vital for one major area of network expansion - 5G. It’s an area Orange is focusing on alongside maintaining its position when it comes to FTTH which it says will “enable Orange to capture new commercial opportunities such as on demand services, while continuing to optimise backbone network costs”. “We are actively preparing for the arrival of 5G as we strongly believe that it will enable the development of radically new uses,” says Bellego. “Today, we are embarking on a series of trials and tests. The first 5G smartphones should arrive in 2019, which will then allow us to start deploying some pilot cities. We expect to see a wider range of terminals in 2020. In Orange countries, 5G deployments will be phased in according to the availability of frequencies and the growth of uses, which we believe is possible from 2020.”


ISSUE 13 | Q2 2018

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