If the past year could be defined by a few big headlines, one would be “Economic Crunch Hasn’t Slowed Urgency for Network Capacity.” Or how about “Network Players Constantly Evolving Business Models to Support New Era of Connected Living”?
These overarching themes will keep evolving in 2013. As the world becomes increasingly connected and mobile, all of the tech companies that touch the network are pushed to find new ways to remain relevant to survive. They must continue honing their business models and operations for maximum efficiency in an unpredictable economic environment. They must continue building out faster and more flexible networks to support increasing and more random traffic patterns. And they must continue to create innovative products and services that support our need for instant access via new apps and the next shiny and new connected device that captivates us based on increasingly shorter product cycles.
This is not breaking news, but themes that will intensify throughout 2013. Here’s a look at how these themes will play out in various aspects of optical networking.
Network providers rally behind 100G, self-aware networks; 400G on the horizon
To bolster and speed up network infrastructures, network operators began volume implementations of 100G optical equipment in 2012. 100G took off much more quickly than 40G, as all network players bought into to the overarching need for 100G and developed a healthy supply chain with a variety of competing building blocks.
Many experts believe 100G will play a central role in transmission much the way 10G did in the past. 100G creates a new baseline for network performance by using bandwidth in an efficient way; it aligns with 100GbE standards, and today’s 100G technology is expected to serve as the foundation for higher transmission line rates in the future.
With 100G in full swing in 2013, many will look ahead to 400G. Most agree that 400G will be implemented in two forms with either four 100G dual-polarization quadrature phase-shift keying (DP-QPSK) modulated wavelengths or two 200-Gbps wavelengths encoded with dual polarization 16QAM. Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks. DP-QPSK modulation provides better performance over long distances but consumes more spectrum within the fiber; 16QAM suffers from shorter reach but offers more efficient spectrum use.
The 16QAM option will likely be a good fit for areas of high population density, such as Europe and the East Coast of the United States, where the end-to-end service distances are shorter. The DP-QPSK option will be necessary where distances between major population centers are greater, such as the rest of North America. Since many of the technologies for 400G are very similar to 100G and exist today, the industry could see initial deployments in late 2013 or early 2014.