August 25, 2020

From 10G to 400G: The Evolution of Next-Gen Optical Transport

The exponential demand for connectivity and bandwidth driven by cloud computing, video streaming, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and more is pushing the limits of 100G. In fact, Cisco predicts that Global IP traffic will reach 396 exabytes per month by 2022, up nearly 3x from 122 exabytes per month in 2017. It’s humbling to think that, only 50 years ago, the first viable optical fiber was deployed.

MSOs, carriers, cloud service providers, enterprise networks and data centers are under the most pressure and, in turn, have the most to gain with 400G. Many are even leap-frogging past 200G, jumping from 100G to 400G to have a scalable solution in place in anticipation of further spikes in demand now and in the future.

Last year, Dell’Oro Group predicted that demand for 100G Ethernet switch ports would reach its height in 2020, comprising roughly 30% of the market over the five years to come while 400G port sales grow over that same timeframe. The analyst firm stated that 400G likely will not see strong adoption this year due to a supply shortage of high-volume, low-cost optics. The optical components sector has been working hard to alleviate those concerns.

400G Optical Network Hardware Powering

To keep pace with this demand, the hardware that moves data must evolve to meet the need. High bandwidth network centers have largely turned to fiber optics to move data. Converting the optical signals into electrical signals requires fiber optic transceivers and much of the bandwidth capability is related to how these devices transmit data.

PAM4: The 400G Short-Haul Solution

Many are choosing to implement a Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM) utilizing PAM4, a modulation scheme that combines two bits into a single symbol with four amplitude levels. This effectively doubles a network’s data rate, enabling 400G for short-haul transmission, generally used up to about 10 km.

Furthermore, the move to single wavelength 100G would take less space and power than previous solutions. It is estimated that a single 100G line would reduce the costs by at least 40%, as compared to the 4x25G architecture. This architecture would also allow four lanes of 100G to communicate at 400G data rates and could also allow 100G to utilize WDM technologies.  

Coherent Transceivers: The 400G Long-Haul Solution

While PAM offers reliable signal transmission at limited distances, coherent detection through various techniques allows for phase, amplitude and polarization modulation to be used to transmit data. This technology opens the possibility of greatly increasing transmission range while operating at data rates beyond 100G.

Precision OT’s Role in 400G Adoption

Our team at Precision OT has long had our sights on innovating 400G optical networking solutions. We offer a line of 400G optical transceivers leveraging both QSFP-DD and OSFP form factors. All of these solutions offer the short lead times and NEM compatibility that we are known for. Other benefits include:

  • Support for distances between 100m and 10km
  • Designed to help network operators add capacity in a smaller footprint
  • Leverages single lambda 100G networking, which dramatically reduces costs over typical 4x25G architecture
  • PAM4 four lane modulation enabling 400G data rates

Networks are evolving at an incredible pace to keep up with demand – contact us today to learn how we can support your 400G needs.

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