In this article, we will discuss the top 3 challenges of creating a global digital future and explore their solutions.
This week, members of the Precision OT team are headed to Dallas for Connected America. The theme of the event centers around delivering America’s connected future. In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, the race to create this vibrant digital future, not only here at home but globally as well, is hotter than ever before. However, achieving this goal is not without its difficulties.
Challenge 1. Building The Optical Networks Needed to enable 5G, the IoT and Smart Cities
Building optical networks to enable 5G, the IoT, and smart cities is one of the most significant challenges we face in creating a vibrant global digital future. These technologies require high-bandwidth, high-speed, low-latency connectivity that can only be achieved through deploying more fiber-optic networks. However, the deployment of these optical networks involves massive capital investments and is often complicated by regulatory, technical, and logistical hurdles.
One solution to this challenge has been to leverage existing yet underutilized fiber-optic networks. Many telecom companies have laid fiber-optic cables in the past that have remained unused or underutilized (think dark fiber). These unused fibers can be leased or sold to companies looking to deploy new services such as 5G, the IoT, and smart city applications.
But this doesn’t tackle the most important part of the equation: reducing the capital and operating expenditures of deploying the vast amounts of optical networking infrastructure needed to bring this digital future into reality. When it comes to 5G, network operators (MSOs, MNOs, etc.) need not only versatile, reliable, and cost-effective hardware (i.e., fixed, tunable and bidirectional transceivers, muxes, demuxes, patch cords, cables, jacks, etc.), but also engineering expertise that can tie these products together and ensure they seamlessly interoperate with any pre-existing network components and architectures. The name of the game for network operators is to leverage solutions that can deliver the performance and capabilities they need while staying within limited or compressed budgets – and we can help.
At Precision OT, we offer a complete, flexible and modular Layer 1 solution for 5G connectivity – all backed by a Systems and Field Applications Engineering team with deep knowledge in all things optical networking. While Layer 1 refers to the physical hardware components of a 5G network, leveraging other applications like software-defined networking (SDN) can also help service providers optimize their networks, reduce costs, and improve service agility. In short, making 5G, the IoT and smart cities a reality is not an easy feat, but it can be achieved through working with partners that offer both high-quality equipment that minimizes operating expenditures and vital engineering expertise around systems integration.
Challenge 2. Deploying Fiber Networks in Rural Areas to Bridge the Digital Divide
The digital divide is another significant challenge that needs to be addressed to create a truly global digital future. Rural areas are often underserved or completely unserved, with little or no access to high-speed broadband connectivity. The lack of connectivity in these areas creates a significant disadvantage for residents, making it difficult for them to access essential services such as education, healthcare, and job opportunities.
Deploying fiber networks in rural areas is obviously a necessary solution to bridging the digital divide. However, this is easier said than done, as the cost of deploying fiber-optic networks in rural areas can be prohibitively expensive. Additionally, the low population density in these areas means that service providers may struggle to achieve the economies of scale needed to make fiber-optic deployment financially viable.
One strategy in this area has been to leverage government funding and subsidies that incentivize service providers to deploy fiber networks in rural areas. Governments both in the U.S. and around the world have also been working onreducing regulatory barriers and streamlining permitting processes where possible to make it easier and more cost-effective for service providers to deploy fiber networks in rural areas. But just like in the first challenge, network operators need solutions that can help them reduce their expenditures. Lowering the cost of the many hardware components that go into delivering fiber optic networks in rural areas as well as helping network operators do more with limited fiber is critical in bridging the digital divide.
When it comes to reducing the cost of vital optical equipment, tunable transceivers, for example, offer significant benefits over fixed optics. Unlike fixed optics that are limited to a single wavelength, tunable transceivers can operate across a wide range of wavelengths, making them more flexible and adaptable to changing network requirements. This translates into financial benefits that stem from inventory reduction and improved capacity utilization. Network operators can allocate wavelengths according to their needs without having to spend on additional fixed transceivers and the labor needed to deploy them.
However, it’s not just reducing spending on new infrastructure deployments that can help turn the tide for network operators. Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM), Passive Optical Network (PON) technology, and dual receiver optical modules are just a few examples of solutions that can all play a role in helping network operators do more with limited resources. In rural areas, fiber is scarce and getting the most out of what already exists is paramount. We offer both the hardware and engineering expertise required in these areas to help network operators bridge the digital divide and bring the vast benefits of fiber optic bandwidth to rural areas.
Challenge 3. Finding the Right Partner with Network Systems Integration Expertise
Finding the right equipment manufacturing partner that also has network systems integration expertise is the third significant challenge in creating a vibrant global digital future. Network operators need to partner with equipment manufacturers who can deliver high-quality, reliable equipment that meets their specific needs. However, they also need equipment manufacturers who can help them integrate these products into their existing networks seamlessly, especially in an increasingly vendor-neutral world. It’s not just interoperability that counts, either. Limited budgets are equally as important to address.
For example, at OFC’23, many in our industry were talking about what holds network operators back from making the jump to 400G ZR in the access space. While this standard provides 400Gbps of bandwidth over a single optical wavelength using DWDM, it has a higher power requirement and mandates the purchase of routers and switches with 400G ports. In other words, it means network operators could have to spend more money. With a 100G coherent version of the QSFP28 form factor available, it is possible to use existing equipment and conserve power while delivering the bandwidth needed. Hence, in some ways, the adoption of 400G ZR is limited by the budgets of today’s network operators.
Interoperability is also important as the world of optical networking pushes towards the elimination of vendor lock. While a vendor-neutral world gives network operators a lot more financial power in choosing their network components, it also complicates aspects like installation, maintenance and troubleshooting. As a result, network operators are paying attention to just how well the components they choose can interoperate with the other elements of their networks. Here at Precision OT, we’re big believers in interoperability, having participated in the 400ZR Interoperability Demo of OFC’23 and the 5G xHaul transport solution tested at the O-RAN Alliance’s Global PlugFest in 2021.
Creating a fully global, vibrant, and digital future for all of us to enjoy is a multi-faceted project and one that depends on many variables. However, from the perspective of the optical networking industry, which is providing the foundation for all of this, finding ways to reduce the cost of deploying new equipment while maximizing the potential of existing infrastructure is the winning strategy. And finding a partner that can not only supply those solutions but also the engineering expertise to make them work successfully is vital.
That’s where we come in. We’re not just an equipment manufacturing company. We’re a team of engineers first. Precision OT manufactures, customizes, and tests our equipment to make sure it will work with what you have and according to your goals. It’s a winning combination that we believe is critical to have in a partner, especially as network operators and their vendors work together to create a more connected, digital future, globally. Whatever your networking needs, contact us today!