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As Sales Boom, Ciena Hits the 800G Transmission Mark

Kelsey Kusterer Ziser
3/5/2019
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SAN DIEGO -- OFC 2019 -- The Ciena team is smiling broadly here in San Diego. Not only does the company have its recently launched WaveLogic 5 programmable coherent modem platform to show off, it reported a 20.5% year-on-year increase in fiscal first quarter revenues just before the OFC show floor doors were opened.

Revenues leaped to $778.5 million, operating margins (before one-time costs) hit 9.6%, up from 6.3% a year ago, and earnings (again before one-time costs) hit 33 cents per share compared with 15 cents per share a year ago. The numbers exceeded Wall Street's expectations.

The only downside? Following a 36% rise in its share price in the past six months, Ciena's stock took a 3.7% hit Tuesday morning, dipping to $41.25, even though its financials exceeded expectations.

That shouldn't dampen the Ciena team's mood too much, though -- the company is on a roll.

Late last month, and just before the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Ciena planted its flag in the 800 Gbit/s transport networking hill with the launch of WaveLogic 5, the successor to its successful Wavelogic Ai programmable solution. And with its target market so divergent these days -- webscale giants, large enterprises and cable companies as well as telcos -- Ciena has developed its latest high-spec component in two flavors, WaveLogic 5 Extreme (WL5e) and WaveLogic 5 Nano (WL5n), with commercial availability from the end of this year.

The WL5e platform provides programmable capacity in 50G increments, from 200G up to 800G. Ciena claimed this will be the first single-wavelength 800G solution in the market that delivers "50% more capacity per wavelength and up to 20% higher spectral efficiency" over competitive 600G offerings. In addition, WaveLogic 5 Extreme can provide 400GbE across metro or subsea links.

Jimmy Yu, VP of Microwave Transmission and Mobile Backhaul and Optical Transport Market Research for Dell'Oro Group, said Ciena's WaveLogic Extreme will be the first commercially available 800G coherent modem. Both Ciena's WL5e and WL5n will be available during the second half of 2019, and will also be "available for use in third-party equipment via Ciena's Optical Microsystems portfolio," according to the vendor.

In addition to delivering up to 800G capacity, Yu said the WaveLogic 5 Extreme will also extend capacity capabilities over long-haul applications. "Now they're able to take 400Gbps signal over a longer span. We always talk about the highest speed of the modem, but there are two aspects. One is that the modem allows for 800G over short distances, which is great for customers that need to go under 200km or 100km -- there's a market for that. Right now, the Ciena solution is 400G."

Current coherent modems deliver capacity up to 200 Gbit/s over 1,000km, but the 800G-capable modem would provide long-haul transmission up to 400 Gbit/s, said Yu.

The WaveLogic 5 Nano is designed for customers with specific space, power and temperature requirements and delivers bandwidth from 100G to 400G, and is designed for "low-power metro-type applications," noted Yu.

WaveLogic 5 also utilizes Ciena's own electro-optic components which the company has now started to develop in-house using the technology is gained via the acquisition of TeraXion in early 2016. This, according to Helen Xenos, senior director of Portfolio Marketing, gives Ciena more control over the design cycle, reduces reliance on third-party vendor solutions and lowers costs for both Ciena and its customers.

(L to R) Rick Hamilton, Senior Vice President of Blue Planet Software at Ciena; and Helen Xenos, Senior Director, Portfolio Marketing for Ciena met with Light Reading at MWC 19.
(L to R) Rick Hamilton, Senior Vice President of Blue Planet Software at Ciena; and Helen Xenos, Senior Director, Portfolio Marketing for Ciena met with Light Reading at MWC 19.

"WaveLogic 5 Extreme provides transport of 400GbE services anywhere -- from long-haul 4,000KM distances to trans-pacific 10,000KM distances," said Xenos. "WaveLogic 5 Nano helps service providers and cable operators get the flexibility, scale and ease of use benefits closer to the access network."


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Sterling Perrin, principal analyst of Optical Networking and Transport at Heavy Reading, explained that Ciena is also taking a different approach with the WaveLogic 5 by launching two development tracks, the Extreme and Nano versions. Historically, Ciena launched "new designs for performance, and positioned the older generation for less demanding applications," stated Perrin.

It should be noted, though, that Ciena isn't the only systems vendor touting 800 Gbit/s capabilities at OFC this week: Infinera is demonstrating its sixth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine, ICE6 at OFC this week, which will also enable 800 Gbit/s single-wavelength transmission, though its systems based on that technology will not hit the market until the second half of 2020.

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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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