NICE, France -- NGON & DCI World 2019 -- Anyone hoping for a major boost in spending on optical networking systems in the build-up to 5G launches will have been disappointed, according to market data revealed here at the annual gathering of Europe's transport networking market in Nice.
The overall value of the global optical network equipment market has been around $15 billion per year for the past decade, with some variations from year to year, noted Ian Redpath, who leads the Optical Networks, Optical Components and Core Switching practice at research house Ovum. How that money has been spent has shifted though, with a greater percentage of overall spend going towards metro optical networks as the years have progressed.
More specifically, increasing amounts of capex have been spent on what Redpath calls "purpose-built DCI" (data center interconnect) equipment: That market has grown from almost nothing in early 2015 to be a $1 billion-plus market in 2018.
But there's hope on the horizon, it seems. Redpath expects the market to break that $15-billion trend in the next five years as 5G strategies crystalize, large enterprises invest in optical systems, and 5G transport investments finally start to kick in, especially at the edge of the network: If the Ovum man's crystal ball is in good working order, the market could grow by more than a third by 2023.
That's good news for the likes of Ciena, Nokia, Huawei, Infinera, ADVA, ECI, Cisco, Fujitsu, ZTE, Ekinops and others who would welcome any increased spend on optical networking systems.
Other snippets from the proceedings here in Nice include:
Just like any other sub-set of the telecom sector, automation is a significant topic in the optical transport market. Mattias Fridström, chief evangelist at Telia Carrier, noted that his team is working with a Swedish university on the development of a tool that can "predict failures in our network and it's starting to show good results … we need more automation so that we can predict the next failures in our [line] cards." Fridström said the current efforts are based only on data sets that Telia Carrier has and that he's seeking to gain access to anonymized data from vendor partners that might make such automated predictive analysis even more accurate.
Telecom Italia's Rossella Tavilla, a long-time optical network engineer, also highlighted the desire for greater automation in the national operator's transport networks: During a keynote presentation here she noted that the introduction of SDN controllers that can enable automated network management processes is part of the operator's next-generation optical plans.
It's still early days, though. Emir Halilovic, principal analyst on the Service Provider Infrastructure team at research firm GlobalData, noted there's a "lot of work going into this from vendors, and the operators want greater automation too," but added that "we are a long way from having automated networks."
It's still early days for optical disaggregation too, noted Halilovic. The industry has been talking for a few years now about the move to more modular and interoperable optical sub-systems that can be stitched together in multivendor deployments to suit specific operator requirements, but Halilovic admitted "we're not seeing much in the way of deployments … all the carriers have been talking about some level of activity and have been experimenting with different approaches to disaggregated optical systems, but there's a long way to go and [currently] very little in production networks."
The elephant in the room here is what impact the current pressures put on Huawei might have on the optical supply chain, not only in the short term but looking further ahead too. Might a new breed of optical component vendors based in Asia emerge to supply Huawei if restrictions on sales to the Chinese giant by US suppliers persists? Such questions are not popular -- the topic is seemingly too sensitive for anyone to want to talk about. GlobalData's Halilovic was the only person on the first day of this event to make any kind of comment: He believes that "if the [optical] supply chain fractures there will be duplication and that will lead to sub-optimal results."
A big thank you from everyone attending this event goes out to optical components and fiber giant Corning, which has sponsored a coffee truck on the show floor with proper baristas and quality beans (from Kenya). Every industry event should have one of these…
Bless You, Corning!!
Corning's coffee cart... this was before the show floor opened and the only time there wasn't a queue to a 'hit'...
Power efficiency is cropping up more and more as a major topic at event such as this and OFC. Telia Carrier's Fridström noted that "30% of our costs is power consumption and the price is not going down … we need to find ways to consume less power."
Optical components specialist ProLabs, one of the vendors showing off its wares here in Nice, is using this show to launch its Optical Channel Monitor (for remote monitoring of wavelengths) into the European market. It's also pitching a number of products for the DCI and 5G transport markets. For more details, see this press release.
ADVA Optical Networking also had product news, with the boast that its FSP 3000 TeraFlex terminal can help optical network operators to boost their network capacity to carry up to 30x more traffic using "fractional QAM capabilities." For the full details, see this announcement.