For nearly 20 years, Light Reading has been reporting on the key developments in the telecom network infrastructure market and that legacy is likely why, each year, there is a flood of entries in the Leading Lights category that is focused on the best optical/Ethernet/broadband product.
This year was no different and, due to the number and quality of the entries, we have something akin to a 'long list' rather than a shortlist of finalists for the award that will be handed to "the company that has developed a potentially market-leading optical/IP/Ethernet product that, through engineering and technical excellence, enables the deployment of profitable next-generation telecom services."
That list runs from access infrastructure vendors, to optical component and system suppliers, to test and measurement companies and network operators that have decided to develop their own gear. Details of the shortlisted entries are below…
The Leading Lights winners, and the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner, which will be held at the Pinnacle Club in Denver, on Monday, May 6, on the eve of the Big 5G Event. Find out about how to book a table and attend the awards dinner by clicking on this link.
Here, in alphabetical order, are some details about the shortlisted entries in the Most Innovative Telecoms Product category:
Calix — AXOS Intelligent Access Edge
In October 2018 Calix announced its Intelligent Access Edge Solution, a new addition to its AXOS platform that eliminates the need to deploy standalone network elements for routing, subscriber management and aggregation and replaces them with software modules that can be housed in a single location.
The vendor cites capex and opex gains from the deployment of the new additions to its software-defined portfolio and namechecks Verizon and the UK's CityFibre as operators taking advantage of the capabilities.
Ciena — WaveLogic 5
Ciena has been delivering optical transport innovation to the matket for more than 20 years and continued that trend early this year with the unveiling of its WaveLogic 5 programmable coherent modem platform.
WaveLogic 5 comes in two forms. Extreme, which provides programmable capacity in 50G increments from 200G up to 800G, "leapfrogs emerging 600G solutions," boasted Ciena in its Leading Lights submission. Nano, meanwhile, is designed for low-power, metro-type applications that come with specific space, power and temperature requirements and enables capacity from 100G to 400G.
With WaveLogic 5, "operators can realize the best network economics for all applications with the architecture they want -- everything from integrated, multiservice optical transport and packet networking systems to application-specific, interoperable pluggable optical interfaces," noted Ciena.
CommScope — FIST modular splice closure
There are some parts of the industry that struggle to attract any glamor: Passive field enclosures fall into that category.
But that doesn't mean there isn't very useful and noteworthy innovation in this space: As CommScope noted in its entry, operators "need to deploy fiber faster, with both shorter product lead times and faster response times for field upgrades… splice closures need to support faster and simpler installations that can be completed by field teams requiring less training."
So in March this year, CommScope unveiled its FIST modular splice closure, which allows technicians to work on individual fibers without opening the whole closure unit. "It was specifically designed to simplify, speed and reduce the cost of connecting fiber, and gives customers an optimized solution for air blown cable/micro tube fiber network applications," noted the vendor. The product has eight interchangeable cold seal segments, accommodates a wide range of cables and microtubes (1-27mm), has wrap-around gel seals and fully removable cable attachments that allow remote cable preparation or two-man installation to expedite rollouts.
For field operations teams, this kind of product innovation packs a punch.
Huawei Technologies — Huawei CloudEngine 16800
Data center developments are as important as any to help make the communications services sector as efficient as possible and Huawei is one of the companies that has been focusing its R&D on this area as well as the wide area network for some years.
In January it announced its CloudEngine 16800, a data center switch with an embedded, energy-efficient AI chip that, the vendor's submission stated, "provides real-time learning and training capabilities and uses the innovative iLossless algorithm" to help achieve zero packet loss and low latency.
Huawei has also integrated a "centralized network analyzer and distributed AI O&M architecture" that can identify faults in seconds and locate them in minutes, "helping to accelerate the advent of autonomous driving networks."
The new platform also incorporates a 48-port 400GE line card per slot to meet the "requirements of the sharply increasing traffic in the AI era." Huawei also claims the CloudEngine 16800 enables significantly reduced power consumption, a vital metric in data center environments.
Incognito Software — Incognito Fiber Service Orchestration Solution
With multiple demands placed on fixed broadband networks, more operators are deploying fiber in their access networks than ever before. But rolling out and then managing these networks is complex.
That's why Incognito Software launched its Fiber Service Orchestration Solution in November 2018 to address operational challenges and help network operators transition from copper to fiber make the most of their greenfield deployments.
A vendor-neutral software system, the orchestrator uses an abstraction later to help enable service fulfilment in hybrid environments, supporting processes such as device discovery (TR-069, DOCSIS, SNMP, IoT), diagnostics and provisioning, as well as service activation for specific access systems from major broadband equipment vendors. And of increasing importance for service providers, the software supports the management of hybrid service mixes, enabling operators to combine traditional media/video services and OTT services in a single product.
Iskratel — SI3000 Lumia dual-nature GPON OLT
Slovenia's Iskratel has been in philosophical mood lately, delving into the minds of fixed broadband access network planners and attempting to answer some of the biggest questions, such as – how can I introduce NGPON and virtualize my central office (CO) at the same time?
That's a headache for many operators as they size up the challenges that 5G will bring, but the Iskratel team believes it has the answer – address the challenge in two independent steps. It is addressing that challenge with its SI3000 Lumia system, a "dual-nature GPON OLT" that "lets operators migrate to a virtual CO first while continuing to use their existing OLT hardware… after having managed that -- and feeling safe having vOLTHA and similar acronyms tamed -- they can go forward and upgrade to multi-gigabit PON," noted Iskratel in its submission.
That's because Iskratel now offers a single OLT with "two distinct natures," as a result of developments announced in late 2018. The OT can operate conventionally or as a disaggregated OLT that is compatible with ONF CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter) and vOLTHA (Virtual OLT Hardware Abstraction) specifications. "Software-configuration options alone dictate the nature and behavior of this network processor-based box," noted the Iskratel team, enabling an operator to switch from a traditional OLT deployment to a disaggregated model without any hardware upgrade – "they just paint the boxes white" joke the Slovenians. "Relieved from virtualisation-related risks, the operators will proceed to introduce multi-gigabit NGPON with more confidence," the vendor's team added. The result is a proposition that should be "sheer beauty and poetry for any CFO's ears."
Juniper Networks — Juniper Network Silicon Photonics (Si-Pho) technology
As befits any major transport equipment vendor, Juniper is not only building cutting-edge systems but developing its own specialist components too.
At this year's OFC event in San Diego, the company showed off its Silicon Photonics (Si-Pho) technology, enabled by its 2016 acquisition of Aurrion, in a 400G pluggable solution. The company has integrated all optical transceiver photonic elements (including lasers and detectors) within a single silicon photonic die, a move that Juniper believes will disrupt "traditional high-speed pluggable ecosystems that are specialized, diverse and labor intensive."
To achieve this, Juniper integrated indium phosphide (InP) materials into existing silicon wafer processing flows, enabling light to be generated or amplified on a chip.
In addition, Juniper noted in its submission that it can conduct 100% wafer level testing, a move that results in "unprecedented yield levels." In addition, Juniper notes that its Si-Pho transceiver solution is "agnostic to module form factors (QSFP, QSFP-DD, OSFP) and can be integrated alongside a packet forwarding engine as part of a single board packaged solution."
Keysight Technologies — AresONE-400GE
No emerging technology can make the cut unless there are test tools to check performance metrics, so Keysight made some noise in June 2018 when it introduced its AresONE-400GE test solution, which it claims is the "densest, multi-form factor (QSPF-DD and OSFP) test solution for 400GE."
The test tool, optimized for the minimum possible rackspace, power and cooling, is designed to test high-port-density devices such as routers, switches and servers for all Ethernet speeds (50GE to 400GE) based on the IEEE802.3bs and IEEE802.3cd standards and can run layer 2/3 service emulation tests at speeds from 50 Gbit/s to 400 Gbit/s using IxNetwork software.
Keysight noted in its submission that testing 400GE requires high density platforms that have, until now, required "racks of expensive power-hungry equipment that require hardware upgrades," but it is now offering an alternative that comes in a 2 rack-unit (RU) form factor that, it claims, has "four times more ports per RU than any other product."
SK Telecom — High Capacity Mobile Fronthaul Solution: 5G-PON
Sometimes, network operators feel they're better off developing their own networking tech to meet their exacting requirements and that's what SK Telecom has done for its 5G fronthaul needs.
The South Korean operator, which has now launched its initial 5G services, started developing its 5G-PON fronthaul system in 2016 and in February this year unveiled a production-ready version that supports the 5G New Radio (NR) fronthaul interface.
The product is a WDM-PON system based on CWDM sub-channel technology that enables sub 0.5 microsecond latency over distances up to 20km. SK Telecom says the system reduces its TCO (total cost of ownership) by 26% compared with an active fronthaul transport solution and offers considerable gains in space, power consumption and cooling requirements. Overall, the operator believes this system is giving it a 67% opex saving over alternatives at a fraction of the capital cost.
5G-PON, noted the operator in its submission, "enables easy expansion of [the] fronthaul network by being able to simply install base stations and antennas without additional distribution/transport networks infrastructure and optimizes cost while enables flexible configuration and installation… 5G-PON will be able to address the backhaul/fronthaul transport demand challenges cost-effectively in the 5G era."
Tejas Networks — TJ1400 Ultra-converged Broadband Product Family
In February this year Tejas unveiled its TJ1400 broadband access/edge product family that is designed to gives network operators a quick and easy way to launch broadband access services over any medium, from fiber (FTTx) to copper to wireless.
The system integrates wireless -- an LTE eNodeB, upgradable to 5G – with a GPON OLT and active Ethernet capabilities with a range of transport interfaces (including OTN, IP, MPLS-TP, ERPS) that support services speeds up to 100GbE.
The platform also supports SDN management and is ready to be upgraded for 5G and the fronthaul standards (CPRI/eCPRI) that support next-generation mobile broadband.
The system is flexible and adaptable, giving network oeprators useful options for their broadband stratregies.
Wave2Wave Solution — ROME 64Q and 128Q Robotic Fiber Switches
Wave2Wave has focused its attentions on a very particular part of the networking process -- optical fiber patching. With its ROME 64Q and 128Q Robotic Fiber Switches, unveiled in November 2018, it is tackling the challenges operators face in reconfiguring the optical layer to peer networks or implement new services.
Such processes take weeks and are manual, so therefore prone to errors. Wave2Wave is addressing this with MPO, which enables the introduction of automated processes to the task of connecting transceivers: The ROME switches have "direct MPO patch panel interfaces [that]… bring the benefits of physical layer automation to evolving telco networks," it noted in its submission.
The switches, which work with both single and multi-mode fibers, dynamically configure fiber cross-connects at layer 0, enabling fiber connections to be made "automatically, remotely, quickly, and without on-site manual intervention." The systems are can communicate with SDN and OSS software to enable multi-layer management via a single interface.
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading