Technology Trends in a Tumultuous Sea: Is It All About Speed with 5G?

As optical networking technology continues to advance, it often seems that there is a singular focus on network speed above everything else. We have seen this with the 100G (100 Gbps) connections already in common use, with 400G products as they reach scalability, and 800G as it moves toward likely commercial introduction in 2022 or 2023. Earlier this year, Nokia successfully tested a 1 terabit (Tbps) connection in a 7950 XRS router over a pair of single mode fibers, the first commercially viable lab trial at this speed. Even more impressively, a 1 petabit (Pbps) connection over 50km has been successfully tested in a strictly controlled lab setting in the past.

Is this significant? Absolutely. The rate of advancement is staggering: the leap from 1 Gb to 1 Tb is a thousand-fold increase, and 1 Pb is an additional 1,000 times faster than 1 Tb. Therefore, a live 1 Gb link in use today is 1 millionth slower than the experimental 1 Pb connection mentioned above. For context, the transmission of 1 Pbps is the capacity equivalent of sending 5,000 two-hour HDTV videos in a single second. This is a real possibility!

But is speed really all that matters? There is much more to the story.

Beyond Network Speed

In addition to the fastest speeds, the highest reliability is a critical objective for network operators. They typically strive for the “five nines,” or 99.999% of up time. What does that mean in real life? Since there are 8,760 hours in a year, 99.999% uptime means no more than 8 minutes and 45 seconds of network downtime in an entire year…not much room for error. This is why operators build layers of redundancy into their networks.

5G service poses even more reliability challenges. The promise of 5G is Gigabit speed and ubiquitous coverage over a low-latency network. As illustrated above, the speed is easily achievable. However, ubiquity and latency present unique challenges. To reach the “five nines” goal and achieve ubiquity, network designs need to evolve from the current fixed tower designs to macro and micro cells. As a result, 5G services are currently only available in about 12 to 17% of the U.S. Adding to the complexity, the fronthaul architecture needed to achieve the ubiquity target can add latency without proper design and management.

While speed is a significant factor in network performance, it is only part of a complex equation. Ultimately, application of quality high-speed interconnects over a diverse fiber infrastructure is required in order to provide a robust 5G network. Thus, the need for speed is key but it will take excellent planning and execution to resolve the fronthaul connectivity challenges and achieve the desired ubiquity, latency, and “five nines” of reliability.

Champion ONE offers a wide range of optical transceivers, DWDM passive filters, and other network solutions that can help you design and deploy an optimal 5G architecture. For more information, contact our experts today.

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