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Surge in Speeds: 100G networks becoming a reality with technology evolution

July 27, 2015
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Mobile telephony has been evolving at a rapid pace. Between 2000 and 2010, the communications industry was largely based on 2G. It then transitioned to 3G and began delivering a data throughput of 384 kbps-2 Mbps. After the recent launch of 4G services by various operators, data speeds in the range of 45-100 Mbps are on offer. Meanwhile, 5G trials have started taking place with data download speeds of 1-10 Gbps. Such speeds will facilitate machine-to-machine communications and the Internet of Things. All these transitions are being supplemented by the phenomenal growth of smart devices and smartphones across the nation.

There has been data usage growth of around 30 per cent on a yearly basis over the past five years, and this figure will continue climbing. This year, there has already been an increase of 39 per cent in traffic over the previous year in the content delivery network itself. More than 62 per cent of all internet traffic is soon going to be on the delivery side. According to studies, the annual data traffic, which stood at 1.8 Exabytes in 2012, will grow to 20 Exabytes by 2020. All this will culminate in an increased demand for bandwidth, which operators will have to deliver amid rising competition.

This increased activity also provides opportunities for monetising networks, developing cloud solutions and hosting data centres and applications. The prime concern is to increase capacity, but at nominal costs, which will in turn give rise to changes in network architecture. In terms of fronthaul, wireless infrastructure that has so far been based on the colocation of antennas, baseband processing units and remote radio heads will evolve towards a more distributed architecture that has more fibre on the access side. The upcoming capacity will also be stronger in the core, with more meshing to be closer to the user.

100G transport network requirements

Mobile broadband has entered the era of long term evolution, while fixed networks are moving towards broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbps through fibre-to-the-home and other mediums. There is an increasing need for high speed connectivity to address the growth in traffic generation from voice, messaging, emails, games, video downloads, mobile internet access, video streaming and other services. The current line rates of 2.5G (STM-16) and 1G (STM-64) are just not sufficient for carrying large amounts of information on backhaul networks. Moreover, the laying of new fibre pairs is highly capex intensive, time-consuming and full of right-of-way challenges. Therefore, there is a need for a 100G line rate of the dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) level with multiple lambda over a single pair of fibre.

At the core layer of transport where intercity bandwidth or intercity information has to be carried, 100G is becoming the dominant line rate. By moving from 10G line rates per channel to 100G per channel, the capacity on a single fibre pair is improved ten times over, which means fibre pairs carry ten times more bandwidth. Current 100G systems are based on quadrature phase shift keying modulation. However, higher line rates require higher- order modulation formats like 16, 32 and 64 quadrature amplitude modulation.

Towards the client side and on collector rings, it is 10G line rates that are predominantly required. However, on core networks, there is a need for 100G per channel. This creates the need for grooming traffic, switching and then transporting it through the DWDM multiplexer. Optical transport network (OTN) is a Layer 1 grooming technology and this, along with DWDM with 100G, is being deployed by all operators in India for meeting backhaul requirements.

Transport network technologies

Some of the key transport technologies required for implementing 100G are:

  • NG-SDH: Next-generation synchronous digital hierarchy (NG-SDH) adds three main features to traditional SDH. These are integrated data transport; integrated non-blocking and wideband cross-connects (with 2/1.5 Mbps granularity); and intelligence for topology discovery, route computation, automated provisioning and mesh-based restoration.
  • IP/MPLS: Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) is another key technology as far as the transport layer is concerned. It is a mechanism in high-performance telecom networks that directs data from one network node to the next based on short path labels rather than long network addresses, avoiding complex look-ups in a routing table.
  • T-MPLS: Transport MPLS (T-MPLS) is a transport network layer technology that uses extensions to a subset of existing MPLS standards and is designed specifically for application in transport networks. T-MPLS uses the same architectural principles of layered networking that are used in other technologies like SDH and OTN.
  • MPLS-TP: MPLS-transport profile (MPLS-TP) is a variant of the MPLS protocol that is used in packet-switched data networks. MPLS-TP is designed for use as a network layer technology in transport networks. It is a connection-oriented packet-switched (CO-PS) application. It offers dedicated MPLS implementation by removing features that are not relevant to CO-PS applications and adding mechanisms that provide support for critical transport.


To sum up, innovations like flexible photonics, high capacity transport, multilayer networking and an autonomous network can together form a fully agile network that can meet the rising capacity demand. At present, the 100G per channel line rate on optical fibre is becoming a reality. The current 100G is 25 Gbps per electrical lane per lambda. In backhaul transport networks, all operators in the country are migrating to 100G per lambda. The continuing growth of data services will require further enhancement of core transport layers.

Technology experts believe that the deployment of larger capacity transport networks will reduce the use of multiple optical fibre pairs. Operators will also be able to lease bandwidth to other operators on a per lambda or 100G basis. Finally, the cost per bit will reduce on moving towards 100G and above line rates.

Going forward, 100G will make up 95 per cent of the country’s telecom optical transceiver transmission capacity and more than 50 per cent of data centre optical transceiver transmission capacity by 2019. By 2017, technology will be available for deploying 400G. In addition, 1 terabit Ethernet could start in 2015 and scale up to 100 terabits by 2020 to meet the surging data demands.

Based on presentations by Dr Arvind Mishra, Manager, R&D, Sterlite Technologies; K.K. Sharma, Associate Vice-President, Networks, Mobility and ISP, Videocon Telecom; and Puneet Sharma, Head of Optics Competence Centre, Alcatel-Lucent India

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