Windstream Wholesale, Acacia set new 400G ZR+ record

Created February 24, 2021
News and Business

Windstream Wholesale has completed a live network trial that successfully deployed 400 Gbps single-wavelength transmission over 1,027 kilometres across Windstream’s long-haul network between Phoenix and Los Angeles. The trial set a real-world benchmark of 400G using Acacia Communications’ digital coherent optics technology.  Windstream also set another industry record by looping back the signal to achieve 300G transmission over 2,054 kilometres.

“This record-setting accomplishment by Windstream Wholesale is a gamechanger for optical networks going forward,” said Buddy Bayer, chief network officer at Windstream. “Windstream is executing a well-crafted architectural strategy that embraces fundamental design principles of disaggregation, openness and flexibility.  Windstream continues as an early adopter of coherent optical technologies to drive efficient growth and scale of our network and services for our customers. We expect to begin deploying ZR+ coherent pluggable modules in the second half of 2021, a technology that has applicability in as many as 80% of our existing links.”

“Windstream’s live network trial demonstrates the real performance of 400G pluggable outside of a controlled environment,” said Jimmy Yu, vice president of Dell’Oro Group’s Optical Transport research. “This is a significant development in the industry, paving the way for network operators to operationalise the benefits of pluggable optics in the network.”

“Windstream has demonstrated that 400G pluggable coherent modules can support not only metro, but also regional and long-haul network applications,” said Benny Mikkelsen, founder and chief technology officer of Acacia Communications. “Built on highly scalable technology that offers benefits in cost, size and power, we are excited about the opportunities for these pluggables in service provider networks.”

“Windstream is one of the first network providers to leverage the full capability of 400G pluggable optics in data centre interconnect to metro and long-haul applications,” said Bill Gartner, senior vice president of optics and optical at Cisco. “With the emergence of 400G pluggable DWDM optics, we will be able to simplify network design and operations.”

Windstream Wholesale’s network. Source: Windstream Wholesale

Bayer noted that Acacia’s compact modules can be cost effectively deployed closer to the network edge than conventional electronics for a range of applications from 1000 km long-haul segments to multi-span edge networks. These coherent pluggables can deliver greater bandwidth not only to Windstream’s large wholesale and hyperscale customers, but also to support its business and residential customers.

In particular, Bayer said the technology will support Windstream’s nearly US$2 billion initiative to deliver gigabit per second broadband service to 2 million residential customers. Windstream says the pending acquisition of Acacia by Cisco will further accelerate the trend toward coherent technology and pluggable solutions.

In August 2020, Windstream announced it was using  Ciena’s photonic, coherent optical, and intelligent software platforms to build its National Converged Optical Network (NCON).

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This article was written
by Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes is a independent telecoms and technology journalist who has over that last 30 years written for a wide range of B2B publications and companies. A former BT engineer, he specialises in networks and associated support systems. He is currently Editor of Optical Connections.