Building an all-optical foundation for a digital intelligent future

Created May 23, 2024
Technical Features

Accelerating the all optical digital economy toward the 10G era

All-optical networks have long been seen as the cornerstone of the digital economy and the main focus of network infrastructure creation in many countries due to the high transmission rate, large capacity and high reliability. For this purpose, the EU released the “EU digital decade”, new set of digital targets for 2030, preparing Europe for the roll-out of the next generation of broadband infrastructure with gigabit speeds. China came up with the “14th Five-Year Plan” to fully deploy gigabit optical networks as well as speed up gigabit city construction and 200G/400G upgrade. More than 20 countries including Thailand, Egypt, Morocco, and India have announced their national fibre broadband plans.

Even in the global economic downturn, operators have not abandoned their investments in optical networks. This is caused by three factors. Firstly, advancements in optical communications technology lead to more affordable, efficient, and capable optical transport equipment. This reduces the expenses associated with building and maintaining an optical network, saving operators’ investments. Secondly, as industriesbecome more digitally advanced, enterprise cloud services and data centre interconnection bandwidth are growing, necessitating the use of highspeed and large-capacity networks.

The optical transmission technology is an ideal option for meeting a variety of rigorous requirements. Thirdly, all-optical technologies are integrated with 5G, AI and edge computing to provide diverse solutions that allow enable efficient and intelligent information transport and management, as well as more complete and personalised digital services and user experiences for society as a whole. ZTE believes it is necessary for the operators to continue to innovate technologies and expand their market while investing in optical networks in order to stay ahead of the ever-changing market and technical obstacles. For example, the digital and intelligent all-optical network, a next-generation network featuring ultra-high bandwidth and low latency, is embracing the 10G era at full speed. The 10G network can easily serve high-bandwidth, low-latency services like 4K/8K UHD video, VR/AR, and cloud gaming, meeting customer demands for emerging digital services and providing enormous opportunity to operators.

The upgrade of digital and intelligent all-optical networks will accelerate the digital transformation of all industries and provide a fresh impetus for the digital economy. To provide computing power and information services to individual and industry users, many countries are actively promoting the construction of digital cities through the integration of broadband, cloud computing, big data, IoT, and AI technologies. As a result, all optical networks need to have features like ultra-wide coverage, ultra-fast pipes, and intelligent O&M.

Ultra-wide coverage means that all-optical networks should be ubiquitous and be able to support massive connections in rural, industrial, residential, and business scenarios. In the office scenario, the FTTR-B all-optical network further extends an optical network to each office of a medium, small or micro enterprise for a full-area ultra-gigabit coverage. In the school scenario, the FTTR-B all-optical network solution enables the students in each dormitory to achieve high concurrency and seamless roaming experience, and enables more people to enjoy high quality education. In the industrial park scenario, the deterministic PON can apply to industrial control scenarios that are sensitive to delay and jitter. In 2023, ZTE provided all-optical coverage for online live streaming hubs in China to give viewers a premium stutter-free experience, and helped a provincial finance department build an OTN-based provincial information private network.

Ultra-fast pipe refers to the network bandwidth capability. The average FTTx penetration rate will reach 80.2% in 2027 as a result of the acceleration of the worldwide optical fibre transformation. Continuous price declines enhance the 10G PON industry chain and lower network construction costs when the technology is deployed massively. The ITU-T has released the next-generation 50G PON standard after 10G PON.

Currently in the pilot phase, 50G PON is anticipated to be commercially available by 2025. In the optical transport field, the operators’ MANs are evolving to 400G/800G, and the backbone networks are upgrading to Terabit. ZTE has been committed to the R&D of new technologies in the optical communications field for a long term. ZTE ranked No. 2 in the global 10G PON shipments in the new round of optical network upgrade, and unveiled a new 50G PON product, which has been tested by more than 30 operators worldwide. In the optical transport scenario, ZTE’s 400G QPSK has set a world record in transmission distance without electrical regeneration, and 400G shipment growth rate ranks first globally.

Intelligent O&M is an unavoidable requirement to deal with the constant growth of innovative services. The ever-evolving services require that optical networks possess a multitude of capabilities, including flexible access, agile service provisioning, efficient visual O&M, accurate service planning and network planning based on multi-factor path computation, and better energy consumption performance. ZTE developed an optical fibre fault management system to raise the O&M efficiency of the optical fibre system by more than 80% and reduce O&M costs by over 50%.

The home broadband network service has fully entered the people’s lives, including office, education, safety and health, and 8K HD videos and VR/AR services require a higher-quality home network. With the all-optical FTTR as the foundation, the FTTR+X will become the direction of evolution for the next-generation home networks, leading them to become digital, intelligent, ecological, and scenario-based networks.

Scenario-based services drive the smart home to become a new engine for revenue growth. In the future, the home may be an office, cinema, classroom, or shopping mall. In terms of users, operators can enhance user loyalty by offering personalised home services. In terms of services, value-added services such as home security, smart home, online education, and live gaming can bring additional revenues to operators. In terms of business models, working with different service providers, operators can leverage home scenario-based services as a platform to explore new business models and cooperation opportunities.

Ecological layout creates a high ground for industry competition. Basic telecommunications operators develop an external ecosystem around brands, core products, user resources, and channel advantages. For example, gateways and smart home apps serve as an entry for the establishment of the digital home ecosystem. Internet companies take technologies, platforms and data as the core to form ecosystem relationships. Companies such as and Baidu use hardware-based Internet services and intelligent terminals to gain access to residential networks.
Digital and intelligent networks may disruptively upgrade interactions at home. The development of generative AI technologies such as ChatGPT, deep learning of user habits, and the construction of proactive customised services will accelerate the penetration of edge AI capabilities into every home terminal. FTTR will encounter new technological iterations. Innovative technologies and applications, such as distributed AI computing engine, intelligent home perception, ultra-fast data storage, and home digital human, will comprehensively improve smart home digital life experience.

FTTR completely breaks through the experience bottleneck through media upgrades, becoming the ultimate solution for users to achieve a super gigabit experience. RoomPON 5.0, a next-generation all-optical digital and intelligent product, enables network devices to truly serve as the control centre of a smart home and further promote the high-quality growth of the FTTR+X all-optical digital and intelligent home.

The global digital development is still widely unbalanced. According to statistics, 34% of the global population do not have access to the Internet; therefore the fibre-based infrastructure will play a greater role. On the one hand, fair connections are created through broad fibre access to bridge the digital divide in different regions. On the other hand, optical fibres are being developed profoundly and broadly to improve the usage experience of groups such as the senior and the children, as well as to provide a digital and intelligent home life.

In recent years, the global economy is under great pressure, and the telecommunications industry is constrained by energy and climate change. In this context, network evolution needs to consider how to ensure sustainable development. From the perspective of all-optical network construction in the long term, on the one hand, ZTE makes continuous breakthroughs in the bottom-layer core technologies like chips, materials, and algorithms, and adopt the equipment-level, board-level, port-level, and chip-level multidimensional energy-saving technologies and AI scheduling management to help build green and low-carbon all-optical networks. On the other hand, from product design and material use to end-of-life, ZTE adheres to the principle of sustainable development, 100% reuse of product modules, recyclable and reproducible raw materials, green and environmentally friendly packaging materials. ZTE has been recognised for its outstanding actions against climate change, attaining a position on the CDP 2023 “A List” recently, placing in the top 2% of all participating companies. ZTE also works with thousands of global partners to set up a secure and reliable supply chain system and eight logistics centres worldwide. This enhances supply chain flexibility and ensures the industry-leading stable delivery.
As a pioneer of the digital economy, ZTE has been innovating and iterating basic underlying capabilities. Through continuous iteration of architectures, algorithms and processes, ZTE has been expanding the service scenarios of all-optical networks, and collaborating with operators, enterprises and consumers to create a green and sustainable industrial ecosystem and a ubiquitous, green, digital, and intelligent all-optical era.

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This article was written
by Optical Connections News Team