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The road to 5G – Beyond 100G OTN

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As operators in China gear up for the world’s biggest 5G launch next year, they are facing huge challenges and opportunities. How does ZTE plan to help them cope with these, especially in terms of large bandwidth over ultra-long distance transmission?

By Chris Kelly – Total Telecom

As the world gears up for the next wave of 5G launches in 2020, one stands out from the crowd. The sheer scale of China’s 5G deployment means that it will be the stand out event of the global telecoms industry next year.

Since China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released the 5G licenses in June 2019, the country’s big three mobile network operators have been gearing up to undertake the world’s largest 5G rollout campaign.

When China’s MNOs do launch 5G services in the first half of 2020, they will be tasked with bringing 5G network services to 1.4 billion people, spread across a landmass of around 9.6 million square kilometers.

Demand for the cutting-edge technology that will help operators launch the next generation of mobile network services in China is set to sky rocket.  

At this year’s Mobile World Congress event in Shanghai, representatives from China’s MNOs confirmed that they would require hundreds of thousands of base stations each, just to cover the first phase of their respective launches.

Operators are looking for solutions that provide large bandwidth over ultra-long distance, while simultaneously delivering low latency and high levels of network automation.

We spoke with ZTE’s vice president and general manager of Optical Transport products, Taili Wang, to find out how China’s domestic boom will fuel demand across the region.

It is known that China has built the world’s largest 4G network. As for how to continue to build the world’s largest 5G network in the 5G era, there are both challenges and opportunities,” he said.

“Operators are making full preparations in their transport networks to continuously strengthen the construction of infrastructures to promote the commercial use of 5G.”

“At the same time, operators are facing huge pressure. For example, large quantities of 5G base stations cause the profit to drop continuously. It is inevitable to seek for new ways to build 5G networks. For this reason, China Unicom and China Telecom announced recently that they will build a 5G network jointly, according to the authorative domestic media. In terms of transport network, all operators have proposed optimized low-cost solutions. Two focuses are available. One is the introduction of MAN WDM to the 200G/400G solution and further network optimization to reduce the cost per bit through bandwidth upgrade. The other is the cost-effective fronthaul solution. For example, China Telecom proposes the M-OTN solution, namely, optimized OTN oriented to mobile transport and comprehensive service transport. China Mobile comes up with the half-active Open-WDM solution to cut CAPEX and fiber resource. China Unicom gives the 25G-based G.Metro optimization solution for 5G fronthaul scenarios,” he explained.

ZTE was recently named as the third most prolific filer of 5G patents in the world, declaring 1,424 families of 5G Standard-Essential Patents (SEP) and patent applications to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) over the past 12 months. The company has also applied over 200 patents pertaining to its 5G chipsets during that time.  These statistics put ZTE in the top 3 global patent applications for 5G in the world, according to market intelligence firm, IPlytics.”

“ZTE closely follows customer requirements and provides optimal solutions for them, helping operators to build intelligent ultra-broadband OTNs,” Wang explained.

“The key OTN technologies are ultra-broadband and long-haul transmission. Based on the industry-leading high-performance optical module, ZTE equipment supports adjustable 100Gbits-600Gbits rates. In January 2019, ZTE transmitted 16QAM single-carrier 400G signals for the longest distance of over 600km in China Mobile’s single-carrier 400G transmission performance test on the existing network, by using ZTE’s patented Flex Shaping optical domain optimization technology. At the end of 2018, ZTE together with China Telecom completed the function test of the end-to-end optimized M-OTN solution. At the backhaul, ZTE was the first to complete the SR/MPLS over OTN test. At the fronthaul, ZTE achieved the ultra-low latency of 0.8us and ultra-high time precision of +/-2ns. At the same time, ZTE has been actively cooperating with China Unicom in commercialization of 5G transport.”

“ZTE is one of the few vendors that can provide end-to-end OTN products, including the edge access layer product ZXMP M721, the metro and backbone layer product ZXONE 9700 and the DCI-oriented product ZXONE 7000. Meanwhile, facing various new services and requirements, ZTE proposes the future-proof E-OTN solution based on basic features and development trend of future OTN. The E-OTN solution, which means “End-to-end deployment”, “Elastic network” and “Enhanced functions”, he explained.

Rolling out 5G at scale

Rolling out 5G at scale will present operators with a number of technical challenges to overcome, as they look to scale up their initial fledgling networks. 

In the 5G era, service traffic surges and the bandwidth demand will theoretically increase by 1,000 times, so optical transport networks will face unprecedented bandwidth pressures. And 5G networks have more demanding requirements for latency, time synchronization, and power consumption. To address these challenges, the ZTE’s E-OTN solution has evolved completely,” Wang explained.

“In terms of optical rate, the SDO technology supports adjustable single-wavelength 100Gbit/s~600Gbit/s rates, and the Flex Shaping technology can be used flexibly in backbone, MAN and DCI scenarios. At the same time, the single-fiber transmission capacity can reach up to 48T. Through C+L band extension, the single-fiber transmission capacity can be increased to 80T+ in the future to provide sufficient bandwidth resources for service transport.

“In terms of node dispatching, the equipment has ultra-large-capacity O/E hybrid cross-connect feature. Its 64T single-subrack electrical cross-connect platform is the first in the industry to be put into commercialization. With the leading 32-degree OXC system, it can flexibly groom massive services.

“In terms of latency, the E-OTN product supports the optical-layer one-hop transmission, dramatically reducing service transmission latency. In addition, it supports phase detection and synchronization, and the timestamp precision can reach the nanosecond level.

“Moreover, ZTE employs high-performance in-house chips to reduce the power consumption of 1T platform to 0.37W/Gbit at single slot, 43% lower than the 400G platform. This can effectively cut OPEX for the customer and boost large-scale commercial deployment of 5G,” he concluded.

As operators look to roll out 5G on a monumental scale in 2020 and beyond, opportunities will about for network equipment providers across the world. – Source: Total Telecom