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A deep dive into the Importance of OTN

Optical Transport Network

Optical Transport Network (OTN) technology remains a key enabler in the wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) transport domain. Its ability to partition optical bandwidth to satisfy the demands of individual applications and services effectively disaggregates usable capacity from the optical channel itself.  Without OTN, the two are inextricably linked. If the data rate of the service is lower than the capacity of the wavelength, the wasted bandwidth cannot be recovered. The efficiencies enabled by OTN segmenting this capacity across multiple services create operational, scalability and total cost (CAPEX + OPEX) benefits.

While OTN has been around since 2004, it has primarily been used by global Tier 1 operators in charge of vast national and international networks, where squeezing out every last drop of bandwidth is essential to streamlining operations and keeping expenses under control.  To date, Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators have been less enthusiastic about adopting OTN, choosing instead to light additional lambdas for the cost of a couple of transponders, rather than investing in an entirely new technology platform. For smaller operators, this would have required not only investment in new equipment, but also training for multiple technicians and NOC personnel, and an overhaul of their operating procedures that could impact everything from BSS and OSS systems to reassigning personnel assignments and job functions.  That was a lot to content with when the benefits of the technology were negligible.

Two factors, however, have emerged over the last few years that have changed OTN’s impact on these smaller providers and, as a result, they’re beginning to turn to OTN and hybrid-packet/OTN solutions.

The first is the arrival of coherent technology that is massively increasing the capacity available on a single wavelength.  At speeds of 10G, service providers were effectively limited to carrying six or eight services per wavelength. A couple of services could be multiplexed together on the same link but it wasn’t a big deal if the capacity wasn’t fully utilized. But, with coherent line rates running anywhere from 100G to 600G, a single link can now carry hundreds of services, all at a lower cost per bit. So, wasting bandwidth means leaving real money on the table.  In this new model, Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators are realizing that OTN is the best way to fill available capacity.

The second factor is the need for multi-carrier interconnection. Smaller regional carriers don’t have the same footprint as larger Tier 1 and Tier 2 operators, so they need to ride over third-party networks to provide the end-to-end service connectivity required to meet customer demand.  Creating a path over these disparate networks needs a common glue to bind them together. OTN’s globally accepted standard has proven to be the most effective method.

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Going Fiber Deep: Don’t Ignore Your Metro Core


Hybrid Fiber Coax, known as “HFC”, is the well-established cable access network architecture.  As the name suggests, HFC consists of two separate media connecting a cable head-end to the subscriber.  While the coax portion that connects to the subscriber gets most of the attention, the heavy lifting is actually done by the fiber portion of the network that provides the massive capacity necessary to deliver the content from and between cable head ends, data centers, Internet PoPs and video server farms.

Today, cable MSOs are migrating to a “fiber deep” approach that pushes fiber all the way to the local access node.  They’re doing this to support the next-generation distributed access architecture (DAA) in which the PHY function is distributed from its traditional location in the head-end out to the local access point, a process known as Remote PHY, or RPHY.  With RPHY comes the ability to increase the capacity in the access network and, since 2016, MSOs both large and small have been doing this using new technologies such as DOCSIS 3.1 and full duplex DOCSIS (FDX).  These technologies enable higher data rates and, in the case of FDX, symmetric downstream and upstream connectivity speeds up to 10Gbps.

With these technologies, MSOs can continue to leverage the installed coax network making it more economical to compete with the high-speed services offered by fiber-based providers.  However, these kinds of connections in the access (i.e., coax) network put enormous pressure on the metro core because at these higher capacities, it means that each subscriber is capable of consuming an entire wavelength, a situation that quickly exhausts capacity. 

Considering that most metro core networks were built using 10G technology, MSOs need to migrate to a scalable, high-capacity infrastructure capable of providing the connectivity from the head-end to the content hubs located deeper in the core of the network.  In a recent survey published jointly by Light Reading and the SCTE, more than one-third of MSOs saw the need for 100G transport in their network over the next five years while 18% believe they will need 200G and nearly 30% believe they will need 400G!  Unfortunately for MSOs, time and experience have shown that forecasting bandwidth is a highly inexact science and many of them will likely end up needing more capacity than they anticipate so they need a way to mitigate the risk of making the wrong choice when selecting their optical transport solution.

Fortunately for the MSOs, the optical transport equipment industry has once again responded to the needs of the market.  Today, the next generation of flexible transport systems are capable of tuning their performance depending on service demand -.  Based on third-generation digital signal processors (DSP), these platforms not only allow the network operator to decide what level of bandwidth to provision, but also to adjust that level to a higher (or lower) data rate as demand grows (or shrinks).  With this level of functionality, these next-gen systems now provide the risk mitigation MSOs need so that if the 100G network the MSO was forecasting now needs to be a 200G or even a 400G network, they can simply make the adjustment in software, there’s no need to replace cards or overbuild a whole new network. 

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EKINOPS helps to bring optical transport a step closer to SDN


Guillaume Crenn, EKINOPS Product line & Marketing Director, recounts a recent technical breakthrough enabling legacy optical equipment to function in tomorrow’s virtualized networks.

Interoperability remains one of the biggest challenges facing operators seeking to software define their networks. Powerful new frameworks, like OpenDaylight (ODL), are needed to disaggregate and rearchitect the network and enable the level of automation and programmability that will, eventually, deliver virtualization’s ‘new age’ of flexibility.

Designed by the Open Daylight Project - a global, collaborative community of vendor and user organizations, of which EKINOPS is a part - ODL is a modular, open framework designed to enable commercial solutions to address a variety of virtualized network use cases, such as automated service delivery, Cloud and NFV, resource optimization and network visibility and control.

A critical hurdle to overcome on the road to enabling such uses cases is how to establish the level of interoperability between the network’s newly separated components and functions in such a way that they can be managed and orchestrated. This is a complex task that requires utilizing controllers for both northbound and southbound communication throughout the virtualized network.

In the world of optical transport, enabling this controller-based communication in ODL is the job of OpenDaylight TransportPCE, a collaborative project led by Orange, EKINOPS and Orange Labs whose work describes an open-source application running on top of the OpenDaylight controller. Its primary function is to control an optical transport infrastructure using a non-proprietary South Bound Interface (SBI).

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Latest News

  • Solid Q4 2020, revenue at upper end of the target range - FY revenue stable at €93 million

    EKINOPS (Euronext Paris - FR0011466069 – EKI), a leading supplier of telecommunications solutions for telecom operators and businesses, has posted its revenue for FY 2020 ending December 31, 2020 and announced its financial reporting calendar for 2021.

  • EKINOPS signs VExpress Distribution as an Authorized Distributor for its OneAccess brand in Australia

    EKINOPS (Euronext Paris - FR0011466069 – EKI), a leading supplier of optical transport and enterprise connectivity solutions, today announces the distribution agreement with VExpress Distribution, an Australian-owned distributor of dynamic telecommunication, data and mobility solutions for the OneAccess branded portfolio.

  • EKINOPS and LiveAction Announce Technology Partnership

    EKINOPS (Euronext Paris - FR0011466069 – EKI), a leading supplier of optical transport equipment and enterprise connectivity solutions, and LiveAction, a provider of expert network performance analysis and management, today announce the integration of their technologies to provide service providers with advanced, real-time network performance analytics and value-added services via a combined routing solution.


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