Bandwidth growth, data centre growth and the IoT data tsunami will be key trends in the subsea sector in the coming years, according to Ciena.

In the run up to next week’s Submarine Networks Europe event in London, we spoke with Keri Gilder, vice president and general manager EMEA at Ciena. Gilder is responsible for guiding Ciena’s EMEA service provider and enterprise customers, as well as partners, as they adapt to accommodate high-capacity applications and services.


What projects are you currently (or recently) involved in and what has made you particularly proud of your achievements in this project? 

Network technologies and demands have seen enormous change, not least because of the unpredictable nature of international traffic requirements, and the varying kinds of traffic running over a network – from video-sharing and social media, virtual reality to the cloud and sharing resources between data centres, even on different continents. In order to handle this change Ciena is always anticipating the latest trends, challenges and opportunities affecting network operators.  I am proud of two recent projects Ciena has been involved in.

The first is new technology that helps our submarine network operator customers better address surging bandwidth demands, doubling capacity by supporting L-Band capabilities.  Leveraging the L-Band means that submarine cable operators can potentially secure twice the amount of potential revenue over a single cable, versus deploying two traditional cables, and yield better economies of scale for an improved return on submerged network assets.

The second project I would like to highlight is between Telstra, Ericsson and Ciena – the successful demonstration of the highest spectral efficiency per fibre pair ever achieved in a live environment. Telstra, Ericsson and Ciena successfully demonstrated 400 gigabit per second (Gbps) speeds over 61.5 GHz spectrum on Telstra’s transmission network in Melbourne. This enables up to 30.4 terabit per second (Tbps) bandwidth on Telstra’s transmission network – the equivalent to 1.2 million 4K Ultra HD videos being streamed simultaneously. This was made possible through the deployment of software programmable 400Gbps wavelengths using Ciena’s WaveLogic Ai modem technology on the 6500 Packet-Optical Platform, in combination with Ciena’s Blue Planet Manage Control Plan (MCP) and Liquid Spectrum applications.


What new technologies are you particularly interested in? How will this help to overcome challenges in the market?  

While submarine operators are facing continued change and rapid innovation, the growing ubiquity of coherent technology, land, sea, and cloud-based networks have been united into a seamless end-to-end entity. As a result, submarine networks can now maximise the efficiency of optical spectrum to keep up with demand for bandwidth. In addition, network availability can be guaranteed via software intelligence and automation built into mesh network technology to proactively and reactively address inevitable network faults. And for operators in an increasingly competitive world, the most important aspect of coherent technology is that it grows revenues and protects margins with network designs optimised to reduce the total cost of end-to-end network ownership.

Instead of compromising and making do with the limited set of technologies available for submarine assets, submarine cable operators can now use the same terrestrial building blocks to build customised end-to-end networks. This freedom gives rise to the openness movement in submarine networking. Terrestrial networking has been open for some time now, even as submarine networks were in the grip of proprietary technologies. That’s changing, as the submarine network industry transforms from a static and conservative market into a dramatically different environment that upends traditional methods for modelling, designing, deploying, and managing subsea networks. New technologies are also enabling more automation. We are already seeing an acceleration of service provider networks reducing dependency on hardware as they take advantage of service orchestration and network virtualisation to deliver new services faster.

As high-bandwidth applications become ever more part of our daily lives, networks need to better respond to customer demands; and we are paving the way for the implementation of more intelligent and adaptive networks that let operators eliminate complexity by combining intelligent automation, real-time performance monitoring, and the ability to continuously tune their network. 


What predictions do you have for the state of the market in the coming years (2-3 years)?

We have three predictions for the subsea market. First – bandwidth growth will continue. This isn’t a surprise, but according to Ericsson’s Mobility Report from November 2017, mobile data traffic is set to grow by as much as 11 times, up from the current 1.3 exabytes per month to 14 exabytes by 2023. Growth in mobile access speeds, which will leap forward with the coming commercialisation of 5G, will result in more data flowing between data centres, which is increasingly the major contributor to subsea bandwidth demands.

Thankfully, innovative technologies, such as adaptive modulation, new wet plant designs and capabilities such as supporting L-Band, are available to help service providers increase the capacity of submarine cables, leading to better spectral efficiency and better monetisation. Service providers can also use innovative ways, such as merging submarine and terrestrial networks, to benefit from cost and operational advantages, while also greatly increasing network availability and resiliency. 

The second is data centre growth; more subsea cables that connect intercontinental data centres will be required to meet the demands of always-connected businesses. Increased enterprise cloud adoption is driving more data traffic between users, and even more between data centres. Internet Content Providers (ICPs), like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google are setting up business to be closer to their customers., and even if the content is cached locally, it will still require bandwidth for data centre interconnect across countries. Additionally, to ensure reliability, data needs to be backed up in geographically redundant data centres. 

The third trend is 5G, and the connected things data tsunami. The world will soon move towards 5G, and the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine communication will become the norm once 5G becomes a reality. Enhanced mobile bandwidth, specifically related to video-centric streaming, will dominate the expected bandwidth growth of future 5G networks. Legacy subsea cable networks were originally designed and built for voice and not data. With data demand showing no signs of slowing down, data centre growth and 5G just around the corner, these cables will need to be upgraded and modernised to meet the anticipated data demand. 


Ciena will be sharing their expertise at the Submarine Networks Europe event. Held on the 20th and 21st February 2018, the conference and exhibition will bring together all the key players from the EMEA subsea cabling sector.