Liqiang, Vice President of ZTE, shares insights on the rise of the latest tech trends and the impact of 5G, cloud and AI in the new age of digitalization. 

The Essence of the Rise of Metaverse and ChatGPT: Flowing Big Data Is the Core Factor of Production in the Digital Era.

Over the past three years, new Internet scenarios and new applications have been emerging one after another. Metaverse has attracted people’s attention since 2021, covering various scenarios including social events, entertainment and manufacturing. Based on innovative technologies such as VR and the digital twin, the metaverse is merging physical reality with digital virtuality, bringing great business opportunities beyond imagination.

At the beginning of 2023, the biggest news story in the IT industry was ChatGPT. It is easy to use, applicable to a variety of scenarios, quick to respond to complex requests and able to provide high-quality and customized contents. So ChatGPT may have become the fastest-growing killer application in history after it was estimated to have reached 100 million monthly active users. It seems that data has become a new factor of production in parallel with the traditional factors of land, labor, capital and technology in an era when innovations keep emerging. However, static data itself is of no value. Only those data that get involved in the social production and get flowing can create great value.

400G Transport Network Is Needed to Meet Traffic Bursts in the Coming 5 to 10 Years.

In the post-pandemic era, the global economy and social activities have entered a subdued recovery. The continuous growth of 5G penetration enables the popular application of high-definition video on smart terminals, leading to continuous traffic growth. Technically, to provide better user experience, 5G will evolve to 5G-Advanced. The fixed home broadband network is also evolving from GPON to 10GPON and 50GPON is being verified and practiced. On a per-subscription basis, Omdia predicts global average monthly data traffic to increase 2.5× between 2022-2027.

If we consider 5G and optical access as streets, various applications will be the vehicles in the streets. The transport network is the main road connecting the cities. As the basic resource layer for cloud and network, the IP network provides resources for the new simple, agile, open, integrated, secure and intelligent information infrastructure by virtualization/cloudification technologies, so that the traditional independent cloud computing resources and network facilities are combined to form a system with integrated supply, integrated operation and integrated service. As the cornerstone of the ICT network, the optical transport network needs to upgrade and evolve synchronously with the upper-layer network. Based on network digitalization and intelligentization, the optical transport network needs to provide ultra-broadband and ubiquitous connectivity as well as optical and electrical synergy, so as to build an intelligent cross-connect all-optical base to offer powerful transport capacity for the entire communication network and facilitate the progress of the entire digital world.

The transport network is the foundation of the network construction. The bandwidth of the transport network needs to be continuously upgraded to meet the service evolution and traffic growth demands in the next 5 to 10 years. IP routers supporting 400GE interfaces and large-capacity 400G optical systems supporting long-distance transmission have become the primary key features of the new-generation transport network.

It’s Time for Large-Scale 400G Deployment in This Mature Industry.

The concept of a 400G network has not been proposed recently. From the perspective of the communication industry’s development, the development and popularization of any new technology depend more on whether it can solve problems, create value and improve efficiency than on its innovation.

Firstly, from the macro trend of technology development, 400G can effectively improve network efficiency.

Driven by AI, machine learning, virtualization, big video and the like, the data throughput of data centers is increasing explosively. As a result, data center networks are in urgent need for 400G to meet the large bandwidth and low latency demands of cloud providers. According to Dell’Oro Group, the Ethernet Switch Data Center market is forecast to grow at a nearly double-digit CAGR between 2022 and 2027, surpassing $100 billion in cumulative spending over the next five years. It’s estimated by Dell’Oro that 400 Gbps and higher speeds will comprise nearly 70% of data center switch sales by 2027. 

In the IP router field, 400G can better satisfy the service development demands in FMC scenarios. Firstly, with a 400GE interface, the 400G router can increase the transmission rate by 300% compared with the traditional 100GE router, reduce the components and reduce the power consumption per bit by 15%. Secondly, it can improve the link resource utilization by 20% by eliminating resource imbalance across links. Finally, the traffic grows so fast while the deployment of optical fibers goes relatively slowly. We are introducing larger-capacity service ports to reduce the optical fiber consumption by 75% and bridge the gap between service growth and resource increase.

In the OTN field, three key capabilities need to be improved to support the bandwidth upgrade on client routers. Firstly, the line-side bandwidth needs to be increased from the current single-wavelength 100/200G to 400G-1.2T. The overall system capacity also needs to increase, that is, 80-wavelength system capacity needs to be provided and adjusted on demand to meet differentiated bandwidth demands of metro, backbone and DCI scenarios. Secondly, key technologies of intelligent management and control, optical and electrical synergy, and all-optical high-speed interconnection need to be introduced to achieve wavelength-level one-hop transmission by optical layer scheduling of high-degree OXC and also achieve subwavelength-level cross-connect scheduling of any granularity by electrical layer scheduling of large-capacity OTN, so as to implement efficient 400G networking to address low latency, high security, large bandwidth and big data. Thirdly, the network needs to support a transmission distance close to that of 100G/200G transmission systems based on the existing G.652 optical fiber in the long-distance backbone transmission scenario.

Secondly, innovative technology development and transformation, including new hardware and new algorithms, effectively support the new 400G solution.

In the data communication field, with long-term dedication and innovations, ZTE improves end-to-end equipment capability, from access to core, from network processing to universal switching. In addition, ZTE has made continuous innovations in the heat dissipation and consumption reduction technologies of routers and switches, ensuring that the total power consumption remains unchanged when the equipment capacity is increased, thus reducing the power consumption ratio of the equipment. In terms of heat dissipation, a thermally conductive silicone grease, system wind wall and liquid cooling technologies are used to significantly improve the heat dissipation efficiency. Meanwhile, optical modules based on the 400G ZR/ZR+ and advanced QSFP-DD encapsulation have been put into large-scale commercial use in data centers, and the related industries will continue to mature.

For optical transport networks, especially in backbone scenarios, ZTE’s Real 400G solution can effectively improve the transmission performance based on extended C+L bands and 400G QPSK (Quadrature Phase Shift Keying) modulation. The solution relies on three breakthroughs: One is the high-speed photoelectric components, which support the bandwidth upgrade. The second is 3D silicon photonics packaging, with which the 400G solution increases the distance by 10%, taking the 400Gbps rate as an example. The third is the Flex Shaping 2.0 algorithm, which supports continuous adjustment of baud rate to realize the best adaptation to metro, backbone and DCI scenarios.

Thirdly, 400G networks can effectively support operators’ transformation and sustainable business development in market practice.

FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence) 400G IP transport network: The FMC network can reduce network construction costs and achieve efficient operation and maintenance, and so has gradually become the mainstream solution for operators. With strong product competitiveness, customized functions, as well as professional and reliable delivery, ZTE has helped major operators in countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil and Peru build new-generation IP transport networks to meet their service transport demands covering wireless, home broadband and enterprise services. The new-generation high-density 400GE board that will be unveiled at MWC Barcelona can help operators build carrier-grade FMC networks. They can flexibly expand the network architecture, guarantee cost efficiency while increasing the capacity and support the long-term evolution of mobile and home broadband services.

Ultra-broadband metro 400G optical network: With the explosive growth of 5G network traffic, the network bandwidth demands have multiplied. The operators urgently need to build metro 400G WDM networks to implement rapid user service access and improve user experience. ZTE Helped Turkcell deploy the world’s first OTN network supporting 12THz ultra-wide frequency spectrum in 2022. This network substantially increases the bandwidth capacity of the local network and will accelerate the future 5G network development of Turkcell.

Commercialization of 400G long-distance backbone optical network: To support the booming digital economy and China’s “east-data-west-computing project,” China Mobile needs to increase the capacity of the optical backbone network and guarantee long-distance transmission performance. In July 2022, ZTE and China Mobile jointly completed the world’s first prototype test of 400G QPSK and achieved ultra-high-speed transmission over a distance of 3,038 km based on G.652.D fibers. Compared with traditional 400G 16QAM, the 400G QPSK increases the transmission distance by 200-300%, fully demonstrating its advantage in long-distance transmission on the existing optical backbone network. Moving forward, the two parties will further promote the large-scale commercial use of Real 400G in the existing network.

The year 2023 will be the start of the large-scale commercial deployment of 400G transport networks. IP and optical transport products will be used in various scenarios covering metro and backbone networks. The transport network is the foundation of digital economy. ZTE will partner with global operators to consolidate the new cornerstone of the digital era and unleash new momentum for the development of the digital economy.

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