Network resiliency is a core part of developing modern, effective networks. When it comes to the impacts of a natural disaster, the resilience of a network is often tested by extensive power outages and multiple fibre backhaul breaks buried in the ground as mobile towers are highly reliant on fibre backhaul and power. Mobile cell towers connect to cabinets on the side of the road, which then connect to exchanges, and they do this through fibre. They are all then powered through electricity. Fibre cuts are often caused by bridge washouts or landslips and so repairs will take time.

Spark, New Zealand’s largest telecommunications and digital services provider, enlisted the help of Ciena to implement its second generation Optical Transport Network (OTN 2.0), a fibre-based network that provides the backbone and core connectivity between all the main cities in New Zealand.

Working with Ciena, Spark is creating a more adaptive network that can dynamically adjust to unexpected network interruptions such as those caused by natural disasters as well as adjust to meet rising subscriber demands for HD video and other bandwidth-hungry services. With OTN 2.0  close to completion, the network now carries up to seven times more data capacity than Spark’s first generation OTN and is essential in the daily transport of Kiwis’ mobile, broadband, landline and business customer traffic. It also connects Spark’s network with other service providers and international cable networks.

a map of the spark otn footprint

Software and Analytics as a Gamechanger

“Real-time analytics and advanced automation have been key in helping us build a world-class network that can better serve our customers’ ever-changing needs. These tools help us with essentially an X-ray of our network, enabling us to visualise exactly what is happening, eliminate the risk of guesswork, localise and address trouble spots and enable the network to ‘self-heal’ in the process,” said Renee Mateparae, Technology Evolution Lead at Spark New Zealand.

For instance, in the event of a disaster, Liquid Restoration brings increased resiliency by automatically moving affected services across any available restoration path in the network with the option to flexibly adjusting the optical capacity - while maximising throughput of the network under normal working conditions.

PinPoint OTDR allows Spark to precisely localise and address potential trouble spots – even over traffic carrying links. This means that Spark can initiate in-service OTDR traces from their Networks Operations Centre for proactive maintenance and remotely validate that installation, maintenance, and repairs have been properly executed. Additionally, Spark has used this information to notify cable owners of an issue and where that issue is located, often before the owners are aware of the issue themselves. This capability allows Spark to minimise their outage duration and significantly reduce repair times.

While the OTN 2.0 roll-out is still in progress, New Zealand has experienced a number of extreme weather events resulting in widespread landslips and flooding impacting key infrastructure and causing damage to a number of fibre cables at multiple, hard-to-reach places. Where OTN 2.0 was available, Liquid Restoration restored traffic within minutes using available restoration paths, whilst PinPoint OTDR was able to identify the approximate locations of fibre damage.

Spark gains unprecedented visibility with Channel Margin Gauge (CMG) and Photonic Performance Gauge (PPG)

CMG gives a real-time snapshot of every active channel’s performance across its network, significantly enhancing its day-to-day operations. With this tool, Spark can maximise overall network capacity and thus optimise network utilisation by closely matching optical capacity to available channel margin. Currently, Spark can operate its network at a higher than originally planned capacity due to the real time analytics providing its network planners with the confidence sufficient channel margin is available.

PPG provides real-time, per-section insight into the performance of the photonic network infrastructure.  This allows Spark’s network engineers to detect underperformance or degradation in spans that are contributing the most noise to their network. In addition to using this information for continuous network optimisation, accurate knowledge of network performance is vital for optical restoration, as it allows Spark to validate upfront that any defined restoration paths will work.

Renee Mateparae, Technology Evolution Lead at Spark adds, “Advanced analytics apps are changing the way we plan, deploy, operate, and optimise our network. In essence, these tools enable a smarter optical network. They take the risk away by enabling us to accurately keep a close eye on our current network performance and make any adjustments to optimise our network upon deployment.”

Ciena Innovations Supporting Spark

Spark’s OTN 2.0 runs on Ciena’s 6500 flexible grid colourless, directionless and contentionless (CDC) photonic line system with advanced L0 control plane capabilities, powered by WaveLogic 5 Extreme and WaveLogic 5 Nano coherent optics, and leverages Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) domain control and advanced analytics applications that include Liquid Spectrum.

To learn more about Spark’s OTN 2.0, please tune-in to this podcast or see the press release.