The submarine networking industry is truly fascinating from technology, social, economic, political, and even historical perspectives. All of these facets are intertwined, as new cables are planned and deployed as well as when the unspeakable occurs, and they must be repaired. 

The undersea cable network infrastructure is critical infrastructure, and given there’s no Plan B for this part of the global internet, associated technological innovation must continue to evolve at a frenetic pace to ensure the industry can not only maintain pace with voracious growth in demand, but also to ensure the enormous capacity being carried today and ever-increasing amount of tomorrow is protected and continuously optimized to ensure a stable and viable financial future for submarine cable operators.

Several technologies and visions at the forefront of submarine network innovation were hot topics of discussion in 2018 and will undoubtedly be even hotter in 2019. I highlight some notable examples below. If submarine cable networks are to continue evolving alongside their terrestrial counterparts, these issues will continue to be critical topics of conversation in our industry throughout 2019.

  1. Open Submarine Cables
    Everyone loves choice, but with great choice also comes great responsibility. There are several aspects to fully understand before and after an operator decides to adopt an open submarine cable architecture to ensure ongoing success throughout its lifecycle from cradle to grave.

  2. Wet Plant Evolution
    Our industry is constantly seeking ways to improve and increase the amount of capacity carried over existing and new cables. One hot topic of discussion is SDM, or Spatial Division Multiplexing, and as with any new technology, there are several challenges and opportunities for submarine cable operators, especially as it relates to SLTE modem technology and possible new financial models. 

  3. Submarine Line Terminating Equipment (SLTE)
    SLTE is an area of rapid innovation and evolution. New modem transmission, power management, and spectrum sharing capabilities are being incorporated at a frenetic rate to maintain pace with ongoing bandwidth demand growth. Shannon capacity limit looms large, but there are methods of side-stepping this real-world physical limit, and our industry is rapidly bringing them to market.

  4. Packet Networking Evolution
    The global network is evolving towards a packet-centric environment, especially as much of the new submarine capacity being turned up is to interconnect data centers where packet-centric traffic reigns unopposed. Should and will packet switching and aggregation be integrated into SLTE, which is increasingly housed directly within a data center? This is a topic that merits increased discussion. 

  5. Spectrum Sharing
    We’re now witnessing the initial commercial adoption of this unique service, which falls somewhere between a wavelength and an entire fiber pair. However, not all spectrum sharing-capable SLTE implements this unique service offering the same way. Do operators fully understand what to look out for when making the strategic decision to enable a spectrum product offering to their customers?

  6. The Adaptive NetworkTM
    Ciena’s Adaptive Network vision and architecture addresses unique challenges associated with end-to-end networks, both overland and undersea, and will markedly change how end-to-end networks incorporating submarine and terrestrial links are designed, deployed, and managed into the future.

  7. Data Center Interconnection (DCI)
    As demand for digital content surges, technologies borne in the data center world are quickly finding their way into the networks that interconnect them, overland and undersea, and from the core to the edge. In keeping up with this demand, new markets and regions are emerging as strategic peering hubs for the delivery of content, and the creation of new diverse submarine cable routes feeds the growth of both existing and new peering hubs. 

The discussion, and often debate, revolves around how data centers and submarine networks are interacting at the edge, key technologies that optimize edge performance, and how these technologies will change the way submarine networks are designed, deployed, and managed. Given the majority of new submarine cables, and new traffic turned up over existing submarine cables, are related to submerged DCI, it’s no wonder this topic will surely be the hottest one in 2019, without a doubt. 

Want to know more about this topic? Check out our joint Ciena/TeleGeography webinar below!