What is Fiber Densification?
The term “network densification” is being used more often in relation to wireless network deployments, and more recently, “fiber densification” has become a hot a topic of discussion. So, what exactly is densification?
Densification simply describes the goal or end state of supporting more capacity within the same area or footprint. It is borne from the need of network providers to not only keep up with the increase in bandwidth demand they are seeing, but also grow their competitive edge in delivering a better end user experience for their customers.
Densification in Wireless Networks
In wireless networking, densification refers to the addition of cell sites within a particular location, or the upgrade of cell sites with higher capacity devices. With global mobile data traffic expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 42% from 2017 to 2023 operators are densifying their networks to keep up with the increase in demand. As we described recently, the value of densification is that it enables more overall users, lower latency, better mobile device battery life, and expanded coverage. The approach is to basically reuse the same spectrum, by keeping the coverage area small and manage the interference between cells using a variety of techniques.
Fiber Densification in Cable or MSO Networks
Cable or Multi-Service Operators (MSOs) are undergoing a multi-year upgrade of their Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) access infrastructure. To provide a better quality of experience to subscribers, they are delivering higher capacity to smaller groups of homes and pushing fiber closer to the edge of the network. HFC Fiber nodes, which on average service 500 homes per node, are being replaced with 10 to 12 Digital Fiber nodes. These nodes will now service 40 to 64 homes, be pushed deeper into the access, and increase per-user capacity. An incredible amount of digital fiber nodes are expected to be deployed in the next few years, from tens to hundreds of thousands globally in 2018 and 2019. Fiber densification, the ability to pack as much capacity as possible over the limited fiber resources available, is of critical importance to achieve business objectives.
Fiber Densification in Hyperscale Global Content Provider Networks
Finally, the simplest example of fiber densification is the hyperscale data center interconnect application. Global content providers are deploying huge amounts of fiber between massive data centers to maintain their aggressive pace of innovation and keep up with the doubling of bandwidth they are seeing on a yearly basis. They are looking for solutions that move beyond incremental improvements to provide step-level increases in operational efficiencies. With the expectation that tens of thousands of fiber pairs will be filled up within five years, platforms that are simple to deploy and manage, that can scale to maximize spectral efficiency within minimal footprint and energy consumption, are important elements towards successful and rapid deployments.
With the expectation that tens of thousands of fiber pairs will be filled up within five years, platforms that are simple to deploy and manage, that can scale to maximize spectral efficiency within minimal footprint and energy consumption, are important elements towards successful and rapid deployments.
In all these cases, elevating the end user experience is the primary driver of densification. From a systems provider perspective, which is where Ciena comes in, it is also the driving force behind new creative thinking and the invention of new types of networking products that will best service these deployments.
As an example, Ciena’s Waveserver Ai was designed to address the challenges of fiber densification head-on. Supporting 2.4Tbps of capacity in a single rack unit of space, it uses innovative coherent modem technology to pack about ten times the capacity of what was previously possible in the smallest amount of footprint.
Looking ahead, complementary solutions like Ciena's recently introduced 6500 Reconfigurable Line System (RLS) and 8180 Coherent Networking Platform will be needed to intersect the accelerating fiber densification trend and the move towards a more adaptive network; products integrating the latest in innovative technologies to provide increasing levels of scale, programmability, and operational efficiencies.