• Technical Conference:  30 March – 03 April 2025
  • Exhibition: 01 – 03 April 2025
  • Moscone Center, San Francisco, California, USA

Technology for 5G and MSO at OFC

By Casimer DeCusatis

One of the topics at OFC 2019, which generated the most interest, was the development of 5G mobile technology and the cable/MSO initiative called Fiber Deep. There were 5G programs on the OFC show floor, as well as numerous announcements, product demonstrations, and prominent displays of 5G from hardware, software, and test equipment vendors. In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the more prominent examples of 5G and related MSO deployments.

It's widely anticipated that these initiatives will push more bandwidth to the network edge. Wireless capacity will increase with the advent of 5G, and the fiber portion of the network will extend further into the access layer with Fiber Deep. It’s expected that these services will generate demand for low cost, temperature-hardened optical solutions in the access network (including FTTP, CPRI, and passive networks). By contrast, the impact to metro and long haul networks should be minimal, with a much slower rollout of 5G in traditional DWDM and ROADM systems. A critical enabling technology is packet-based eCPRI interfaces connecting mobile radios to baseband units, targeting Ethernet data rates of 25 – 50 Gbit/second. But 5G offers more than just an increase in raw speed; it should also reduce latency and help enable massive connectivity for emerging Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Although 5G isn’t a formal industry standard, that didn’t stop many vendors from claiming 5G compliant service offerings. Most approaches include centralizing the processing power needed for applications in mobile edge computing, which should yield new processing intensive applications at the network edge. Mobile edge computing requires improved fiber optic bandwidth between remote locations, supplanting current solutions involving dark fiber or passive optical networks.

Traditional MSOs have used fiber to improve their last mile networks, due to their high bandwidth and ease of management. More recently, an architectural shift has begun which drives fiber far deeper into the network using digital solutions. The recently developed Remote PHY Distributed Access Architecture (DAAis a good example of a Fiber Deep approach. Many operators would like to move away from the high cost and complexity of 10 Gbit/second wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) access layers, and the associated need for mux/demux units and multi-channel network monitoring.  As the number of wavelengths increases, this solution does not scale in a cost effective manner. Some companies have published requests for a low-cost 100 Gbit/second coherent technology to enable Fiber Deep architectures. The eventual goal is to provide a single wavelength solution at 100 Gigabits/second that costs less than 10 times as much as the current 10 Gbit/second solutions.

In the near term, most network operators are looking towards virtualization and disaggregation technologies to control access layer costs for 5G and Remote PHY networks. While the ultimate goal is 100 Gbit/s data rates, the industry remains in the very early stages of 5G rollout. For now, there are a few hardware solutions with optics up to 50 Gbit/second and 5G packet switching, but there are significant opportunities for Fiber Deep architectures for companies like Cisco, Ciena and Nokia. We can expect to see lot more solutions for both packet switches and WDM networks in the coming year, and OFC is a great place to stay on top of all the latest developments.


Are you rolling out 5G in 2019, or do you know someone who is? Drop me a line on Twitter (@Dr_Casimer) and maybe we’ll use them as a case study in a future blog.



Posted: 9 October 2019 by Casimer DeCusatis | with 0 comments

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The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC)  or its sponsors.