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Traffic on broadband networks increased by 51% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to OpenVault.
The firm’s fourth quarter OVBI report included many validations of the impact of the pandemic on broadband usage. The firm found that average per-subscriber usage increased from 344 GB during the fourth quarter of 2019 to 482.6 GB per month during the fourth quarter of 2020. That was an increase of 40%.
Pandemic Broadband Traffic
The impact of the pandemic accelerated during the second half of the year. OpenVault found that fourth quarter monthly average usage — 482.6 GB – represented a 26% increase compared to the third quarter monthly average of 383.8 GB.
Total broadband traffic also was driven by an increase in users. The report — OpenVault Broadband Insights – found a 6.5% increase in subscribers. The two trends – more people using more data — led to the 51% overall broadband traffic increase over the year.
Median monthly usage for the fourth quarter of 2020 was 293.8 GB, a 54% increase compared to the year-ago quarter’s 190.7 GB.
An interesting trend noted by OpenVault is that ebbs and flows in traffic mirrored pre-pandemic dynamics, just at a higher level.
Source: 4Q20 OVBI Upstream usage also increased. During the fourth quarter, upstream usage averaged 31 GB per month, an increase of 63% compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.
The pandemic broadband traffic report also looked at power users:
14.1% of subscribers consume more than 1 TB of data per month. That is a 94% rise – 61% in the fourth quarter of 2020 alone – from the fourth quarter 2019 average of 7.25%.
Extreme power users (who consume more than 2 TB per month) increased by 184% year over year, from 0.76% in 2019 to 2.2% at the end of last year. Similar to with those using 1 TB data, 120% of that increase occurred between the third and fourth quarters.
Providers offering unlimited, flat-rate billing packages had nearly 30% more power users than those with usage-based billing plans.
53.6% of all subscribers now consume more than the former power user threshold of 250 GB per month.
OpenVault suggests that operators must proactively address the traffic increases. “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was complete and has forever changed broadband usage patterns,” the pandemic broadband traffic report said. “Network operators now must contend with significantly higher average bandwidth usage, with implications for both network management and revenue. Network operators should evaluate all network management options to ensure they deliver the best customer experience while maximizing profitability.”
In November, OpenVault released research on the great increase in power users. It found a 110% increase in power users who use 1 TB or more of data (to 8.8% overall), a 172% increase in extreme power users consuming 2 TB or more of data (to 1% overall) and an increase of 124% in gigabit subscribers (to 5.6% overall).
Both India and Israel now have achieved closer ties with the Arabs, resulting in increased economic and security cooperation against common threats, especially Iran and Pakistan. These three powers have come together to serve as a barrier against the repercussions of Joe Biden’s disastrous policies. The message is clear: Stick with Trump’s policies or we […]
Cable's deployments of a distributed access architecture (DAA) are still in the early innings and still represent a sliver of the overall DOCSIS network pie, but Vecima Networks is seeing operator deployment activity start to ramp up.
Sales of the vendor's Entra-brand DAA products accelerated to C$8 million ($6.29 million) in fiscal Q2 2021, up 54% from C$5.2 million ($4.09 million) in Q1 2021, and up more than six times from the C$1.1 million ($866,000) pulled in for the subsegment in the year-ago quarter.
Vecima also saw some increased contribution from the Nokia cable access portfolio acquired last year for $4.87 million. Entra results for the quarter included C$3.4 million ($2.67 million) of sales from the cable access portfolio acquired from Nokia, up from just C$1 million ($787,000) in the prior quarter.
The addition of the Nokia cable access portfolio gave Vecima a mix of remote MACPHY and 10G EPON products that complemented its existing remote PHY lineup. Cable operators are starting to pursue DAA network strategies to help drive more capacity into the hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network and to prepare for DOCSIS 4.0 and access network virtualization.
Vecima ended the quarter boasting Entra "engagements" with 58 cable operators in multiple regions, including 40 that are either in lab trials, field trials or in live deployments. Of that 40, 24 are in the purchasing/deployment phase.
Order sizes are also growing, with one tier 1 customer shifting to "thousands" of Entra DAA nodes, up from prior orders in the "hundreds," CEO Sumit Kumar said on Thursday's earnings call.
Vecima posted total Q2 revenues of C$30.4 million ($23.93 million), up 21% year-over-year, ending the period with C$20.8 million ($16.37 million) in cash.
The Chinese government is still holding two Canadians – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig – in custody as apparent retaliation for the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver back in December 2018. In The Wall Street Journal's latest update to the story, the former deputy national security adviser, Matthew Pottinger, is said to have described the men as "hostages" and is quoted as saying their release would be "part of any kind of settlement that could possibly occur between the Department of Justice and Huawei." Huawei's continued claims that it operates independently from the Chinese government are rendered all the more unbelievable when one considers the trouble China is going through just to pressure Canada into releasing Meng.
Over the past few weeks, Infinera has had the opportunity to perform a submarine network field trial over the MAREA trans-Atlantic cable with our ICE6 optical engine, which already leads the industry in terrestrial reach at its headline data rate of 800 Gb/s over terrestrial network routes.
MAREA is essentially the benchmark for trans-Atlantic cable systems, as it was specifically designed for high-performance coherent transmission – it is the cable system on which every submarine network vendor’s implementations will be measured.
The ICE6 results were truly amazing, achieving two incredible industry firsts. As with all trials like this, we need to be clear on the difference between the “hero result,” which has no additional deployment margin, and the “deployable result,” where there is allocated margin to allow real services to be deployed at this data rate or with this total capacity. In summary:
MAREA hero results over 6,640 km:
30 Tb/s of total capacity on a single fiber pair
700 Gb/s data rate per wavelength
MAREA deployable results over 6,640 km:
28 Tb/s of total capacity on a single fiber pair
Up to 650 Gb/s data rate per wavelength
I’m fortunate to have had the chance to discuss the ICE6 trial with two of the key people who made it happen: Dr. Steve Grubb, Global Network Optical Architect at Facebook, which operates several of the MAREA fiber pairs, and Dr. Pierre Mertz, Infinera Fellow and a world-class submarine networking engineer when it comes to optimizing subsea transponder performance.
The MAREA Cable SystemGeoff Bennett: Steve, you were involved in the design of MAREA – perhaps you could give a quick summary of why it’s so iconic in terms of performance metrics.
Steve Grubb: Of course. MAREA is a trans-Atlantic cable that stretches from Bilbao, Spain to Virginia Beach, VA, U.S. – a cable distance of about 6,640 km. I think it’s fair to say that MAREA is the highest-performing cable system in the world because it was specifically optimized for maximum capacity per fiber pair. It utilizes a large-area, low-loss optical fiber type based on a pure silica core and has excellent performance. The cable system also has short amplifier spacing of 56 km, allowing an excellent optical signal-to-noise ratio. When MAREA became ready for service in February 2018, it had a design capacity that rivaled all of the other contemporary operational trans-Atlantic cables combined.
As a result, every vendor of submarine transponder equipment has trialed its transponder technology on this cable (both in single-pass and the 13,200 km loopback in order to assess trans-Pacific performance) in a bid to set the highest records in total fiber capacity and spectral efficiency. Pierre and I were involved in a similar trial of Infinera’s ICE4 technology in September of 2018, and that deployed capacity record still stands. Now it’s time for the next generation to show us what it can do.
Geoff Bennett: Steve, I remember seeing a conference presentation from you, I think it might have been back in 2013, at the time when the MAREA cable was being designed. You said then that despite the incredible capacity boost that the first generation of coherent transponders had delivered, you were pretty confident that there was “a lot more gas in the tank” in terms of subsea fiber capacity. Did you ever think that would translate into the ability to operate error-free 700 Gb/s wavelengths over an Atlantic cable?
Steve Grubb: Geoff, of course I did – I never had a moment of doubt! No, I’m kidding…I think back then even the idea of 8QAM or 16QAM trans-Atlantic was considered to be a real stretch. But we’ve had 16QAM technology deployed and delivering over 24 Tb/s of capacity on MAREA for over a year. To give readers some context, with the results of the latest trial, we see that a single MAREA fiber pair can deliver almost as much capacity as the entire SpaceX satellite system will when it’s fully deployed (Ed: 32 Tb/s indicated on page 5 of the FCC filing). The total MAREA cable capacity should be capable of 224 Tb/s given these latest trial results.
Geoff Bennett: According to analyst reports, the hyperscale ICPs like Facebook already account for over two-thirds of international submarine network capacity. What do you use it all for?
Steve Grubb: 3.1 billion people worldwide use one of the four major Facebook platforms at least one time per month, and the vast majority of these users are outside of the U.S. We also have an increasing number of data centers outside of the U.S. Hence the need for large amounts of international submarine traffic.
Geoff Bennett: Pierre, if we look at the increase in transponder capacity that happened around 2012 with the move to the first generation of coherent, that delivered a 10-fold increase on older submarine cable types. MAREA and ICE4 together deliver another threefold increase on top of that. What would you say were the biggest factors that gave that improvement?
Pierre Mertz: As a matter of fact, Steve and I gave a webinar on those factors after the ICE4 trial. But if I had to choose one feature it would be the move to Nyquist subcarriers with ICE4. As we move to ICE6, there’s a really fantastic interaction between subcarriers, our long-codeword PCS, and new nonlinear algorithms and mitigation techniques (e.g., super-Gaussian distributions), as well as dynamic bandwidth allocation that provides us a lot of granularity in the way we can tune the performance of an individual wavelength.
Geoff Bennett: Steve, I listed two different data rates in the summary – 700 Gb/s and 650 Gb/s. Could you clarify the difference between a hero value and a deployable value?
Steve Grubb: Submarine networks have a long tradition of pushing the boundaries of optical performance, which then spills over to terrestrial network performance. So, it’s normal to include data rate or capacity results that are right on the edge of the forward error correction (FEC) limit – in other words, it’s error-free transmission but an operator would not normally feel comfortable operating services under those conditions. So, the capacity of 30 Tb/s and the per-wavelength data rate of 700 Gb/s are both hero numbers, representing the upper bound of this innovative technology.
In contrast, what Facebook relies on is how much capacity we can expect under real operational conditions with an optical signal-to-noise ratio (OSNR) safety margin that takes into account natural fluctuations along the amplifier chain or losses we might incur if the cable suffered a break and repair, for example. We believe those are the deployable results of 28 Tb/s fiber capacity and up to 650 Gb/s per wavelength.
Geoff Bennett: Pierre – how did you achieve 28 Tb/s over a single fiber pair with commercial margins? I have to say I thought the ICE4 capacity of 24.0 Tb/s must be running close to the Shannon limit…are we breaking the laws of physics here?
Pierre Mertz: Not quite…but you’re right that we really are close to the theoretical limits with ICE6. Just to be clear, every fiber pair in the world has its own unique Shannon limit, which is to say that every fiber pair in the world has a unique bandwidth number, and a unique signal-to-noise ratio. What we’re able to do with ICE6 is dial in the right set of performance parameters to allow our compensation algorithms – whether it’s the FEC, or the DBA, or our nonlinear algorithms – all of that flexibility is what allows us to push right up against the Shannon limit.
To do that, we found that operating at a lower baud rate provides us better spectral efficiency – and the result is an optimal 450 Gb/s per wave in order to achieve 28 Tb/s in total. This is a really interesting result because it means that as a submarine network operator starts to fill the cable, they could operate at high data rates, like 650 Gb/s, that are less spectrally efficient, but more cost effective on an interface basis…and then as the cable utilization increases, they can switch toward a lower data rate and higher spectral efficiency and add transponders to provide the capacity they need.
Geoff Bennett: And to be clear – did you just test one wavelength on the entire fiber, so there was no chance of inter-channel interference?
Pierre Mertz: No, that wouldn’t be a realistic result. We always try to test as close to reality as we can because we use amplified spontaneous emission (ASE) utilizing ASE noise generators – these are like an erbium-doped fiber amplifier on steroids – to generate optical load across the entire spectrum, just like if you fill the fiber with data channels.
So, we’re not actually breaking the laws of physics…however, we’re pushing them harder and harder. In this diagram you can see a simplified Shannon equation. It really only has two terms on the right-hand side – the bandwidth term, B, and the log term based on the signal (S)-to-noise (N) ratio. When MAREA was first brought into service, the amplifier bandwidth was exceptional because they have a very flat gain over about 4.5 THz. Increasing that amplifier bandwidth versus older submarine amplifier technology increased the capacity in a linear fashion. Inside the log term is where ICE6 is doing the work, and on the graph you can see that if we increase the capability of the transponder, it gets harder and harder to translate that into more capacity.
Geoff Bennett: So, Steve, I assume Facebook still needs additional submarine network capacity growth year on year – where do you go next on the technology roadmap?
Steve Grubb:We still have capacity on MAREA, with additional fiber pairs to light up. We are also continuing to build and plan new submarine cables. The great thing about ICE6 is that, as Pierre said, the higher data rate per wave, the better the cost per bit – and that includes the fact that we need fewer transponders that consume less rack space and less electrical power. The 28 Tb/s option with ICE6 reduces the network element count by 60% vs. the boxes previously required for 24 Tb/s…that’s a huge improvement, especially in cable landing stations where real estate and power are often at a premium.
Where do we go after that? Long-term, the trend for new submarine cables is space-division multiplexing, or SDM, a topic that Pierre and I also gave a webinar presentation on along with Dr. Sergei Makovejs of Corning. In simple terms, SDM is where we would design a cable system based on less capacity per fiber pair, but the ability to support more fiber pairs per cable. In fact, there is a viable roadmap toward a 1 petabit trans-Atlantic cable in the next five to 10 years, should we need to stay on the same growth trajectory.
Geoff Bennett: That’s an amazing prediction – however, I know submarine network demand is forecast to grow to the point where we may need that petabit cable even sooner! Steve and Pierre –
When it comes to radios, the smaller and lighter the better. A high-end 5G radio made by Ericsson previously weighed up to 36 kilograms and was an awkward fit in many places. Bulkier equipment also gobbles up energy, partly because techniques to reduce heat become unavailable. "If you cannot make the size smaller, you cannot use passive cooling," says Sibel Tombaz, Ericsson's head of 5G highband and midband active antenna systems.
But after some cleverness within Ericsson Silicon, the Swedish vendor's in-house chips division, Ericsson has been able to shed some excess weight. It is not just a marginal improvement, either. Its state-of-the-art, midband 5G radio, featuring 64 transmitters and receivers, now weighs only 20 kilograms, a reduction of up to 45%. Energy consumption is down 15% to 20% compared with older equipment, says the company.
Smaller and lighter 5G products could be critical in Europe, says Ericsson.
This is something of a breakthrough for Ericsson, and it might even negate one of the big advantages Chinese manufacturers have had over their European rivals. Around this time last year, Huawei was shouting about similar "massive MIMO" gear that weighed about 25 kilograms per unit. At the time, Ericsson's equivalent products were up to 15 kilograms heavier, according to Earl Lum, an analyst with EJL Wireless Research. His figure roughly tallies with Ericsson's for its previous generation of equipment.
"As of today, from our side, we can definitely say that this 20 kilograms is a new benchmark for our industry," says Tombaz. "This is the lowest size and weight you can find in that kind of massive MIMO radio."
The claim is hard to validate because at the time of publication neither Huawei nor Ericsson's Nordic rival Nokia had been able to confirm details of their latest weight specifications. Nevertheless, Ericsson is essentially boasting a 5-kilogram advantage over the products Huawei was marketing this time last year. Nor has the Chinese vendor publicly announced improvements since then.
The three big vendors still account for up to 80% of the global market for radio access network equipment, and any technical edge could lure customers. Energy consumption accounts for a major slice of operating costs within the service provider business – about 5% of the total bill in 2018, according to research carried out by McKinsey, a management consultancy. Any savings could fatten profit margins. With more lightweight equipment, operators could also speed up 5G rollout and cut installation costs.
Assuming the same levels of traffic and capacity, Tombaz estimates total cost of ownership at a given mobile site would be 40% to 50% less with Ericsson's new radios than with older gear. She believes the latest products will make a real difference in parts of Europe where there are still site and spectrum constraints. "This really will make the European market grow," she says.
What explains the breakthrough Ericsson has made in the last year? Tombaz talks of a "cadence" of improvements that have happened in the design of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). The system-on-a-chip technology developed by Ericsson Silicon, she says, has been the "main foundation" of the decrease in size and weight.
Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.That seems to vindicate Ericsson's strategy of doubling down on the radio access networks business and boosting investments in research and development (R&D). In 2016, under previous management, Ericsson spent about 31.6 billion Swedish kronor (US$3.8 billion) on R&D across a diverse range of activities. As a more specialized vendor, it invested SEK39.7 billion ($4.8 billion) last year.
The funds have gone toward computing improvements as well as radio innovation. On the baseband side – the part of the network that processes signals – Ericsson is promising various options that will bring a 50% improvement in throughput, as well as more energy efficiency, compared with its older range of products.
Tough act to follow?
The updates put pressure on rivals including Huawei. HiSilicon, the Chinese vendor's equivalent of Ericsson Silicon, has lost access to major foundries reliant on US equipment or expertise, including Taiwan's TSMC, because of US trade sanctions. TSMC's cutting-edge manufacturing processes have been critical for reducing the power consumption of Huawei's 5G kit, according to Ryan Koontz, an analyst at Rosenblatt Securities, as cited in research that S&P Global Market Intelligence published last July.
Nokia is also under pressure. Under previous management, it mistakenly chose costly programmable chips rather than ASICs for its 5G products. That decision ate into profit margins and hurt Nokia's competitiveness. The good news is that Nokia is now partway through an overhaul that has already boosted profitability. But the Finnish company this year needs to prove it is not merely playing 5G catch-up with its main competitors.
Matching the sophistication of these massive MIMO products will be especially hard for open RAN, a newfangled system designed to improve vendor interoperability. "In this purpose-built portfolio, we are really focusing on the performance, size and weight, and this is really happening through end-to-end co-design and integration, where the hardware and software are the key components," says Tombaz. For open RAN, achieving "parity" with customized products is something France's Orange expects by the mid-2020s. Today's update shows how challenging that will be.
I listened to the call late yesterday. It sounded like everything is going to plan. $10 million revenue hit in Q1 from semiconductor shortage. Other than that, bookings good, designs wins good, products still coming out on time. No legitimate reason for it to be down besides tech selling off...
WINDSTREAM DID A TRIAL OF ZR+ AT 1000KM. THEY HAVE AN ARTICLE ON LIGHTWAVEONLINE.COM. SPECTRAL EFFICIENCY IS 50% LOWER THAN A QUALITY DSP AT THAT LENGTH, MAYBE EVEN LOWER.
I HOPE THIS HUAWEI TRIAL SPEAKS TO THEIR CAPABILITIES, BECAUSE IT IS VERY UNIMPRESSIVE.
Huawei Helps Telefonica Reinforce Its Network with 600G and 800G Signal Transmission Feb 20, 2021
[Madrid, Spain, February 20, 2021] Huawei and Telefonica (Spain) have completed a pilot on wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) photonic meshes that support Telefonica's Fusion IP Network. This pilot aims to strengthen the Fusion Network, by delivering greater quality and capacity in the face of emerging 5G and other new services.
The high single-wavelength 600G and 800G transmission speeds that Telefonica has achieved using Huawei OSN 9800 devices on the photonic mesh network in Madrid (spanning 47 km) is a prime example of this.
Juan José Marfil, the director of transport and IP connectivity at Telefonica, pointed out: "These pilots on the photonic meshes, in which signals are transmitted over optical channels without the need to switch to the electrical domain, are important milestones that build on the 400G speed that was achieved in 2019, also in Madrid. The goal is to begin implementing the 400G speed this year and subsequently optimize the Fusion IP Network to meet the needs for higher capacity and speed in view of the exponential growth of both connected devices and data transmission."
Enhancing transmission speed is key to the development strategy of Telefonica. This is because these networks fundamentally carry all of the company's services, whether it is for residential customers or large companies, and must also adapt to support the yearly 30% increase in traffic.
The use of 800G channels achieves full capacity for short-distance transmission. An example of this is using these new channels to transmit the equivalent of 500 one-hour HD quality movies over a pair of optical fibers in just a second.
Moreover, Telefonica will leverage the sustainability of its fast transmission technology to reduce energy consumption by 40% to 60% and become an industry pioneer for environmental sustainability.