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Infinera dives into submarine market with photonic integration-based systems

Carriers worldwide are seeing increasing bandwidth demand on submarine networks and many of these latter are reaching the limits of their current capacity. The Infinera submarine solution is claimed to offer submarine network operators a way to protect their investment in their subsea infrastructure while adding new capacity to the network. This review looks at the new solution and puts it in its global context.

 Infinera is launching a new submarine solution which is claimed to bring the benefits of photonic integration to the world of undersea networks. The new solution is designed to bring “enhanced capacity, new services, and Infinera's rapid speed of deployment to the world of subsea networks.” it is also designed to be deployed at land-based terminals of submarine networks. 

As carriers worldwide see increasing bandwidth demand on submarine networks, driven in turn by the growing pervasiveness of the Internet and network usage globally, many of these networks are reaching the limits of their current capacity. The Infinera solution offers submarine network operators “a highly cost-effective way to protect their investment in their subsea infrastructure while adding new capacity to the network and taking advantage of other features of the Infinera Digital Optical Networks architecture.” 

The Infinera submarine solution is promoted as a way to enable carriers to deliver additional capacity, typically including a doubling of the number of wavelengths on their subsea networks, while enjoying the speed of deployment, ease of operation, and flexibility of the Infinera platform. With the ability to use one optical platform for their subsea networks and their terrestrial networks, Infinera believes network operators can deploy an end-to-end solution with significant savings in capital and operating cost and simplified operation. 

Several technical changes have been made: Infinera's large-scale Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) have been enhanced with the addition of semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOAs) to provide trans-oceanic optical reach for the Infinera submarine solution. The enhanced PICs are implemented in the new Infinera Submarine Line Module (SLM), which provides 100 Gb/s of PIC-based DWDM capacity on every line card. With up to 16 SLM modules multiplexed onto a single fibre, the Infinera submarine solution can provide up to 160 wavelengths on existing submarine optical networks. 

Pan-American Deployment with Global Crossing

The Infinera submarine solution has just been deployed by several global carriers including Global Crossing, for a total of almost 50,000 subsea route-km. Global Crossing has deployed the Infinera submarine solution on its Mid-Atlantic Crossing (MAC) and its South American Crossing (SAC) networks, for a total of 26,000 route-km (Global Crossing first deployed an Infinera terrestrial network in 2006). 

"We are pleased with our new Infinera subsea network. It extends the reach of our existing highly reliable terrestrial digital optical architecture over Global Crossing subsea facilities, enabling single key stroke optical network provisioning end-to-end to on-net cities between continents. The world just got a little smaller," said Jim Watts, VP of Transport Engineering of Global Crossing. 

Billion-dollar market

The submarine networking market has enjoyed strong growth in recent years, as growing transcontinental Internet traffic has risen sharply, propelled by increasing adoption of Internet-capable mobile phones, high-speed Internet connections to homes and businesses, and growing prosperity in underdeveloped markets, where hundreds of millions of people have begun using Internet technology. 

According to data from independent analysts Ovum, the submarine networking market reached US$858 million in 2008, up 56% from the year earlier. This year, Ovum expects the market to rise 23% to US$1.06 billion, followed by a 20% increase in 2010 to US$1.27 billion. By contrast, the total optical networking market is expected by Ovum to decline 5.5% this year to $15.4 billion and rise 5% next year. 

"Subsea cable operators are struggling to increase capacity to keep up with skyrocketing demand. Installing a new cable plant is both time-consuming and expensive; therefore terminal upgrades are becoming very attractive," said Ron Kline Research Director, Optical Networks at Ovum. "Infinera has done a good job adapting its PIC technology for applicability in subsea networks. Operators are looking for more channels and higher rates per channel (40G and ultimately 100G) through terminal-only upgrades so they can postpone the time and expense of putting in new subsea systems. Increasing density is important and integrating SLTE and terrestrial systems provide an attractive solution for operators looking to simplify operations and reduce costs." 

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