Ciena delivers dynamically programmable coherent modem

Don Frey/Ovum
09 Dec 2016

Ciena’s next-generation WaveLogic Ai modem raises the standard in the high-capacity, long-distance transmission technology race by offering open APIs that enable customer-programmable bandwidth (in 50Gb increments) and advanced telemetry.

The next critical step for Ciena will be to deliver on its promise of integrating the new modem in future products starting in 2Q17.

Ciena improves the underlying digital signal processor to offer customers more flexibility, using half the power

Ciena’s new WaveLogic Ai is optimized for transporting 400G while supporting 400GbE and FlexEthernet clients with open APIs. On October 28, 2016, AT&T announced plans to test Ciena’s 400GbE over a single wavelength over its Open ROADM network.

The new, fully programmable modem with embedded real-time link measurement exposes data every 10 milliseconds to allow programmability of the network, which is essential for quickly orchestrating new or existing services based on network performance. The exposed data includes optical power, transmission latency, polarization conditions per channel, and error rates and conditions.

The WaveLogic Ai can operate at 35Gbaud or 56Gbaud, optimizing for distance or capacity. The WaveLogic Ai can provide 400Gb on a single channel between data centers that are 300km apart, and up to 200Gb on a 14,000km submarine cable.

More importantly, the modem can scale up or down based on the capability of the fiber, such that a submarine cable channel could go from 50Gb to 200Gb based on the capability of the channel. The modem will allow for reach of 7,000km without regeneration.

Ciena will add WaveLogic Ai capabilities to its GeoMesh solution, allowing carriers to deliver better network performance to cloud customers by assuring network redundancy with a higher level of visibility of line capabilities and latency, whether it is a submarine, long-haul, regional, or metro link.

The coherent digital signal processor (DSP) is the brain of today’s WDM systems, and major vendors and component companies are locked in a technology race. To stay competitive, vendors must continue to deliver pioneering technology that benefits carriers and data center operators.

Falling off the pace or missing a generation will quickly relegate a vendor to the lower tiers in market share. The WaveLogic Ai was a long time in coming, but this pioneering technology will now put the pressure back on the other major vendors and component DSP companies to deliver their next-gen update.

Don Frey is a principal analyst for intelligent networks at Ovum. For more information, visit

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