400G: It’s here and HUGE!

If you know anything about Telia Carrier, it is that we are always thinking about the future needs of our network and customers.  We saw significant traffic growth of more than 50% in 2020, and currently a similar trajectory for 2021.  Whilst this remains well within the capacity of our network, we are looking forward and ensuring we have the ability to turn up additional capacity quickly, effectively and at a good price point.

It’s something we have been looking at in every area of our business, from routing architecture (see this blog on rethinking Internet backbone architectures) to 400GE wavelengths and client-side monitoring. 400G is one of the technologies that we have been looking at for some time to make sure we stay ahead of the traffic, and at the end of 2020 we announced that we’re preparing to converge our optical and IP networks through OpenZR coherent modules from Acacia and Cisco routers.

That work has continued at pace, and we are leading the way on 400G deployments in our network.  We’ve been able to turn up 400G links in our backbone – albeit within metropolitan to areas service our edge-core links.  We first did this back in October 2020 in Frankfurt. With similar use-cases deployed in Q1 2021 in Stockholm, Copenhagen, and London in Europe – plus Reston and Dallas in the US.  With 400G’s ability to enable more simplified router to router links – with no DWDM and short/local distances – it is only a matter of time before we’ll see more and more of these links switching to 400G, especially with the arrival later this year of LR4 and ZR optical fibre enabling 10km and 40km distances respectively.

On top of this, we have just completed a trial with Aqua Comms providing Trans-Atlantic capacity and 400GbE service from New York to London.  Telia Carrier provided the ongoing terrestrial service from London to Frankfurt demonstrating that traffic can be passed on seamlessly across Aqua Comms respective transmission networks and utilized on Telia Carrier’s IP Backbone (AS1299) with active 400G interfaces routing on both continents.

The pros of 400G

400G is extremely exciting for us as a network operator on several levels.  Firstly, it will mean an entirely new experience for our customers, with simpler and faster commissioning, as there is less patching and configuration to take place to bring IP services online for customers.  As an operator, 400G is not only simplifying deployments – but actually saving us money too. Less x-connects, less burning of Metro dark fibre – and of course operationally – there’s less things to go wrong.

For some, thoughts of 400G (and beyond) are difficult to take seriously when 100G is still being widely implemented today, but the reality is that 400G is happening now, and offers huge opportunities for all parts of the operator network and its users.  1G, 10G and 100G have made a significant difference to WAN customers and 400G will be no different.  In truth, it is perhaps only 40G that never really made its impact on WAN customers, only really being used in large data centres.

We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on how our 400G expansion continues – but make no mistake – now really is the time to start thinking about how 400G will impact your WAN and who you want to partner with.

Jorg Dekker, Head of Internet Services