Last year, while the optical transport market seemed focused on 400 Gigabit, Ciena became the first vendor to roll out 800G technology, capable of sending up to 800 billion bits per second over a single optical channel. 600G was widely viewed as the logical next step after 400G, but Ciena says its customers want 800G.

“Early technology adoption of 800G is two times that of 600G,” said Rebecca Prudhomme, VP of portfolio marketing at Ciena. “The rate of adoption has been phenomenal. It is really taking off. So 600G really has become more of a moot point.”

For now, Ciena remains the only vendor with an 800G product on the market. The company said recently that since launching the solution last April, it has shipped more than 6,000 coherent modems to 75 global customers, all of whom are actively deploying 800G.

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Prudhomme said demand is coming from companies that transmit data over long distances and want to enhance their core network performance. “These high-performance, long-haul businesses – this is exactly where 800G fits a need in the market,” she said.

Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, the international wholesale unit of Deutsche Telekom, said last year that it had turned up the first European 800G network connecting its data centers in Vienna, Austria.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

While Ciena is clearly dominating the nascent market for 800G solutions, the company has yet to ship a ZR pluggable transponder for the larger 400G market segment. 

“Ciena is not late, but not early either,” said analyst Simon Leopold of Raymond James, in a note to investors. “Acacia (Cisco), Inphi and NeoPhotonics have disclosed interoperability testing with Microsoft and Ciena’s ZRs have yet to hit the market. Ciena expects availability by mid-year. Ciena argues that it adhered to industry specifications, thus enabling interoperability, and that its release date does not hinder it from participating in the earliest deployments.”

Leopold thinks Ciena will probably try to deliver the market’s lowest cost per bit per km, with its ZR reaching 80-140 km while operating in the 15-17 Watts (W) range or better. “For many operators power consumption matters, particularly when deploying massive volumes,” he wrote.

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Massive volumes could be a hallmark of 400G ZR deployments. According to Ciena, the maximum fiber propagation between distributed data center locations must be limited to about 100 km in order to maintain application performance. 

Leopold estimates the total market for ZR pluggables at about half a billion dollars, and because this hardware is by definition interoperable, late comers still have a chance to make good progress.


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