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Ciena 2022 Predictions: Predicting the 2022 Submarine Network Seascape

vmblog predictions 2022 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2022.  Read them in this 14th annual series exclusive.

Predicting the 2022 Submarine Network Seascape

By Brian Lavallée, Sr. Director, Solutions Marketing, Ciena

The global pandemic is still a major challenge around the world meaning how we deploy, use, manage, and maintain network infrastructure - over land, sea, and air - has quickly taken on a whole new level of critical importance. Without submarine networks, our world would just be continental landmasses of isolated connectivity. Submarine cables, which interconnect continental landmasses are the "jugular veins" of global connectivity because without them, the high-speed and resilient internet that we all know, love, and utterly depend upon for our daily professional and personal lives, simply wouldn't exist.

Contrary to popular belief, satellite networks carry a miniscule amount of international data communications because they do not compare to the incredulously amount of reliable, secure, and cost-effective bandwidth provided by the mesh of submarine cables networks crisscrossing our planet. Together, they carry over 95% in all international communications traffic. Given there is no "Plan B" for these submerged assets, associated technologies will continue to rapidly evolve to ensure they can continue to scale rapidly, reliably, and securely to cost-effectively address voracious bandwidth demand growth on an ongoing basis. The primary business driver for submarine networks is more reliable and secure connectivity, at less cost.

Prediction #1: Increased Submarine Network Traffic Growth in a Post-Pandemic World

According to respected industry analyst, TeleGeography, the compound annual growth rate for traffic between intercontinental submarine corridors is approximately 40%, with no signs of slowing down. The global pandemic, coupled with stay-at-home mandates, resulted in people learning, working, and playing from home making us even more reliant on the global network infrastructure, from access networks to submarine networks, and everything in between. Imagine our stay-at-home lives from a socioeconomic perspective if there was no global internet and we suddenly had to do everything by telephone, snail mail, and TV.

Although the pandemic had an implied impact of 15% increase on global submarine network peak traffic usage, according to TeleGeography, stakeholders are wondering if things will go back to "normal" or will there be a "new normal". Most people (and companies) are more comfortable and just as productive when working from home, as proven in the biggest work-from-home experiment ever performed. Will bandwidth demand increase even more than pre-pandemic as more people work, play, and learn from home? What will be the subsequent impact to the global network infrastructure, and submarine networks in particular?

I predict that even as the global pandemic subsides, there will be a larger portion of the global workforce in 2022 that will work-from-home resulting in incremental growth to the 40% CAGR experienced today.

Prediction #2: Increased Intelligent, Analytics-driven Automation and Software Control

The global pandemic resulted in social distancing becoming the norm, which greatly hindered our ability to work with other people onsite and to travel to remote locations and perform various operational tasks. This new reality impacts a network operator's ability to send people into the field (and seas) to lay new submarine cables, install new modems to increase capacity, and to perform ongoing maintenance and repair activities.

Data-driven analytics, powered by highly instrumented network infrastructure and streaming telemetry, provides operators with timely and actionable insights, such as isolating congested network imbalances, impending equipment failures, or under-utilized link capacity. Intelligent automation and software control can address these actionable insights fully autonomously, fully manually, or somewhere in between, which is up to a network operator's experience (and growing confidence) with this emerging technology.

Out of sheer necessity, submarine networks operators had to suddenly experiment with and increasingly rely upon intelligent, analytics-driven automation and software control to manage their networks assets. The impressive remote capacity provisioning and troubleshooting results, coupled with necessary (forced) acceleration technology adoption and leaning cycles, is why I predict this trend will continue well into 2022.

Prediction #3: Standardized, Open Submarine Cables

The business model of using optical transmission equipment from one vendor on a submarine wet plant from a different vendor is not new. This has increasingly been the case since coherent optical modems were introduced over a decade ago. For example, Ciena shipped its thousandth Submarine Line Terminal Equipment (SLTE) node last year, and we don't offer wet plants. However, this "Open Cable" business model was performed in a "quasi-open" manner, which initially led to increased complexity, because there was no formal industry standard available to facilitate this emerging business model for submarine cable operators wanting to build best-in-breed networks from a broader vendor supply chain.

This changes with the introduction of the new ITU G.977.1 "Transverse Compatible DWDM Applications for Repeatered Optical Fibre Submarine Cable Systems" standard, which allows operators to compare SLTE from different vendors in a more accurate and convenient manner that facilitates multi-vendor networks. Therefore, I predict the Open Cables business model to accelerate in 2022 and become the de facto norm.

Submarine Networks Are Critical Infrastructure

Most people don't know (or care) that submarine networks carry 95% of all intercontinental communications via cables the size of a garden hose snaking around the seabeds of the world. That is until a submarine cable is severed, say due to a rogue ship anchor, and intercontinental connectivity is either degraded (country served by multiple submarine cables) or lost entirely (country served by one submarine cable). Submarine networks are considered critical infrastructure by most governments around the world, and rightfully so. As there's no alternative technology that can compete with the capacity, performance, security, and economies of scale provided by submarine networks, associated technology innovation will continue unabated in 2022.



Brian Lavallée, Senior Director, Solutions Marketing, Ciena

Brian Lavallee 

Brian Lavallée is Senior Director of Solutions Marketing with global responsibility for various segments including 5G, Submarine, Edge Cloud, Satellite, and others. An industry veteran, he has more than 20 years of telecommunications experience with previous roles in Product Line Management, Systems & Network Engineering, Research & Development, Business Development, and Operations. In his career, he's worked in numerous areas related to packet and optical networks from access to submarine networks, and everything in between.

Brian holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from Concordia University and an MBA in Marketing & International Business from McGill University, both located in Montréal, Québec, Canada.

Published Tuesday, January 04, 2022 7:34 AM by David Marshall
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