An Interview with Robert Shore, Senior VP of Marketing, Infinera

Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 pandemic saw a huge growth in bandwidth demand as many countries around the world went into lockdown.  But it is easy to forget that demand already had been growing at a rapid pace and, while one can say that demand has slowed since the lockdown, it only slowed back to that same rapid pace. 

The industry is working hard to meet this demand; looking to increase capacity by both adding new cables and getting more capacity out of cables already in service.  In a development regarding the latter, Infinera recently announced that its Infinite Capacity Engine 6 (ICE6) 800G technology was successfully tested on a 20-year-old cable owned by Telstra, showing that it could greatly increase the capacity potential for a system that was built to meet the demands of a much earlier, and far less demanding, era. 

Following up on that release, SubCableWorld spoke with Robert Shore, Infinera’s Senior Vice President of Marketing.  The following are his comments about the news.

Mr. Shore: COVID told us a lot about capacity demand.  When it first hit, there was a huge spike.  So much of the traffic before COVID stayed in the buildings; on the premises; really in person.  So when COVID shut that down, cloud-based activity went through the roof.  Videoconferencing went through the roof.  There was more cloud-based file sharing.  People were home more and they weren’t going to the movies; instead they were streaming Netflix.  It pushed utilization way up.  There was about a 30% spike in three months.  That’s equivalent to the amount of capacity networks have been growing every year.  In other words, it’s a year’s worth of capacity in 3 months.  Since then we’ve gone back to the regular trajectory.  So there was a big spike and now we’re back at 30% growth every year.  That hasn’t slowed even a little bit and if you look at most analyst’s projections, they’re calling for at least five more years of 30% growth. 

That hits the areas where the infrastructure is the hardest to build.  It’s not too bad in the metro, but when you get into longer and longer distance networks, those fibers are increasingly difficult to put in – increasingly expensive and hence, increasingly valuable.  That culminates in the submarine networks; the most expensive and the hardest to put in of all the networks. 

This is the area where customers are having the greatest challenge and what they really need is not so much higher speed wavelengths, but technologies that enable them to get more capacity per fiber.  That’s the real sweet spot.  This is the area that ICE6 really specializes in. 

Regarding our recent announcement with Telstra International, they have submarine cable assets that go back many years.  The EAC cable that we operated in the trial had been in the water for 20 years.  Telstra wanted to find out how to provide the capacity their customers need without having to put new submarine cables in.  EAC is an older cable that was dispersion managed, from an era before coherent optics.  The fiber was not ideal for coherent, yet we were still able to increase capacity by nearly 50%.  That’s a huge lifeline for an older system.  It extends the cable’s lifespan by 50%.  It doesn’t mean that they won’t need to lay more fiber, but it gives them more time to do it.  They get more value out of an already valuable resource. 

As there is no signs of abatement of bandwidth requirements – as noted earlier it’s growing at 30% per year – the question for carriers becomes how to leverage the existing infrastructure to keep up with the bandwidth demands without having to lay new fiber.  And this is where spectral efficiency and capacity per fiber, hence ICE6, have been really, really popular because there has not been a single application, a single network opportunity, a single trial that we’ve done where ICE6 hasn’t provided the greatest amount of capacity per fiber. 

Rob Shore