Infinera turbocharges its 800G tech for long-haul transport

Infinera has found way to squeeze more juice out of its ICE6 coherent optical engine, enabling service providers to transmit more information over their existing long-haul fiber assets.

Rob Shore, SVP of marketing at Infinera, told Fierce its new ICE6 Turbo offering isn’t a new product per say, but rather a souped-up version of its earlier ICE6 solution which can function at a higher Baud rate. That latter term refers to a measure of the speed at which information is sent along a communications channel.

The original ICE6 solution Infinera announced in 2019 already offered a top-tier rate of 96 gigabaud. But by doing “additional tuning, by writing really optimized algorithms for it, we’ve been able to get this over 100 gigabaud,” Shore explained. While this change might not sound like much, Shore said “it actually provides about 30% increased reach for these optics” compared to the original version of ICE6.

RELATED: Infinera trots out 400G pluggable support, ships 800G

Ron Johnson, GM of Infinera’s Optical Systems and Network Solutions Group, said after it launched ICE6 it did a study where it looked at all the service provider deployments of its technology on long-haul networks. It found that in about 80% of the channels it could hit 800-gig. “What this does is it gives us the ability to hit 800-gig in the 20% of remaining channels,” he said.

That’s a “big deal” because it offers “the ability to map 4x400-gig” onto a single optical engine, Johnson added.

In layman’s terms, Shore said the ICE6 Turbo will enable service providers to maximize how much information they can transmit over their existing fiber infrastructure and that’s important given how quickly bandwidth demand is rising and how costly is it to run new long-haul fiber. He added there’s been a “huge amount of demand” for this type of technology.

Indeed, on the company’s earnings call last week, CEO Dave Heard stated revenue from its ICE6 line as a percentage of overall product revenue grew to “the low teens” in Q4 2021, up from the “high-single digits” in Q3. He added it ended the year with over 30 ICE6 customers and is "on track to ramp ICE6 revenue to 20% to 25% of product revenue in 2022."

Last month, Dell’Oro Group predicted the optical transport market will grow to become an $18 billion business by 2026.

ICE6 Turbo will be available early in Q4 of this year. Addressing supply chain concerns, Johnson said there is nothing specific to this version of ICE6 that will make it any more difficult to manufacture than the original given the Turbo model simply includes a software enhancement.