Windstream Wholesale sets 400GbE record with Acacia pluggable modules

Windstream Wholesale will begin deploying pluggable modules in its network in the second half of 2021. (Image by Prawny from Pixabay)

Windstream Wholesale is making inroads with 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE). The company said it successfully deployed 400 GbE single-wavelength transmission over 1,027 kilometers across its long-haul network from Phoenix to Los Angeles.

The trial set a record for 400G using Acacia Communications’ pluggable modules. In addition, Windstream said that by looping back the signal, it was able to achieve 300G transmission over 2,054 kilometers using Acacia pluggables.

Windstream said the trial was a milestone for the company because it demonstrated that it was able to achieve high-speed optical transmissions of 300G and 400G using its fiber network with these compact pluggable modules. These modules are only a fraction of the size of comparable network electronics and are much more energy efficient.  In addition, the pluggables allow for different types of deployments that weren’t possible with previous generations of optical technologies.

Buddy Bayer, chief network officer at Windstream said that the company, which is an early adopter of coherent optical technologies, will begin deploying ZR+ coherent pluggable modules in the second half of 2021. He added that this technology can be used in as much as 80% of Windstream’s existing links.

Bayer noted that because Acacia’s modules are compact, they can deployed closer to the network edge, making more applications possible. And he also said that these pluggables will not only provide greater bandwidth for hyperscalers and large wholesale customers, but also for business and residential customers.  

Related: Optical transport takes steps toward 400G: Special Report

But Acacia isn’t the only company that Windstream has been working with. In August the company said it was commercially deploying 400 GbE with Everstream.   

According to a recent forecast by Dell'Oro Group, demand for 400G pluggable modules will materialize by late 2021. The company forecasts that the cumulative optical transport market revenue will be nearly $85 billion for the years that include 2021 through 2025.

Cisco is in the midst of acquiring Acacia in a $4.5 billion deal and its acquisition of the company is likely to accelerate this trend toward coherent technology and pluggable solutions. In Janauary, Cisco secured final regulatory approval for the acquisition from the Chinese government’s State Administration for Market Regulation.

Companies have been eying 400G optical technology for some time. The first coherent 400G wavelengths started shipping in 2017 but there was little demand. In 2019, 400G wavelengths only accounted for only about 3-4% of the total WDM market revenue of about $14 billion, according to the Dell’Oro Group.