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“Self-healing” network tech unveiled in New Zealand

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Spark has completed the first phase of its Optical Transport Network (OTN 2) that it said has “self-healing” capabilities, as it continues to build capacity for 5G.

With Ciena (NYSE: CIEN) heading hardware, software, design and build, the “self-healing” capabilities will automatically restore services after things like natural disasters. In addition, the technology will increase data capacity on Spark’s network by up to eight times, supporting its 5G services, while providing “significant reductions” in the power usage and space required per gigabyte.

Spark said it is the first time such technology has been deployed in New Zealand.

Campbell Fraser, Spark’s “technology tribe lead” said that the roll out of OTN 2 will deliver increased resiliency enabling Spark to respond and restore service much faster after events such as the Kaikoura earthquakes.

“The technology, which we believe is a first for New Zealand, will minimise the impact of network outages. These are caused by cuts in the fibre cable from earthquakes, floods, landslips, construction works or rodents damaging cables.

“Currently, restoring service is a manual process but the sharp growth in network traffic means manual restoration is becoming unmanageable. The optical restoration ‘self-healing’ technology allows the light signals that carry the data to automatically change their path after a fibre cut, so this is a big step forward. We expect to be able to restore services much more quickly so we can get customers back up and running,” Fraser added.

The OTN 2 roll out is a two-year project starting in Auckland and expanding south towards Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. Initially the new OTN equipment will be an express overlay to the existing core network, then will eventually replace the existing OTN – the fibre-based network that connects New Zealand’s cities and towns with high speed data links.

The first piece of the new OTN 2 fibre network was installed between Glenfield and Papakura in Auckland. It is now live and operating at 800 Gigabits per second – Spark’s previous links operated at 100 or 200Gbps.

OTN 2 will also ensure the network has enough capacity to meet demand caused by the 700% growth in data consumption in the country since 2016.

He said: “Kiwis love their video streaming, mobile services and online applications, and there is an increasing customer expectation of connectivity anytime, anywhere.

“We know that the roll out of our 5G network will drive data consumption even higher as businesses and consumers across New Zealand start using 5G technology with its greater data capacity and speed. It’s already common for business customers to ask for a 100Gbps connection, whereas even five years ago 10 Gbps connections were standard. The up to eight-fold capacity increase we’ll get with the OTN 2 network is key to meeting this huge demand for data capacity.”

Ciena has been contracted to supply the hardware, software and services to design and build Spark’s OTN 2.

Ciena’s VP and GM of the Asia-Pacific and Japan, Rick Seeto, said: “A self-healing and resilient network that can automatically fine tune capacity and dynamically adapt to evolving user demands and unexpected fibre cuts or natural disasters is critical in today’s digital-first environment.

“With Ciena’s WaveLogic 5, advanced network automation and intelligent restoration capabilities, Spark can quickly support 5G and IoT services and trailblaze their way into the next chapter of innovation,” he added.

As part of this network build, Spark is deploying a number of Ciena’s solutions including Ciena’s 6500 flexible grid colourless, directionless and contentionless (CDC) photonic line system with advanced control plane capabilities, WaveLogic 5 Extreme coherent optics, and Manage, Control and Plan domain controller with Liquid Spectrum analytics.

Combined, Spark said these solutions give it “a more efficient and resilient network that can adapt to customer needs and quickly respond to potential network faults by re-routing traffic as needed based on available network resources”.

Further supporting responses to natural disasters, last week Google completed a trial using its subsea cable to detect earthquakes and tsunamis.

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