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The hottest technology topic in 2019 is obviously 5G, which is largely due to its high bandwidth and low latency features. 5G will effectively change the network infrastructure for the society. In our daily life, there are still various network types and areas to which 5G is not applicable. In this era, not only 5G, but also Wi-Fi 6 and gigabit fibers are required. However, during network upgrade, there are some blind spots that are easily ignored, for example, campus networks.
Different from operator networks, campus networks are designed and constructed by campus owners. Therefore, campus network evolution probably lags behind the latest technology, and depends on campus owners' awareness to proactively replace networks and upgrade devices. Under the trend of network technology upgrade, campus network upgrade progress may vary with regions and industries. With the rapid development of optical networks, fibers have reached campuses, and all-optical campus networks are becoming popular. However, the broadband industry is generally conservative in this regard.
Since 2000, operators began to promote fiber to the home (FTTH). At that time, many users had doubts about whether fibers were necessary. With the rise of online games, online videos, and mobile Internet, home users began to realize the essential role of fibers in life.
Network evolution is after all driven by network usage and new services. Major changes to campus networks may come as a result of the popularization of three technologies:
• All-cloud: With the evolution of data centers and acceleration of enterprise cloudification, massive data will be transmitted between enterprise campuses and clouds, which may overwhelm traditional campus networks.
• Video: Intelligent applications like facial recognition system are becoming mainstream applications in various campuses. This means massive video traffic between campuses. Video data may need to be repeatedly recorded, read, labeled, and learned. In addition, HD video applications such as video conferencing, streaming media, and VR devices increase the load of campus networks.
• IoT: Service robots, intelligent access control, voice devices, and data sensing devices are widely deployed in campuses. IoT is of great value to campus networks. However, it also brings numerous data transmission nodes and various network terminals, making the network structure complex and generating huge pressure on traditional networks.
On the one hand, a traditional campus network requires cable re-routing each time it is upgraded, bringing huge and complex construction costs. On the other hand, re-routing cables is not a long-term solution. The fastest Cat6 network cable in the market can provide a rate up to 10 Gbps, but the coverage distance is only 55 meters. To replace existing network cables with Cat6 cables, you need to connect new power supplies and lay out new access points along the last 100 meters. The 10 Gbps bandwidth of Cat6 will soon be used out considering exponential growth of traffic nowadays.
Facing great challenges brought by all-cloud, video, and IoT, traditional campus networks urgently need to be upgraded, and all-optical network is the optimal solution.
• Once built, an all-optical network has the potential to meet network evolution requirements and provide sufficient bandwidth for new services in the next 30 years.
• An all-optical network is simple in architecture and has only two layers. It uses passive devices and does not need weak-current rooms, saving valuable space and reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO).
• All-optical network O&M is simple. Only one person is required to maintain an entire campus network, which minimizes the O&M cost.
With so many benefits, an all-optical network that can transmit data up to 100 Gbps over a long distance without power supply has become the optimal choice for campus networks.
From the perspective of service requirements, all-optical networks are more needed in campuses with large areas, dense population, various services, and complex network systems, such as hotels, universities, and airports. Such campuses have various network requirements. Hotel customers need various network services. Student dormitories, laboratories, and teachers require differentiated network support. Air ports require intelligent security protection and operation, and need to provide quality network services such as Wi-Fi 6 backhaul for terminals and shops. All-optical networks have become the first choice for these scenarios as they can cover entire campuses without active devices and meet the requirements of multi-network collaboration and unified O&M.
For example, with the help of Huawei, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics has built the first all-optical converged campus network with 10 Gbps access in China. Fibers are directly routed to office desktops, classrooms, labs, and dormitories, providing teachers and students with 10 Gbps network experience that integrates wired, wireless, and IoT networks. Based on the all-optical campus network, the university can carry out multimedia remote teaching, massive open online courses (MOOC), collaborative scientific research, and more innovative activities in the future.
Hotel Original in Mexico adopts the all-optical campus network to integrate TV, telephone, and network services. The network supports multiple applications such as ultra-HD TV, high-speed Internet access, VR room selection, and IoT, providing ultimate experience for customers using cutting-edge technologies. In addition, the solution also saves space, retains the elegant decoration, minimizes risks of fire, and reduces power consumption for the hotel.
From the perspective of industry trends, all-optical networks are better alternatives to traditional Ethernet networks, and can help enterprises build up competitiveness in innovation and digital transformation.
In June 2019, China released the first Passive Optical LAN Engineering Technical Standard, which specifies the system, design, cabling, test, and acceptance rules for all-optical campus solutions. In October, Huawei, Nokia, YOFC, Digital China, and Zhonghai Properties jointly established the Optical Network Alliance (ONA). These two significant events help promote the innovation and standardization of passive optical LAN.
Looking ahead, the business of all-optical networks is on the rise, and fibers will eventually replace copper cables in enterprise campus networks.