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Ciena unveils 5G network solutions

Ciena's automated solutions package will enable carriers to run 4G and 5G networks simultaneously, and includes programmable network-slicing capabilities.

Telecommunications equipment and software provider Ciena has announced developing network solutions to assist operators in the transition from 4G to 5G.

Ciena's 5G Network Solutions package comprise its Converged Packet Optical 6500 and Waveserver and Packet Networking 3900 family, 5100 family, and 8700 Packetwave platforms.

It additionally includes programmable network-slicing capabilities; a deterministic packet capability to support 4G/5G converged fronthaul and midhaul networks with digital radio transport across Ethernet; and IP functions to provide the IP-based network connectivity features required.

Ciena's Blue Planet Manage, Control, and Plan and Multi-Domain Service Orchestration software, and its Design, Deploy, and Manage Professional Services are also included to provide software-defined networking (SDN) control.

"4G and 5G networks will coexist for the foreseeable future and share the same wireline network infrastructure between cell sites as well as to and from datacentres, where accessed content is hosted," Ciena said.

The resulting increase in mobile broadband and Internet of Things (IoT) traffic will put more stress on networks, with Ciena saying it requires "more than a simple network upgrade or expansion".

"The move to 5G won't happen overnight, but it is necessary for operators to prepare for these changes if they want to stay competitive," Ciena CTO Steve Alexander said.

"As the industry leader in coherent optical, edge packet platforms, automation, and multi-domain service orchestration, Ciena is uniquely positioned to support operators through every step of their multi-year journey to a common wireline infrastructure that supports 4G and beyond."

Ciena will be demonstrating its network-slicing capabilities later this month at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

Speaking to ZDNet at last year's MWC, Ciena VP Anthony McLachlan said the company is preparing for 5G by driving network resilience and performance through network function virtualisation (NFV) and SDN, as well as by encouraging network openness.

"5G in my mind is just scale of connections, devices; it's going to open up a lot more around machine to machine, and also the data analytics that can come from the network," McLachlan told ZDNet.

"We have to tune and do different things to the network to get it ready [for 5G]. From a Ciena point of view, the underlying technology or network needs to be reliable, it's got to be open; I think it's very important to have an open ecosystem."

In adapting to the oncoming technology shift, McLachlan said the two biggest focuses for Ciena -- which provides optical transport links, Ethernet transport solutions, and underlying connectivity for telecommunications operators globally via presence across many subsea cables -- are resilience and performance via network virtualisation.

"What we're focused on is -- it's the resilience of that network, performance of the network, I would say, and also how you can manipulate that data around to get the best experience for customers," McLachlan explained to ZDNet.

"Time and cost is really what we're taking out, so we're moving away from these monolithic approaches to more of a services architecture.

"For us, our focus is about driving high-capacity, high-performance software-enabled networks ... we think we're bringing the right portfolio set together to give our customers that flexibility and openness."

Ciena has been working with Telstra and Ericsson on encrypting data while in transit over a 100Gbps link between Australia and the United States by using the former company's 100Gbps wire-speed ultra-low latency encryption solution.

Using optical encryption technology, the companies claimed the ability to secure data while in transit over 21,940km between Melbourne and Los Angeles without impacting speed, reliability, and latency.

According to the three companies, data can now be securely encrypted at both the network layer and the application layer, which could be used by organisations with high security obligations including defence, government, finance, healthcare, and datacentre operations.

Telstra, Ericsson, and Ciena had in January last year similarly achieved the encryption of data while in transit over a 10Gbps link between Melbourne and Los Angeles.

Ciena is also working to upgrade Sydney Trains' underlying telecommunications network, and will transition the transportation provider from its legacy synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) network using its 6500 Packet-Optical Platform with an optical transport network (OTN) switching solution.

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