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High-Speed Telecom Focus: 400G Ethernet Market Current and the Future

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Posted on December 20, 2019
October 26, 2020
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According to the leading Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and various networking forecast reports, 400G Ethernet will emerge as the leading technology during 2020. IDC (International Data Corporation) and Cignal Ai have also proved the similar situation. In short, 400G Ethernet will replace 100G and 200G deployments in a faster way than 100G did to the previous Ethernet.

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The Rise of 400G

The factors affecting the development of 400G are mainly application-driven and technology-driven. The application drivers include 5G high-speed transmission, market requirements for data centers, cloud computing, and high-definition video transmission. Technology drivers include development of technologies in the market and product standardization.

Application-Driven Factors

  • 5G Accelerates 400G Ethernet: An analysis from Cisco points out that 5G technology needs edge computing architecture, which brings cloud resources—compute, storage and networking—closer to applications, devices and users. While, the edge computing needs more bandwidth, support for more devices on the network, and greater security to protect and manage the data. For example, a 4G radio system can support up to only 2,000 active devices in a square kilometer, while 5G could support up to 100,000 active devices in the same range. With 400G technology offering more bandwidth, more devices and applications could be supported in 5G. Nowadays, 5G has begun wide deployment in 2019. For example, China, where 5G develops fastest, has deployed over 100,000 base stations. And 150 million 5G mobile subscribers are expected by 2020 in China.

Items 4G LTE 5G
Average Data Rate 25 Mb/s 100 Mb/s
Peak Data Rate 150 Mb/s 10,000 Mb/s
Latency 50 ms 1 ms
Connection Density 2,000 Per Square Kilometer 100,000 Per Square Kilometer


  • Data Center & Cloud Computing Requirements: A research from Cisco indicates that cloud-based data centers will take 92% of the next-generation data center workload while the traditional data centers will only process the meager 8% by 2021. These objective requirements for higher data rates drive 400G development greatly. It is estimated that 400G will be the prevailing speed in switch chips and network platforms in the coming years.

  • High-Definition Video Transmission Needs: Basically all forms of Internet applications are moving towards video. It is estimated that more than 80% of the traffic is video. Video is a very important platform for everyone to interact in the future, especially real-time video streaming, such as multi-party video conferences. High-definition videos (such as 4K videos) need more bandwidth and less latency compared with the previous normal ones featuring lower definition.

Technology-Driven Factors

400G technology was originally known as IEEE 802.3bs and was officially approved in December,  2017. It regulates new standards including Forward Error Correction (FEC) to improve error performance. Abide by these standards, early 400G network elements have successfully completed trials and initial deployment. At present, some brand 400G switches have been put into use such as Cisco 400G Nexus, Arista 400G 7060X4 Series, Mellanox Spectrum-2, FS 400G switch, etc. 400G connection scheme is also blooming such as 400G DAC and 400G transceivers (400G QSFP-DD transceiver, 400G OSFP transceiver, 400G CFP8 transceiver, etc.), of which 400G QSFP-DD is becoming the leading form factor for its high density and low power consumption. As 400G Ethernet grows faster to standardization, commercialization and scale, soon 400G product system will be gradually perfect and more 400G products will appear in return.

Influences of 400G

400G Promotes 25G and 100G Markets While Reduces 200G Market Share

Compared to the 10G Ethernet, 25G Ethernet gains more popularity in the whole optical transmission industry because 25Gbps and 50Gbps per channel technology provide the basic standards for existing 100G (4x 25Gbps), the coming 400G (8x 50Gbps) and the future 800G network. Therefore, the rapid development of 400G will promote the 25G and 100G markets to a certain extent in turn. Similarly, the quick appearance of 400G implicates that 200G is a flash in the pan.

400G Is Expected to Reduce Overall Network Operation and Maintenance Costs

For access, metro, and data center interconnection scenarios, where short transmission distance and higher bandwidth are required, fiber resources are relatively scarce. The single-carrier 400G technology can provide the largest transmission bandwidth and the highest spectral efficiency with the simplest configuration, which effectively reduces transmission costs.

In the backbone and some more complex metropolitan area networks, where the transmission distance is longer with more network nodes, the requirements for transmission performance are more stringent. Under such circumstances, the dual-carrier technology (2x 200G) and an optimized algorithm could work together to compress the channel spacing. This can not only improve the spectral efficiency by 30% (close to the level of a single-carrier 400G technology), but also extend the transmission distance of 400G to several thousand kilometers, helping operators quickly deploy 400G backbone networks with minimum bandwidth resources.

400G solution can also increase the single fiber capacity by 40% and reduce power consumption by 40%, thereby greatly improving network performance and reducing network operation and maintenance costs.

Opportunities for Vendors and Users in 400G

Many suppliers hype their 400G products to get ahead of the curve. Actually, seldom vendors have the real supply capacity and the quality of most 400G products supplied can't be assured. To win from the fierce market competition, vendors should pay more attention to improve product quality and strong supply capability. And this is indubitably beneficial to users, who can get better products and services with relatively lower prices.

Impact of 400G on Cabling and Connectivity

In the multimode installed base, the biggest difference between 100G and 400G modules is the increase in total number of fibers. For single mode transmission system, most of the duplex LC and MPO based architecture that is deployed at 100G should serve for 400G. For parallel or multi-fiber transmission, transceivers like 400GBASE-SR4.2 operating with short wavelength division multiplexing (SWDM) at four wavelengths provide longer distances over OM5 fiber than OM4 or OM3. And OM5 wideband multimode fiber (WBMMF) will allow use of SWDM technology to transmit multiple signals (wavelengths) on one fiber. This indicates that OM5 fiber and SWDM technologies will continue to offer improved support on 400G Ethernet.

Data Rate Transceiver Pairs Rated Reach
40G 40G-BiDi 1 OM3: 100m
OM4: 150m
OM5: 200m
40G-SWDM4 1 OM3: 240m
OM4: 350m
OM5: 440m
100G 100G-BiDi 1 OM3: 70m
OM4: 100m
OM5: 150m
100G-SWDM4 1 OM3: 75m
OM4: 100m
OM5: 150m
400G 40GBASE-SR4.2 4 OM3: 70m
OM4: 100m
OM5: 150m

Are You Ready for 400G Ethernet?

400G Ethernet is an inevitable trend in current networking market. Driven by various market demands and technologies, it has come more rapidly than any previous technology. And it also has many significant effects, such as reducing the market share of 200G and saving transmission costs to a certain extent. Although the current 400G market trend is clear, there has not been much competition on 400G products. Many products are in the water test stage, and their prices may be slightly lower than mature products later. We should seize the opportunity to understand and enter the 400G world in advance.