In the year of 2018, 5G network has become the most eye-catching focus beyond controversy. Meanwhile, global carriers have been already testing 5G technologies on their networks. As of November 2018, 182 operators worldwide have conducted 5G trial operation and investment in 78 countries. The 5G commercial services are expected to roll out globally in 2019. With the evolution of 5G technology, higher baud-rate optical transceivers rise tremendously in popularity based on higher density cell sites. The current 4G LTE cell sites mainly adopt 10G optical modules. In the future, 25G/100G optical modules will be the preferred alternative in 5G deployment.
What Is 5G Network?
5G will be built upon the foundation created by 4G LTE to allow people to send texts, make calls, and browse the web, which marks a great leap forward for the existing communication technologies. The upgraded 5G performance targets include higher data rate, higher-quality voice and video calls, smoother streaming of online content. It will enable subscribers to download a 2G movie in one minute and say goodbye to screen flows during video calls.
As illustrated in the figure above, 5G has a major shift in user experienced data rate, connection density, latency, peak data rate, mobility, etc. compared to 4G. According to the IMT-2020 specification, the peak data rate of 5G is expected to reach as high as 20 Gbit/s. 5G network will be able to support diverse data rates in various enhanced mobile broadband environments. For the average consumer, 5G means faster access to data and potentially better coverage. Thus, urban and suburban users can count on 5G capabilities to get 100 Mbit/s data rate, and 1 Gbit/s data rate for indoor users.
Additionally, the upcoming 5G will achieve higher performance and efficiency, providing users with peak rate of up to several Gbps, ultra-low latency, and massive capacity. In the future, we can enjoy faster upload and download speeds, cool VR entertainment, Internet of Things (IOT), unmanned driving, telemedicine, etc. With the gradual maturity of 5G standards, the acceleration of 5G commercial pace and the enrichment of 5G application scenarios, the new generation of 5G services will soon infiltrate into our work and daily life. The 5G industry market will be expanded infinitely and the prospects will be very bright.
How Does 5G Work and Why Is It Built Upon 25G?
To fulfill the requirements for more bandwidths, faster speed, and lower latency, the 5G network architecture has undergone tremendous changes, mainly in the splitting of BBU (base band processing unit) functions of 4G. In general, the 5G wireless access network architecture is more complicated than that of 4G. The 4G access network is mainly composed of three parts: EPC (core network), BBU, and RRU (radio remote unit). In 5G network architecture, it divides the original 4G BBU into CU (central unit) and DU (distributed unit), fully taking the advantages of cloudification and centralized control of the cell sites deployment. Meanwhile, with the wide deployment of multi-antenna technology in 5G network, part of the physical layer processing functions in the 4G BBU section has been integrated into the RRU section. Therefore, the 5G network combines the original 4G RRU and the remaining physical layer functions of the BBU with the antenna to form a multifunctional AAU (Active Antenna Processing Unit).
As illustrated above, the upgraded 5G network infrastructure adds middle-haul transmission on the existing 4G LTE infrastructure which only covered front-haul and back-haul transmission. These three parts in 5G transmission have different requirements for 5G communication optical modules.
In the front-haul transmission of 5G network, it will reach an estimated 100M~1G bandwidth speeds with peaks of 20G. The antenna port might be 64 or 128, and the granularity of the 5G front-haul network is 25Gbps. Consequently, 25G optical transceivers will play a big part in constructing the 5G network. The 5G middle-haul transmission will mainly adopt N x 25G technology and DWDM Ring network infrastructure over transmission distances from 10 to 40km, which denotes that the 100G optical transceivers will represent a significant share in 5G middle-haul transmission. In the back-haul transmission, if optical transport network is deployed to carry the signals, N x 100G technology will be adopted. If not, 200G/400G optical transceivers would be required. No matter which type of network will perform the task, the 5G back-haul transmission will be dominated by 100G optical modules or even modules with higher speed.
25G Optics Market Trend Forecast
The CU and DU of 5G network subdivided from BBU structure will boost the overall requirements for optical transceivers. With higher density of cell sites being deployed, the demand for optical transceivers in 5G era is expected to reach 1.8 times the amount of 4G era.
According to a market report by Lightcounting, in the year of 2017, the demand for 25G optical transceivers had increased perpendicularly as the wireless front-haul market proliferated unprecedentedly. In the year of 2019, 25G and 100G optical transceivers have been ready for mainstream deployments to keep up with the fast pace of 5G commercial services and applications. Right on time, the demand for 25G optical modules is expected to reach one million while the 40G optical module market will gradually decline. In the year of 2021, the carriers will work feverishly to prepare infrastructures and systems to support the shift to 5G, and the demand for 25G optical modules is expected to reach two millions then. In the future, data centers, wireless networks, access networks and transmission networks will form a cooperative demand for 25G optical transceivers, rising to the breaking point for newer demands. However, the 10G optical transceiver market has seen a shift with customer demands falling rapidly.
With the trial operation of 5G in 2019 and the commercial deployments in 2020, the 25G optics market will usher in a new peak of development. As a global leading communication systems integrator and optical solutions provider, FS has been spearheading the effort to explore 5G technology and its maturity. FS will continue to push the envelope as we research and develop the latest 25G optical communication products and solutions in order to keep up with exponential data growth and global operations for 5G deployment.
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