AT&T fires up 400G optical connection between Dallas and Atlanta

AT&T is out of the starter blocks for 400G with an optical connection carrying live traffic between Dallas and Atlanta. AT&T said the 400-gigabit optical connection was the first of its kind in the industry, as most vendors are targeting next year for the release of their 400G networking gear. Having a 400G connection allows AT&T to have a fat pipe to serve up new 5G and broadband services for its consumer and business customers.

With a plan in place to have 5G available nationwide the first half of next year, AT&T plans to start deploying 400G across its network in 2020. AT&T has been plotting its move to 400G for some time, and has been installing a large portion of the optical network equipment over the last year in preparation for wider deployments of 400G. That equipment can be upgraded to 400G by using software. 

“The move from a 100G interface to 400G is a milestone for the communications industry, because it means we can continue to stay ahead of the tsunami of data demand we’ve seen over the last decade-plus,” said Andre Fuetsch, executive vice president and chief technology officer, AT&T, in a statement

As of the last fourth quarter, wireless network traffic averaged more than 253 petabytes during a business day, which was an increase of more than 470,000% since 2007. Currently, about 50% of that traffic is video, but video traffic will go up 70% over the next couple of years.

Faster speeds aside, the 400G connection is also notable for being deployed using a low-cost white box router from UfiSpace that is compliant with the Broadcom Jericho2 Distributed Disaggregated Chassis (DDC) design that AT&T recently submitted to the Open Compute Project (OCP).

RELATED: AT&T releases white box specifications into Open Compute Project

The 400G connection between Dallas and Atlanta was deployed on an SDN-enabled ultra long haul (ULH) system from Ciena. AT&T said 400G pluggable transceivers from InnoLight were installed in the white box router and Ciena transponder to create the cross-office connectivity between the packet and optical technologies. Ciena’s MCP controller was integrated into AT&T’s ONAP management and control framework using an Application Programming Interface (API) based on an Open ROADM standard.

The optical transport system uses a new 400G transponder based on Ciena’s WaveLogic Ai coherent optical technology. The Ciena Reconfigurable Optical Add/Drop Multiplexors (ROADMs) have been upgraded with new software to support "flex grid," which allows AT&T, through software control, to optimize the allocation of spectrum on the long-haul fiber based on the required speed and reach of each wavelength.

RELATED: AT&T's Fuetsch says AT&T now has internet white boxes in production

“This accomplishment also speaks to the tremendously collaborative ecosystem we’ve helped foster with key innovators in optical technology, white box hardware, and software-defined networking," Fuetsch said. "Ciena, UfiSpace, Broadcom and InnoLight have brought great ideas and technologies to bear to make 400G a reality.”