Ciena packs 1.6Tbps into WaveLogic 6 coherent optics

Ciena debuted new WaveLogic 6 coherent optic solutions, which offer double the capacity over a single wavelength and a 50% reduction in space and power required per bit when compared to its 800G product.

The WaveLogic 6 is Ciena’s follow up to the WaveLogic 5 technology it unveiled in 2019. Like its predecessor, the WaveLogic 6 comes in two different flavors: Extreme and Nano. Ciena CTO Steve Alexander told Fierce the former is geared toward those looking for optimal performance for things like big metro overbuilds and submarine cable systems. The Nano, in contrast, is designed more for use cases which require optimization for space. Alexander said that can include things like data center interconnect, edge access and backhaul.

In terms of technical specs, the WaveLogic 6 is beefy. It uses a 3 nm chip process technology, operates at 200 GigaBaud – more than double the rate achieved by the original WaveLogic 5 – and can deliver 1.6 Tbps over a single wavelength across a distance of 1,000 kilometers, depending on the type of fiber used.

According to Alexander, it’s that “single wavelength” bit that makes Ciena’s solution stand apart from the likes of Nokia’s recently unveiled PSE-6s coherent optics. Nokia’s solution can deliver 2.4 Tbps, but this is done by combining two 1.2 Tbps wavelengths.

Where the WaveLogic 5 helped push 400G to more parts of the network, so will the WaveLogic 6 push “800-gig everywhere but 1.6 [Tbps] when you’ve got reasonably good fiber,” Alexander stated.

The CTO said the WaveLogic 6 is the result of years of advances in both silicon technology and design as well as algorithm development.

“It gets down to physically how you lay out the chip, really, how do you build the transistors that do the sampling, all the way through what kind of visual algorithms are used to recover the information from the signal that you’ve received,” he explained.

Alexander continued: “If there’s one thing I would say we’re super good at on the chip level, the basic chip design, its mixed mode analog-digital. It’s being able to combine that very, very fast analog capability with the digital processing that goes behind it and do it in a way where the digital side of it doesn’t influence the performance of the analog side.”

The WaveLogic 6 is expected to become available in the first half of 2024. But Alexander said Ciena has already had some “deep discussions” with key customers who drive the market. Among those commenting in a press release were Meta, Bell Canada and trans-Pacific submarine cable company Southern Cross.

For context, executives said on Ciena’s Q4 2022 earnings call that its WaveLogic 5E solution now has more than 200 global customers. They added it has shipped more than 50,000 WaveLogic 5E units to date.

Asked what’s next, Alexander said Ciena tends to think in factors of two or four when looking at upgrades. If the former, then that would imply the company will be gearing up to tackle 3.2 Tbps next.