News

Fibre roars into the fast line as private 5G advances

News highlights from the last few weeks signal the trajectory of future networks, writes Annie Turner

 

In the US, Nokia and Google Fiber (GFiber) have successfully trialled 50Gbps over a passive optical network (PON) on live fibre broadband infrastructure. They successfully tested and deployed 25Gbps PON the same GFibre infrastructure last year. This means that in future, GFiber could add 50Gb/s broadband services over the same fibre.

Nokia claims to be the only vendor supporting all next-generation PON technology options, offering 10G and 25G products now with 50G in trials and 100G PON as a technology demonstrator.

For the 50Gbps trial, the two parties deployed Nokia’s Lightspan MF fibre access platform. GFiber ran 10/25G PON alongside 25/50G PON broadband service over its fibre network simultaneously.

 

Making fibre while AI shines

Fibre optic manufacturer Corning announced its Q2 revenues will hit $3.6 billion, up from its previous guidance of $3.4 billion, driven by Generative AI (GenAI).

Wendell Weeks, Corning’s CEO and Chair

Wendell Weeks, Corning’s CEO and Chair, said, “We expect second-quarter core sales to exceed our previous guidance and mark a return to year-over-year growth. The outperformance was primarily driven by the strong adoption of our new optical connectivity products for generative AI.

“These results reinforce our confidence in ‘Springboard’ – Corning’s plan to add more than $3bn in annualised sales in the next three years as cyclical factors and secular trends combine.”

Last November, Michael O’Day, CTO for Corning Optical Communications, said in a webinar that data centres must build a second layer of computing as large language models (LLMs) will need perhaps five times more optical capacity than current hyperscale architectures.

Corning’s share price have been rising because of the demand, pushing the corporation’s value up to almost $38 billion, the highest for a year.

 

Vodafone, Meta collaborate on video

Vodafone and Meta have collaborated to use less network capacity for short videos and so improve service to all mobile customers. They have applied the network optimisation to 11 European markets since early June.

An initial, three-week test was carried out in the UK in April 2024, the companies said they achieved “a meaningful reduction” in network traffic for Meta applications such as Facebook and Instagram across Vodafone’s mobile network. Most notably, Vodafone used the tech to boost network resources at some of its busiest 4G/5G sites, such as shopping malls and transport hubs.

Now Vodafone and Meta say they would like to work with “all players in the ecosystem to improve the efficient use of network resources”.

 

2.2Gbps broadband launches in UK

In the UK, Vodafone connected the first customer to its new, fastest broadband service on offer at 2.2Gbps, provided exclusively by altnet CityFibre’s network. The connection marks an important milestone for CityFibre, which is rolling out its 10Gbps-capable full fibre networks to almost 465,000 hard-to-reach homes through the UK’s government’s Project Gigabit programme.

 

Finally, the killer app for private 5G nets

According to a research report published by James Blackman at RCR Wireless, Private 5G in Industry 4.0, clearer thinking has emerged in the sector, with returns on investments within six months on a set of small, specific use cases with “lighter-weight solutions” coming onto the market. This is alongside the ecosystem working better now and the belief that cellular was several times more expensive than options like Wi-Fi.

But, according to the report, while these things changed in the background, the biggest change in the foreground is that connectivity has emerged as the killer app. Apparently, up to 80% of deployments are simply providing connectivity for workers in places like refineries where previously there were only pockets of Wi-FI.  It also turns out that in most instances, super-low latencies are not needed; high reliability is more important.

Source: RCR Wireless/James Blackman report, Private 5G in Industry 4.0, published April 2024

Ciena, Celona, Nokia and Verizon Business, cited in the report, separately came to similar conclusions, and seem to agree that coverage will be built out on a modular basis, addressing certain needs before expanding.

The Industry 4.0 vision of totally automated ‘smart’ factories still holds; it is just on pause, the report predicts. Industrial 5G capabilities and devices are in the works – see the time line below for how the Industrial 5G schedule is now expected to pan out.

 

Biggest 5G energy network

ADNOC and e& are to build the energy industry’s largest private 5G network covering 11,000 km2.  the Emirate of Abu Dhabi owns ADNOC, an energy and petrochemicals congolmerate.

The 5G network will connect ADNOC’s onshore and offshore operations, allowing the enterprise “to further integrate its advanced artificial intelligence (AI) solutions at its most remote facilities and reduce costs through automation, improve efficiency, minimize emissions and enhance the safety of its people”.

The project is due for completion in 2025 and expected to generate AED5.5 billion (€1.39 billion) in value during its first five years of operation.

The 5G network will provide information from sensors in more than 12,000 wells and pipelines to autonomous control rooms. This will help with real-time recommendations which should help increase the lifespan of assets and improve operational safety. The network will also provide end-to-end visibility across operations to drive productivity across the company’s entire value chain.

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