Top 5 trends for optical networks in 2022

What’s next in the evolution of optical network infrastructure? Will SASE replace transport layer encryption? Here are some optical networking predictions for 2022.
What's next road sign

Spotlight on the network edge

From a telecom industry perspective, we’re living in a fascinating time. The pandemic has accelerated the process of digitalization, which in turn is also accelerating optical network evolution. Operators are rapidly growing and upgrading their fiber optic deployments. This trend will continue in 2022 and will be especially significant at the network edge. Many consumers activities are now online, and most surveys indicate that this shift in behavior will endure. And consumers’ online activities are not just entertainment. Now it’s also about essential things like working, learning, bank transactions, etc. These applications require secure, reliable and low-latency high-speed connectivity. This will motivate a deep transformation of metro and access networks and will put the network edge into the spotlight in 2022 and for some years to come.

More outdoor deployments

In 2022, we’ll continue to see steady growth of 400Gbit/s links in metro core networks, and 100Gbit/s moving further towards the edge. We’ll also see more outdoor deployments in street cabinets close to the end user, since most broadband access technologies are only effective at close range. Given rising power costs, I expect that demand will grow for active optical equipment that can work under extreme environmental conditions without power-hungry heating and cooling systems.

Open optical networking trend continues 

Optical networks have become key assets for our lives, businesses and even national economies, and operators are more mindful about the choices they make in terms of technology and supplier. Things like the country of origin or the resiliency of the supply chain process are becoming increasingly important. From a technology perspective, this will continue to push the adoption of open and scalable optical networks solutions for cost-efficiency and freedom to choose technology and supplier at any time. 

Optical networks have become key assets for our lives, businesses and even national economies, and operators are more mindful about the choices they make in terms of technology and supplier.
Layer 1 encryption and SASE 

Cyber attacks are rapidly growing and the protection of data in motion will continue to be a major topic in 2022, especially regarding network builds or upgrades. Secure access service edge (SASE) with cloud native security functions at service endpoints has attracted a lot of attention. Some say that end-point protection might render security controls on the connectivity network unnecessary. However, I think that this won’t eliminate the need for encryption at the transport layer. Sensitive data and applications shouldn’t be protected by a single security control. Moreover, protection at Layer 1 secures control, management and user traffic with a single, highly robust encryption. This creates a massive entry barrier to hackers, efficiently reducing the attack surface of the overall system. And Layer 1 encryption and SASE are not exclusive. On the contrary, I think that Layer 1 encryption in combination with SASE can meet the security needs of even the most demanding and critical applications.

Growth of optical spectrum services

In 2022, I expect to see an increasing demand for optical spectrum services, since more and more large enterprises want full control over their optical services. With spectrum services, enterprises can get the required level of flexibility and independence from the service provider, without the need to build and manage their own network infrastructure. They get a block of spectrum that they can use and configure in accordance with their needs. They can activate capacity and resize channel bandwidth without the service provider intervening. And they can do that with the optical terminals of their choice. This will again put optical line system infrastructure center stage. Open line systems with flexgrid ROADMs are essential to enable these differentiated services. 

So it looks like most of the major 2021 trends will continue and develop in 2022. I just hope that the Covid-19 threat won’t. Stay healthy!

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