Can spectrum as a service address new customer demands?

Optical spectrum services promise a new level of flexibility, scale and control. But can this approach really enable service providers to monetize unused spectrum and give end users the power to design and run their own virtual optical networks? Read more about the reality of spectrum as a service.
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Network operators and service providers have been rethinking their network architectures to accommodate ever-increasing traffic. The Covid-19 crisis has put greater pressure on networks with many seeing doubling of data demand. But an increase in traffic isn’t the only challenge faced by operators. More and more large enterprise end users demand increased flexibility and control. This includes the need to turn up and resize services quickly to meet their changing operational demands. Spectrum as a service closes the gap between service provider offerings and these new customer demands, enabling many new dynamic network functions.

Customers want more bandwidth – and control

Wavelength services were introduced a number of years ago, and the demand for this type of service has been growing ever since. They enable high-bandwidth network connections that are easy and fast to deploy but also inflexible, rather like rigid pipes. Once installed, transport capacity is limited by the size and type of the service configured. When transport demands change or increase beyond that limit, the end user needs to ask the service provider for a change. Some users want to decide and make changes by themselves. They want to have full control over their optical services and tailor them to meet their unique needs. Dark fiber solutions might be seen as an alternative to solve these problems. They give end users higher control than wavelength services. But this approach compels the end user to own and operate the network, including equipment selection, deployment and network management. This requires trained personnel that end users may not have. What they need is a totally new approach.


Spectrum services enable providers to offer new, differentiated services and acquire a host of new revenue streams.


New technology, new services

Recent advances in open line system technology make it possible to offer a new class of wholesale service that overcomes those impairments: spectrum as a service. The idea is similar to mobile networks, where network operators use different frequency blocks of the radio spectrum. Now it’s possible to slice the optical spectrum in a fiber network and share it with different users such that each user has their own fiber optical spectrum and open line system. This enables service providers to offer new, differentiated services and acquire a host of new revenue streams. What’s more, it comes with no significant extra costs. That’s because these services may run over existing optical infrastructure. Moreover, service providers can monetize their unused optical line capacity without investing in new transponders or optical terminal technology.

Even more importantly, spectrum services give end users exactly what they want – namely the power to run their own virtual optical network for their high-capacity traffic, without the need to build their own infrastructure. With spectrum services, end users can activate capacity and resize bandwidth without intervention from the service provider. Furthermore, they can use the terminals of their choice based on their own unique requirements and update to newer generations of coherent optics as they become available. With programmable and flexible coherent optics, end users can select modulation formats over a given media channel and optimize capacity depending on their own margin criteria, giving them unprecedented control over their services.

Getting to spectrum as a service

Service providers are getting squeezed by demands on their network capacity and calls for new services. The next-generation open optical line system from ADVA can help service providers to solve this problem and enable new types of unique and differentiated services. Colorless, directionless and contentionless ROADMs (CD and CDC ROADMs) with high-resolution flexgrid technology enable arbitrary optical spectrum slicing. With its spectrum gateways and demarcation functionality, the ADVA open optical line system also ensures data security and privacy. It isolates each user’s traffic and confines it to the assigned spectrum block. What’s more, its intelligent network control enables end users to monitor and plan their spectrum block to meet their needs, making bandwidth-on-demand a reality.

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