Although Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) concepts, main architectures and potential benefits are well-known and understood, their applicability in optical transport networks is still to be fully explored and exploited. In addition, due to the analogue nature of the optical transmission domain, optical technology is still highly proprietary, closed, and difficult to model and standardize.
SDN/NFV are behind several opportunities and initiatives supporting the control and management of optical networks, including: i) the control of disaggregated optical networks, which involves utilizing whitebox components without compromising overall network performance, but reducing cost (e.g. in reduced geographical ranges that relax the optical performance parameters); ii) the implementation of autonomic networking using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning techniques to exploit data made available through network telemetry for optical monitoring and performance guarantees and iii) network virtualization and slicing, including the virtualization of optical hardware.
Research and Standardization on 5G topics has been ongoing for the last years, aiming at defining the next generation of data networks, addressing well-known use cases such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra-low latency reliable communications (URLLC) and massive machine type communications (mMTC), with requirements including over 10 Gpbs peak rates, 1M /Km2 and < 1 ms latency. The 5G initiative is being supported by multiple standardization bodies, such as the 3GPP and the ITU-T coming together to define new standards, while the European 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP) and similar initiatives worldwide are funding a large part of the ongoing 5G research.
However, besides new services and applications, 5G will also need to support a wide range of vetical business ecosystems and cooperation models enabling business horizontalization. 5G goes far beyond the definition of new radio access technologies and radio interfaces and is about a new end-to-end network vision, in which softwarization and virtualization allow a common network infrastructure to be flexibly used for a variety of diverse applications. In this context, optical technology can play a key role supporting end-to-end requirements involving a 1000-fold increase in capacity and connectivity, with stringent requirements in terms of bandwidth, and latency control.