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Time: November 16th, 2023

400GZR is changing how ethernet-based fiber optic networking standards work. Read this article to find out more. 


As the connected society gains access to more and more faster devices with running multimedia devices, broadband service providers are trying to keep up with these requirements of rising data traffic. Low latency and high bandwidth in East-West topologies are necessary for performance-critical applications like business services, AI, and big data along with 5G and upcoming 6G cellular speeds. 

Back in 2010, the first attempt to meet such requirements was made with the introduction of 100G coherent optical connections which decreased the cost per bit of optical networks and offered much higher speeds.  

This introduced transmissions of 100 gigs for distances of 40km and has been in service for more than 10 years. 

In the past years, wavelength capacities have increased from 100G to over 600G per wavelength due to continuous advancements in coherent DSPs and optical technology. Flexible Wavelength Division Multiplexing lines (WDM) line interfaces with capacity near Shannon limitations are made possible by new generations of multi-modulation, multi-baud rate transponders on all optical routes. This is where new technologies like 400GZR are coming into play to meet this monumental increase in traffic requirements.

What is the 400GZR Standard?

Introduced back in March 2020 by the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF), this network standard uses a footprint-optimized method with a minimum 80 km distance of transmission for 400Gb Ethernet over Data Center Interconnect (DCI) cables. This standard enables high-speed optical bandwidth over a single optical wavelength using Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) and higher-order modulation with Quad Small Form Factor Pluggable Double Density modules. 

Features of 400GZR

To accomplish the low power and compact space required to implement 400 Gbps coherent optical transmission, new design approaches are applied to the electro-optical components used in this standard and the coherent Digital Signal Processor (DSP).

The three degrees of amplitude, phase, and polarization are utilized by coherent technology to concentrate more data on a wave that is being sent in this network standard. Higher-order modulation methods enable coherent optics to carry more data over a single fiber for longer distances, improving spectral efficiency. 

This new standard is a significant advancement in the implementation of coherent technology along with ZR+. For high-level data center interconnects, both these standards lower cost and complexity by releasing high bandwidth using higher-order modulation and DWDM. They also give multivendor interoperability and allow longer reach of transmission of data. Its applications include data center connections across metro regions and local data center cache sites connected to metro points. 

To stay under power consumption and thermal constraints of smaller modules, this new standard is designed in a way to max out efficiency and reduce costs per bit. This also allowed for the use of more reasonably priced, moderately performing components inside the modules throughout the network while delivering faster speeds. 

Future of 400GZR:

These new fiber optic solutions for data transmission solutions satisfy the unique space, power, and operational requirements of single-span DCI network connections. They will revolutionize the network technologies in the upcoming years. Moreover, upgrading to 400G is already simple with 400ZR implemented in the QSFP-DD form factor (others are also available) as all it takes is switching transceivers. 

Initially developed for enterprise solutions, this standard is now making its way to broadband services and offers them both speeds and efficiency. ZR standard uses sophisticated coherent optical technology which will provide small form factor modules and efficiency in the network while boosting speeds. Other versions of this standard boost the range even more than 80 kilometers. OIF is also developing even better-performing modules that are under the "Multi-Haul DCO" category which are supposed to be customizable and even higher-performance modules.

Wrapping Up:

As the data computing and data consumption requirements rise, new data transmission standards like 400GZR, GZR+, and more are making their way to match the needs of faster speeds and surely can be seen as the next generation of optical communications with greater reach. These standards for data center interconnects are being applied to pluggable 400Gbps optical transceiver module form factors used for client optics, and it targets edge-DCI applications with link lengths of 80 km, 120 km, and even more in future revisions. 

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