AT&T Launches Industry-First 400-Gigabit Network Connection to Support Video, Augmented Reality, Gaming and Other 5G Needs

Faster Network Infrastructure Will Enable Next-Generation of 5G and Broadband Services for Consumers and Businesses

AT&T* has activated our first 400-gigabit optical connection carrying live internet traffic across our network for our customers. This connection – between Dallas and Atlanta – is believed to be a first in the industry. This isn’t a proof of concept, but a significant upgrade to our production network, built on flexible, low-cost white box hardware. Engineer-speak aside – and there’s plenty more below, too – what this means is that our 5G and broadband customers are getting an even bigger pipe to download games, stream movies, play songs, and connect millions of devices.

To get a sense of just how big that pipe is, you could download all 70 episodes of Game of Thrones in high definition in less than 8 seconds over 400G.

“The move from a 100G interface to 400G is a milestone for the communications industry, because it means we can continue to stay ahead of the tsunami of data demand we’ve seen over the last decade-plus,” said Andre Fuetsch, executive vice president and chief technology officer, AT&T. “This accomplishment also speaks to the tremendously collaborative ecosystem we’ve helped foster with key innovators in optical technology, white box hardware, and software-defined networking. Ciena, UfiSpace, Broadcom, and InnoLight have brought great ideas and technologies to bear to make 400G a reality.”

5G is coming fast. We plan to have 5G nationwide in the first half of 2020. And we will begin deploying 400G across our network in 2020. We’ve been planning for this upgrade for a long time, so a large portion of the optical network equipment we’ve been installing over the last year or so can be upgraded to 400G with a simple software update, making for a seamless transition.

About that engineer-speak…

The 400G Dallas/Atlanta facility was deployed on an SDN-enabled Ultra Long Haul (ULH) system from Ciena. The 400G circuit was routed and configured completely through software using Ciena’s Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) domain controller. The 400G transport was terminated in the Dallas and Atlanta offices by a white box router from UfiSpace that is compliant with the Broadcom Jericho2 Distributed Disaggregated Chassis (DDC) design that AT&T recently submitted to the Open Compute Project (OCP).

400G pluggable transceivers from InnoLight were installed in the white box router and Ciena transponder to create the cross-office connectivity between the packet and optical technologies. Ciena’s MCP controller is integrated into AT&T’s ONAP management and control framework using an Application Programming Interface (API) specified by the Open ROADM Multi-Source Agreement (MSA).

The optical transport system consists of a new 400G transponder based on Ciena’s WaveLogic Ai coherent optical technology. The Ciena Reconfigurable Optical Add/Drop Multiplexors (ROADMs) have been upgraded with new software to support a sophisticated feature known as flex grid. This allows us, through software control, to optimize the allocation of spectrum on the long-haul fiber based on the required speed and reach of each wavelength.

“We have worked with AT&T for many years and achieved several industry-leading innovation milestones along the way,” said Dino DiPerna, vice president of R&D for Optical Transport at Ciena. “Launching a 400G system in AT&T's live network illustrates our relentless focus to push the boundaries of optical networking and create software-based architectures that can dynamically adapt to meet surging bandwidth demands driven by the cloud, video streaming, online gaming and more.”

The Broadcom Jericho2 white box was supplied by UfiSpace and provides 10 x 400G interfaces on a 2RU “pizza box”. The white box uses the Broadcom Jericho2 packet processing chip, a state-of-the-art chip designed to meet the demanding needs of a service provider.

“We are very proud to collaborate with AT&T on the design of the white boxes based on Broadcom’s Jericho2,” said Vincent Ho, general manager of UfiSpace. “In spite of the complexity and difficulty with the design from an electrical, mechanical, and thermal perspective, we’ve used our breadth of understanding in networking to overcome the challenges rolling out the first 400G carrier-scale white box solution. UfiSpace is very excited to be amidst the first to participate and contribute to this new paradigm. We are thankful to AT&T for their leadership in building a robust and open white box ecosystem.”

While the smallest component in the solution, the 400G pluggable optical transceiver is also one of the most critical. The QSFP56DD-FR4 form factor is about the size of a pack of gum but it is packed with technology. The transceiver supplied by InnoLight conforms with the QSFP-DD MSA and is capable of transporting 400G signals on up to 2 kilometers of single-mode fiber.

“We are very honored to have been selected by AT&T for 400G interconnect technologies”, said Osa Mok, chief marketing officer of InnoLight. “There has been tremendous interest in our 400G solutions and we are so impressed with AT&T’s aggressive leadership in this space.”