With the Promotion of 5g Network, the Field of Optical Modules Will Usher in a New Spring

Over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, China's economic development has made great achievements and has the status of the second largest economy in the world. Compared with other industries, the achievements of the communication industry in the past 20 years are obvious to all. Optical module is one of the most basic and important core devices in optical communication. In the 20 years of rapid development of China's communication industry, several major development opportunities have also contributed to the rapid growth of China's optical module industry from scratch.

Multiple opportunities to promote the development of optical modules

The first opportunity appeared around 2001, when China Telecom split and formed a situation of coexistence of multiple operators. In order to be in a favorable position in the competition, people began to build DWDM dense wavelength division multiplexing system based on 10Gbit / s rate at the backbone level. Although the time module is still dominated by foreign products, many domestic optical module enterprises are producing low rate modules.

The second opportunity appeared around 2007. The rapid development of 3G mobile communication makes the communication between people not limited to voice and short message. The access of mobile Internet brings the urgent demand of traffic. At the backbone level, operators need to upgrade the original 10Gbit / s DWDM system to 40Gbit / s DWDM / OTN system, which also has a huge demand for high-speed optical modules.

The third opportunity began in 2012, with the rise of data centers and large-scale 4G network construction, and the mobile return network began to change from TDM time division multiplexing technology adopted by 3G network to PTN / ipran network based on packet technology. The service type adds the traffic killer of video service on the basis of 3G, which forces the backbone network speed from 40Gbit / s to 100Gbit / s, resulting in the demand for higher rate optical modules.

Now the industry is at the starting point of the fourth opportunity. 5g networks, ultra-high speed interconnected data centers and communication clouds are emerging one after another, and the field of optical modules has ushered in a new spring.

It is estimated that the optical module market will exceed US $12 billion by 2023

The well-known consulting firm lightcounting released the statistics and forecast of the overall market scale of optical modules in recent years in October 2018. As can be seen from Figure 1, by 2023, the overall size of the optical module market will reach more than US $12 billion, double the US $6 billion in 2018. It can be seen from the measured data that the two key applications of 5g (wireless access) and data center (Ethernet) will promote the large-scale development of the optical module market.

Figure 1   Current situation and forecast of overall scale of optical module Market in recent years and the next few years

Ovum, another well-known prediction organization, also gave the latest prediction results for the 100Gbit / s and higher rate optical transceiver module market of the data center, as shown in Figure 2. As can be seen from Figure 2, by 2023, the data center optical modules will be mainly 100gbe and 400gbe, with a small amount of 200gbe demand, and the overall market scale will reach about US $4.8 billion.

Figure 2   Ovum data center optical module market sales forecast

Development status of optical module technology

Optical modules touch all levels in the communication industry. The following describes the current technical development status of optical modules from several mainstream application scenarios.

·Data center

25gbe AOC and 100gbe optical modules based on single channel 25gbit / s NRZ rate still occupy the main market share, and cwdm4 with 2km transmission distance is still the most important part of 100gbe module.

The solution of single channel 50gbit / s pam4 rate has been gradually applied in the market, such as 50gbe pam4, 2x200gbe FR4, 400gbe fr8 and LR8.

There are also many solutions based on single channel 100Gbit / s pam4 rate, such as 100gbe pam4, 400gbe DR4, FR4 and LR4. However, at present, it is mainly limited by the release time of switching chips and the technical maturity of optical devices, and it is still in the stage of small batch samples.

·Wireless access network

The requirements of wireless access network for optical module quality and performance are quite different from those of data center. Because many base stations need to be deployed in harsh environments, they have high requirements for the temperature range in which the optical module can work normally. For example, they need to meet the working temperature (- 40 ℃ 85 ℃), which is bound to increase the cost of the optical module.

For 4G networks, the three major domestic operators mainly focus on optical fiber direct drive at the front transmission level. In some areas with tight optical fiber resources, the construction of a small number of CWDM systems in the past two years has generated the demand for 10Gbit / s CWDM modules. The reason why CWDM system has no large-scale application is mainly due to the problems of maintenance management system and difficult fault location.

For 5g network, the author analyzes it from the aspects of prequel, middle pass and return pass.

Forward transmission: 10Gbit / s forward transmission optical module can be used in the initial stage of 5g base station construction. At present, the industry still tends to adopt 25gbit / s forward transmission module. 25gbit / s bidi single fiber bidirectional optical module is basically ready in the domestic industrial chain. At present, the industry is promoting the formulation of international and domestic standards for 25gbit / s tunable wavelength tunable optical module, and the product is still in the early research and development stage. For dran deployment mode, 25gbit / s optical module with transmission distance less than 300m based on FP / DFB laser can also be used. It is understood that the overseas market has a certain demand for 25gbit / s CWDM and 100Gbit / s 4wdm modules.

Intermediate transmission (access section): on the premise of convergence function, 5g initial access section can adopt 10Gbit / s or 25gbit / s optical modules, such as 10g Sr (300m, VCSEL laser, MMF), 10Gbit / s or 25gbit / s LR (10km, DFB laser, SMF), etc.

Return (core convergence layer): at the initial stage of 5g, the core convergence layer can adopt 100Gbit / s optical modules, such as 100Gbit / s Sr4 (100m, VCSEL laser, mmf-mpo), 100Gbit / s psm4 (500m, DFB laser, smf-mpo) or 100Gbit / s cwdm4 (2km, DFB laser, smf-lc), etc. At the metropolitan level, 100Gbit / s Er4, 100Gbit / s pam4 or 100Gbit / s optical module based on coherent technology can be used according to different transmission distances.

·Fixed access network

At present, the domestic market demand is focused on 10Gbit / s PON OLT / ONU and the upgrade of combo PON OLT side. 1577nm 10Gbit / s EML laser ushers in the explosion point of market demand and has great pressure on cost reduction. In addition, the release of international standards based on g.metro technology led by China Unicom (ITU-T g.698.4) has also promoted the research on the application of domestic WDM-PON technology in 5g prequel and the development of related products.

Difficulties still exist and need to be solved by the industrial chain

The ZTE incident has made the industry clearly aware of our shortcomings in the field of chips and modules, but we cannot give up independent research and development. In the past 20 years of development, China has made a lot of achievements in the field of optical modules, but there will still be some problems in the process of development. The following is still described from three aspects: Data Center, wireless access network and fixed access network.

·Data center

With the evolution of channel rate from 25gbit / s to 50gbit / s and 100Gbit / s, it is more and more difficult to realize high bandwidth laser chip. Multimode VCSEL laser and single-mode DFB laser are expected to only meet the application of 50gbit / s rate per channel. On the single channel 100Gbit / s rate, EML laser and silicon photon technology supporting 50gbit / S (symbol rate) will be preferred. At present, because the insertion loss of silicon optical modulator and the coupling loss of modulator, laser and output fiber are relatively large, the silicon photonic technology scheme is still limited to 500m short-range transmission.

·Wireless access network

From the requirements of 5g front light transmission module for cost, power consumption and wide temperature operation, 25gbit / s Industrial DFB laser should be the best device choice, but few manufacturers master the mass production capacity of this core laser all over the world. In order to improve the supply chain, domestic equipment / device manufacturers make full use of the 10Gbit / s laser industry chain to realize 300m 15km transmission in the electrical domain through driving technologies such as overclocking and pam4 high-order modulation.

WDM-PON is a useful supplement in the prequel scenario of lack of optical fiber resources, but there is a big contradiction between the low-cost requirements of achromatic light module and the high difficulty of its technical implementation. Low cost wavelength tunable laser (DBR scheme) or the integration scheme of constant power wavelength tunable laser external modulator may be the recent implementation path.

·Fixed access network

Under the joint proposal of China's PON industry, itu-tq2 group passed the project approval of 50g PON standard. However, the biggest challenge is that the physical layer should be compatible with the existing ODN network, that is, it supports the link optical power budget of more than 29dB. At present, domestic equipment and device manufacturers are evaluating the improvement of link budget by signal modulation technologies such as pam4, APD detection technology and SOA integrated devices.

Prediction of optical module development trend in the next 1 2 years

Technically, optical transceiver modules are developing towards the trend of high channel rate, large bandwidth density, low-cost power consumption and small-size integration. For the application progress of optical module in 2019, the author can make the following prediction.

·Data center

100gbe optical module market is still the mainstream; At the same time, the load on 200gbe and 400gbe optical modules is fast. Technically, the single channel 100Gbit / s technical scheme will be more detailed, and the upstream of the industrial chain will gradually mature. It is expected to usher in certain market opportunities in 2020.

·Wireless access network

25gbit / s gray light module is adopted for the front transmission, and the dual fiber bidirectional module is expected to be large in scale; Single fiber bidirectional module products will be finalized and are expected to be deployed in the second half of 2019. The domestic industrial chain of 10Gbit / s dimmable modules will be further improved. 25gbit / s color light or 25gbit / s dimmable modules will be tested and applied in the second half of 2019 and deployed in 2020.

The 50gbit / s pam4 optical module adopted by CMCC will start up quickly, and the main application is expected to be in the SPN network of China Mobile.

The return optical module converges to the coherent optical modulation and demodulation scheme, and the module rate evolves from 100Gbit / s or 200gbit / s rate to 400gbit / s rate.

·Fixed access network

The market is still in the process of switching to 10g PON. The delivery quantity of optical modules decreases, but the sales volume increases slightly. It is expected to be stable as a whole.


According to industry statistics, China's optical module market revenue in 2011 was only about US $950 million, accounting for about 31.15% of the global optical module market; In 2015, the revenue of China's optical module market has grown to US $1.62 billion, and its share in the global optical module market has also increased to 35.06%. It is estimated that by 2020, the domestic optical module market revenue will reach US $2.68 billion, and its share in the global optical module market will also rise to 37.75%.

China's optical module industry has gradually become the world's largest market for optical communication with China's efforts to invest in technology research and development and adhere to independent innovation. With the arrival of 5g, China's optical module market will usher in a better tomorrow.

With the Promotion of 5g Network, the Field of Optical Modules Will Usher in a New Spring 1

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