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Jointly Promoting the Development of F5G Advanced for a Prosperous Broadband Industry

New requirements in four scenarios will drive F5G Advanced: optical to home, optical to enterprise, optical to computing, and green all-optical base.

Tang Xiongyan, Vice President and Chief Scientist of China Unicom Network Technology Research Institute
Tang Xiongyan

In February 2020, ETSI released the Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G) standards and proposed the industry vision of Fiber to Everywhere and Everything. ETSI defined the technical architecture of this next-gen fixed network based on core technologies such as 10G PON + fiber to the room (FTTR) for broadband access, Wi-Fi 6, and single-wavelength 200G for optical transmission + optical cross-connect (OXC).

F5G standards and the new vision quickly attracted wide attention across the industry.

After more than two years, F5G has achieved rapid development in both standards organizations and industry applications. ETSI's Industry Specification Group (ISG) F5G has nearly 100 members who have submitted more than 1,000 contributions, significantly advancing standardization for F5G industry applications.

Established at the end of 2021, the World Broadband Alliance (WBBA) has strengthened the industry's drive to translate F5G standards into industry applications. In response, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released the Action Plan for Coordinated Development of Double Gigabit Networks in March 2021 to promote the construction of F5G and gigabit optical networks, putting China's F5G industry on the fast track towards success.

F5G Advanced

After the F5G standards were officially released, research on F5G's future development paths began. From 2025 to 2030, more new requirements and applications are expected to emerge, driving F5G evolution. For example, in homes, VR/AR and smart home applications will increase in popularity, resulting in drastic increases in the number of devices. With factories and machines connected through optical fibers, optical networks will extend from the ICT industry to vertical industries. All-optical transmission networks will serve as infrastructure for Computing First Networks (CFN) and support ultra-low latency and extensive access. A general consensus on energy conservation is also driving optical fiber networks towards greener network architectures.

Based on these requirements, ETSI released the F5G Advanced and Beyond White Paper in September 2022, which described the driving forces, scenarios, and key technologies of F5G Advanced and defined a host of future F5G objectives and capabilities. At the end of 2022, ETSI had already completed F5G Advanced project initiation and started standard formulation.

China Unicom's all-optical network strategy opens a new chapter of intelligent integrated services

In 2021, China Unicom proposed its CUBE-Net 3.0 network innovation system and a target architecture featuring computing and network integration to drive the transformation of traditional communications networks into next-generation digital infrastructure. Such infrastructure would better support digital economic and social development. The system and architecture defined next-gen digital information infrastructure as "connectivity + sensing + computing + intelligence + security". Their release also marked the beginning of a new chapter for the company that would feature intelligent integrated services. The development concepts of CUBE-Net 3.0 and F5G Advanced are highly consistent. By delivering comprehensive optimization of overall network architecture, networking solution, device forms, and service capabilities, this system can better match diversified and complex service scenarios.

In November 2022, China Unicom and 21 industry partners worldwide jointly released the F5G Advanced Industry White Paper. The white paper proposed an industry vision for F5G Advanced of "10G Fiber to Everywhere for ubiquitous optical access, OTN to EverySite with low latency, all-optical autonomous networks, and integrated sensing". It described the new architecture and capabilities needed for F5G Advanced based on the new requirements of four scenarios: optical to the home, optical to the enterprise, optical to computing, and green all-optical base. It also defined the core features, network capabilities, evolution paths, and key support technologies of F5G Advanced.

All-optical base target networks enable new service scenarios

To meet the new requirements of home, enterprise, and computing scenarios, China Unicom will integrate its architecture for all-optical base target networks end-to-end and build up its differentiated competitiveness.

Optical to the home

China Unicom provides high-quality connectivity for smart homes through FTTR, and uses OLT + OTN to integrate edge computing capabilities for lower latency and better user experience.

Home broadband has evolved from FTTH with one optical fiber to FTTR that provides one optical network. In the future, all-optical home networks will continue to evolve and enable smarter homes. The green, low-carbon, high-bandwidth, low-latency, and stable nature of all-optical networks in the FTTH phase has laid a solid foundation for all-optical homes. Next, with the development of smart home services, broadband packages will gradually be upgraded to 500–1000 Mbit/s, and new high-value services will continue to gain traction, like 4K/8K/VR, smart home, online office/education, and live streaming.

By providing 10G PON and FTTR gigabit bandwidth services, China Unicom has been able to take the lead in building a brand-new gigabit home network with premium broadband. Diversified immersive applications and production services, such as XR, 8K UHD, cloud gaming, and healthcare applications, will become increasingly common in the smart home phase. These types of applications all pose higher requirements on service quality, and so upgraded network technologies like 50G PON, Wi-Fi 7, and beyond will be needed for stronger broadband access and home IoT services.

Optical to the enterprise

Enterprises and manufacturers are progressing quickly with their own digital transformations, while XR is now widely used across offices, schools, and hospitals. Data cloudification has become an inevitable trend, and the momentum driving cross-region intelligent collaboration is also continuing to increase. Examples of how these advancements can be applied include remote diagnosis and treatment in hospitals, XR intelligent teaching in schools, and interactive offices. In industrial manufacturing, as intelligent, unmanned, and flexible manufacturing technologies continue to advance, 3D machine vision quality detection, cloud-based PLC, and centralized control applications will gradually become mainstream technologies. These applications pose higher requirements on network reliability, bandwidth, and latency.

F5G Advanced will deliver new capabilities like 50G PON and FTTR Wi-Fi 7 that will in turn bring seamless 1 Gbit/s to 10 Gbit/s coverage with microsecond-level deterministic latency. This will give enterprise customers an optimal network experience while building an all-optical foundation for the industrial Internet.

China Unicom, for example, provides large enterprises with reliable and secure P2P OSU/OTN connections. For small- and medium-sized enterprises, we provide PON+OTN private lines, which offer differentiated and quality connections with lower latency. The OSU (N*2 Mbit/s) small-granularity connection technology enables high-quality connections to greatly improve the utilization of hard pipe resources and facilitate industrial digital transformation. In industrial optical networks, OSU is strengthening the industrial Internet and lean manufacturing by providing microsecond-level latency and 99.9999% reliability.

Optical to computing

In February 2022, the National Development and Reform Commission, Cyberspace Administration of China, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and National Energy Administration jointly launched the "Eastern Data and Western Computing" project and announced eight computing hubs would be built in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, the Yangtze River Delta, the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area, the Chengdu-Chongqing Region, and the Provinces of Inner Mongolia, Guizhou, Gansu, and Ningxia.

This project will optimize the direct network between the eastern and western networks and computing hubs and build a transport network that supports the development of computing power. All-optical transport networks, and their low "1 ms–5 ms–20 ms" latency circles, will be needed to achieve data center interconnection and computing power scheduling. China Unicom's all-optical foundation is designed to meet these needs by upgrading all-optical anchors to computing anchors only several hundred meters away from users, enabling one-hop computing access. This means latency can be as low as 1 ms from the anchor to the municipal computing hub, 5 ms from the anchor to the provincial computing hub, and 20 ms from the anchor to the cluster computing power hub.

Green optical networks

Green development has become a globally recognized mission. Network energy efficiency upgrades have become a must to enable widespread industrial digital development and as network capacity requirements grow rapidly. The most energy efficient transmission solution to these demands will be end-to-end all-optical networks, as they significantly reduce energy consumption.

The energy efficiency of all-optical networks is improved in three ways.

Architecture: All-optical OXC technologies can be used to optimize traditional ROADM architecture. They can reduce site areas by 90% and power consumption by over 60%. Expanding C+L spectrum resources and increasing the line rate can also greatly improve system capacity and reduce system power consumption per bit.

Sites: Upgrading legacy SDH networks to OTN networks can significantly improve space utilization and energy efficiency. Unified OSU transport technology can greatly improve network channel utilization and service transmission energy efficiency.

O&M: Dynamic energy-saving technologies are used to dynamically adjust equipment power consumption based on the actual transport bandwidth of service ports, significantly improving network energy efficiency.

The improvement and development of F5G Advanced standards require the joint efforts of the entire industry. China Unicom is committed to providing referable scenario requirements and technology trends for F5G Advanced development, and exploring feasible paths for network evolution. The company will work hard to drive industry consensus and promote application integration so that we can stride, hand-in-hand, towards F5G Advanced.