Connecting with nature through green connectivity

China Telecom Sichuan has achieved 100% province-wide fiber coverage. Read how.

By Kevin Huang, VP & CMO, Transmission and Access Network Product Line, Huawei

The human need for connection has existed since ancient times. In China’s west, the Shu roads – the winding mountainous roads connecting present day Shaanxi and Sichuan – provide a spectacular example of how human ingenuity and spirit can overcome what is ostensibly impossible. Immortalized by the iconic Tang poet Li Bai in the “The Hard Road to Shu”, building and traveling these roads was monumentally challenging. Today, the kind of things we talk about for connecting people – network technologies – present their own challenges that we must face. 

While the nature of our desire for connections hasn't changed in the 3,000 years since the Shu roads were carved out of mountain rock, the relationship between people and nature has. Today we have the ability to impact natural ecosystems to an extent that was once impossible. And we do so often to the detriment of the environment: global climate risks are rising, extreme weather events are increasing, and biodiversity is declining. The relationship between society and nature has been thrown off balance.


We believe that technology shouldn't work against nature, but instead the two should exist in healthy symbiosis. The ICT industry is the cornerstone of the intelligent world and is playing a vital role in helping us achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. To do so, the global ICT industry must prioritize energy saving and emissions reduction in its technologies, products, and solutions. China Telecom Sichuan and Huawei are doing exactly that in the Shu roads, while fulfilling the connection needs of communities.

Optical fiber harmonizes connectivity and nature

Committed to low-carbon telecommunications and green technologies, China Telecom Sichuan began replacing copper cables with fiber back in 2012 with the aim of building an all-optical network. Optical fiber is the greenest transmission media, using 60- to 75-percent less energy than copper. After three years, China Telecom Sichuan completed China's first province-wide all-optical network, achieving 100 percent fiber coverage of the province’s 21 cities and prefectures, 183 counties, 3,716 towns, and 22,700 villages.

With this green network extending from the urban metropolises to remote villages to snowy peaks, China Telecom Sichuan has established a bridge connecting Sichuan to the world. 

How did it do this?

Ensuring that technology and nature coexist in harmony is the philosophy behind Huawei's commitment to environmental protection, a commitment we continue to fulfill. To help China Telecom Sichuan and other operators around the globe better satisfy their low-carbon development social responsibilities, Huawei continues to promote green innovation in optical networks, break through theoretical limits, and create greener optical network products. Huawei's OptiXtrans series of optical cross-connect (OXC) products meet Huawei's commitment to low-carbon development.

OXCs boast ultra-large capacity, liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) technology, 1.5 Pbps single-cabinet capacity, and 32-degree scheduling. It also offers device integration at nine times higher density than traditional ROADMs.

For zero fiber connection, we've developed unique optical backplane technology that allows us to print over 1,000 optical fibers on an optical backplane the size of an A4 sheet of paper, realizing fully automated fiber optic scheduling.

At the digital optical layer, we use our in-house optical label technology, which supports wavelength-level network status monitoring and end-to-end visibility of more than 50 optical parameters, enabling full automation of optical layer O&M.

Thanks to technological innovation at multiple layers, Huawei's OXC products reduce equipment room footprint by 90 percent and realize power savings of 60 percent. Huawei OXC equipment has been used in 12 core transmission nodes in China Telecom Sichuan's network, forming an “Optical Cube” network that saves 250,000 kWh of electricity each year, the equivalent of planting 2,000 trees.

All-optical cities for a green future

Replacing copper with fiber was the prologue in China Telecom Sichuan's construction of an all-optical city, but introducing OXC was the start of a whole new chapter. End-to-end (E2E) OXC, E2E OTN, and E2E intelligent management comprise the all-optical city's three-layer optical network architecture. And 200G/400G high-speed optical transmission technology will double connection rates in cities. These will form an all-optical city network for the next decade.

For sectors like government administration, finance, and healthcare, China Telecom Sichuan will supply high-quality private line services, enabling the digital transformation of vertical industries. It will provide homes with enterprise-grade, high-quality services, bringing VR and HD live streaming to numerous households. And it will deliver high-quality 5G connections for everyone and everything, accelerating the incubation of 5G applications.

In the future, when Sichuan completes the all-optical city project, it will save 8 million kWh of power – the equivalent of planting over 64,000 trees – per year.

The green Shu roads are just the beginning. We will continue working to protect the environment. We are willing to work with governments, enterprises, and other organizations to jointly ensure the harmonious development of society and nature.