Omdia provides opinions and analysis of Ciena’s intentions to develop the sixth generation of coherent modems. We assess the risk of this program and how its Wavelogic 6 products will compare to other vendors' new product release plans.
On February 21, 2023, Ciena announced the development of new coherent platforms named Wavelogic 6 (WL6). Ciena plans to offer two versions of WL6. The first version, WaveLogic 6 extreme (WL6e), is performance-optimized and intended for Core and Subsea networks. WL6e will be packaged in traditional 6500 line cards or compact modular for data centers. The second version, WaveLogic 6 Nano (WL6n), is power- and sized-optimized for pluggable coherent transceivers. Ciena’s development schedule has WL6e becoming available in 1H24, and WL6n is anticipated to be available in 2H24.
WL6 will have several important firsts for coherent modems:
- First to 1.6Tb/s data rate
- First to use 3nm for coherent digital signal processors (DSPs)
- First to use 100GHz electro-optics
Ciena is taking a calculated research and development risk using cutting-edge 3nm DSPs. Still, the reward is expected to be power per bit and performance advantages over products using 5nm DSPs.
WL6e leverages leading technologies to offer the first 1.6Tb/s single carrier coherent modems
Ciena plans to use 3nm finFET CMOS technology for the coherent DSPs for WL6e and WL6n. This technology was recently released for consumer electronics mobile phones, and Ciena is the first to use it for coherent DSPs. Ciena is also developing high bandwidth, 100GHz, electro-optics. The electro-optics coupled with DSPs will enable baud rates to scale up to 200Gbaud, enabling longer reach than lower baud rate solutions.
Ciena improved its software, which is projected to produce a 15% improvement in spectral efficiency. WL6e will have edgeless clock recovery, up to eight frequency division multiplexing channels, continuous data and baud rate tuning, updated PCS, and improved nonlinear compensation. Ciena expects the performance to allow a single carrier 800G at any network distance. Simulations have shown that WL6e has a 12,000km reach in Southern Cross’s network when operating at 1Tb/s.
Ciena has taken a higher development risk by skipping the 5nm CMOS and moving directly to 3nm. This is approximately one year after 1.2T single carrier solutions at 140Gbaud became available from several other vendors. Moving aggressively to 3nm DSPs and 200GBaud electro-optics will enable a 50% reduction in power per bit and a 50% reduction in size compared to Wavelogic 5e. Compared to new 1.2T solutions expected to enter the market in 1H23, Ciena predicts its WL6e will require 25% fewer modems and 25% lower power per bit. Ciena will also include AES-256 encryption as an option in WL6.
Ciena has an experienced engineering team with a successful track record of delivering more than five generations of coherent technology. Omdia expects Ciena will rise to the occasion and commercialize WL6e on its target timelines.
WL6n is the power and size-optimized version intended for pluggable applications. It will follow the development of WL6e by roughly six months, with availability expected in 2H24. Using 3nm CMOS for a DSP should enable significant power per bit advantage over 5nm DSP-based solutions.
Ciena plans to offer pluggable solutions, including the 800GZR for 51.2T switching, 800GLR for 10km applications inside data centers, and higher power options for brown and greenfield metro and regional applications. Ciena will also offer 800G pluggables in CFP2, QSFP-DD, and OSFP.
Many high-performance optical networks worldwide are ready for a refresh to accommodate higher bandwidth, driven by a 30% CAGR in north-south traffic over the past decade. With WL6e, Ciena will be well-positioned to offer 800G anywhere with the benefits of significantly lower power per bit. Ciena will also be well-positioned for the 51.2T switching with the 800ZR using WL6n. Ciena will develop a suite of pluggable modems for use in regional, metro, and point-to-point coherent routing applications.
Timothy Munks, Senior Principal Analyst, Optical Networks and Technology