On March 31 2020, China Mobile announced the bidding result of Centralized Procurement of Transmission Equipment for the Inter-Provincial Backbone Transmission Network (Phase XIII) Construction. ZTE and Huawei almost evenly divided up the project, ZTE won the western regions which covers 53% of the total project while Huawei won the eastern region, which takes 47% share of the overall project.

According to the public announcement of China Mobile, Phase XIII is the largest OTN project of the Inter-Provincial Backbone Transmission Network.

World’s largest commercial OTN network

Transport network is the “infrastructure” of new infrastructure construction. It assumes the bottom-layer capabilities of digital society transformation such as smart health care, smart city, and remote education that creates high requirements for bandwidth, capacity, latency, and networking flexibility of transport networks.

When the large-scale construction of 5G deployment and the home broadband and group customer services are rapidly developing, China mobile’s existing transport network is facing expansion challenges with the compound growth rate of the backbone transport network traffic exceeds 40%.

In addition, optical networks are facing technical challenges such as bandwidth tolerance efficiency, flexible management and control capability improvement, and intelligent O&M capability. When the network is completed, it will become the largest commercial OTN network in the world.

The construction of such a huge ultra-high-speed network requires a large amount of resources supported by strong technical capabilities to improve the overall network efficiency and save operation costs.

In this procurement purchase, the line lengths in both regions are longer than 50,000km. To solve the long distance transmission of high-speed network, China Mobile requires the bidder to provide complete 200G technology, including 200G 16QAM coding and 200G QPSK coding.

QPSK can support 200G long-distance transmission. In addition, the ROADM and the OXC technology must be used on the inter-province backbone transport layer for the first time to achieve one-hop direct access at the optical layer so as to effectively reduce network latency.

The first large-scale deployment meets the latest cloud-based network management requirements defined by the China Mobile Research Institute, and ensures efficient network operation. The solution also adopts the C++band to expand the 4T spectrum width of the C-band to 6T, thereby improving the bandwidth utilization of the optical fiber by 50%.

ZTE and Huawei are the biggest winners

China mobile intended to select only two suppliers for this project. In this fierce competition China Mobile evaluated suppliers in four aspects: technical solutions, engineering delivery, comprehensive strength, and final quotation.

Why did ZTE and Huawei win? In terms of technology, both companies have long been the leader in global optical network suppliers, leading the development of cutting-edge technologies in particular in-house OTN & IP chipsets. The data shows that ZTE’s in-house highly-integrated Framer chip integrates the FIC function, so that it can save the power consumption by 50% compared with the separation solution.

In terms of product, taking ZTE for example, its flagship OTN products have the largest backplane bandwidth of 1T in the industry. According to the latest GlobalData report, ZTE’s OTN flagship product ZXONE 9700 series have maintained the highest rating of “Leader” in the two categories of “core packet-optical platform” and “Metro packet-optical platform” for several years. These products will be used in the construction of this inter-province backbone transmission network.

Evolution from “Three Networks” to “Dual Networks”

The backbone network of China Mobile’s transmission network has been constructed since 2001 and 12 phases of projects have been completed by 2018. The first nine phases are mainly constructed with the 80×10G/2.5 G WDM system by ZTE and Huawei.

In December 2013, China Mobile launched the bidding for Phase X of inter-province backbone transmission which adopted the 80×100G system. Phase X was divided into three major regions. The main suppliers are ZTE, Huawei and Alcatel-Lucent. The Phase XII started in 2017 was the expansion of phases X and XI.

China Mobile’s inter-province backbone transmission network covers three major regions: Eastern, western and northeastern, forming 1 ultra-high-speed, 3 high-speed straight, and 3 ordinary 100G OTN planes. During China Mobile’s inter-province backbone transport construction in recent 20 years, both Huawei and ZTE are important players.

China Mobile changed the construction strategy of Phase XIII of the inter-province backbone transport OTN network from the previous three regions to two regions, thus entering a new era of dual networks.

According to some insiders, the Phase XIII project integrates the northeast, eastern, and western regions of the original high-speed platform into two regions, facilitating the overall project construction in terms of circuit dispatch, regional transfer, network scale, and supply capability.

At the same time, with the construction solution of the two regions used, the service coordination and transfer amount is reduced, the management is relatively centralized, and the competitiveness is increased, thereby facilitating the unified end-to-end scheduling of services.

The two suppliers will further consolidate their advantages of optical transmission and and optical network services in China and even the world through the construction of this project.