In comparison to its 800G product, Ciena’s new WaveLogic 6 coherent optic solutions offer twice the capacity over a single wavelength and a 50% reduction in the amount of space and power needed per bit.

Following the WaveLogic 5 technology, which Ciena unveiled in 2019, is the WaveLogic 6. The WaveLogic 6 is offered in Extreme and Nano flavors, just like its predecessor. The former, according to Ciena CTO Steve Alexander, is targeted at people looking for the best performance for things like large metro overbuilds and submarine cable systems. The Nano, in contrast, is more suited to use cases that call for space optimization. According to Alexander, this can involve things like backhaul, edge access, and data center interconnect.

Regarding technical specifications, the  WaveLogic 6 is beefy. It uses a 3 nm chip process technology, operates at 200 GigaBaud – more than double the rate achieved by the original WaveLogic 5 – and can deliver 1.6 Tbps over a single wavelength across a distance of 1,000 kilometers, depending on the type of fiber used.

According to Alexander, it’s that “single wavelength” bit that makes Ciena’s solution stand apart from the likes of Nokia’s recently unveiled PSE-6s coherent optics. Nokia’s solution can deliver 2.4 Tbps, but this is done by combining two 1.2 Tbps wavelengths.

The WaveLogic 6 will push “800-gig everywhere but 1.6 [Tbps] when you’ve got reasonably good fibre,” according to Alexander, just as the WaveLogic 5 assisted in pushing 400G to more areas of the network.

The WaveLogic 6 is the result of years of advancements in algorithm development as well as silicon technology and design, according to the CTO.

It really comes down to how you physically set up the chip, how you construct the transistors that perform the sampling, and what kind of visual algorithms you use to extract information from the signal you’ve received, he said. “If there’s one thing I’d say we’re really good at the chip level, the fundamental chip design, it’s mixed mode,” Alexander continued.   It’s being able to combine that very, very fast analog capability with the digital processing that goes behind it and do it in a way where the digital side of it doesn’t influence the performance of the analog side.”

The WaveLogic 6 is expected to become available in the first half of 2024. But Alexander said Ciena has already had some “deep discussions” with key customers who drive the market. Among those commenting in a press release were Meta, Bell Canada, and trans-Pacific submarine cable company Southern Cross.

For context, executives reported that Ciena’s WaveLogic 5E solution now has more than 200 global customers on the company’s Q4 2022 earnings call. They added that the company has currently shipped more than 50,000 WaveLogic 5E units.

When asked what comes next, Alexander responded that Ciena frequently considers upgrades in multiples of two or four. If the former, it would mean the business is preparing to take on 3.2 Tbps next.