Spark’s ‘self healing’ optical network debuts in NZ

Spark in New Zealand has completed the first stage of its next-generation Optical Transport Network (OTN 2) that has “self healing” capabilities to automatically restore services after things like natural disasters. 

This is believed to be the first time these ‘self healing’ capabilities have been deployed in that country. It will increase data capacity on Spark’s network by up to eight times, and support Spark’s 5G services.

The first piece of the new OTN 2 fibre network was installed between Glenfield and Papakura in Auckland, and is now live and operating at 800 Gbps. Spark’s previous links operated at 100 or 200 Gbps.

Spark’s OTN is the fibre-based network that connects New Zealand’s cities and towns with high speed data links. The OTN provides the backbone and core connectivity between all the main cities in New Zealand, transporting all customers’ mobile, broadband, landline, and business customer traffic, as well as connecting Spark’s network with other service providers and international cable networks.

Campbell Fraser, Spark’s Technology Tribe Lead, said that the roll out of OTN 2 will deliver increased resiliency enabling Spark to respond and restore service much faster after events such as the Kaikoura earthquakes.

“The ‘self-healing’ technology will minimise the impact of network outages. These are caused by cuts in the fibre cable from earthquakes, floods, landslips, construction works or rodents damaging cables,” Fraser said. “Currently, restoring service is a manual process but the sharp growth in network traffic means manual restoration is becoming unmanageable.”

The optical restoration self-healing technology allows the light signals that carry the data to automatically change their path after a fibre cut. Fraser said that the other big benefit of OTN 2 is to ensure that the Spark network has enough capacity to meet the ongoing steep growth in data consumption.

Spark selected Ciena to supply the hardware, software and services to design and build Spark’s OTN 2. With Ciena’s WaveLogic 5, advanced network automation and intelligent restoration capabilities, Spark can quickly support 5G and IoT services.

The OTN 2 roll out is a two-year project, which has started in Auckland, and will expand towards Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. Initially the new OTN equipment will be an express overlay to the existing core network, then will eventually replace the existing OTN.