Spark starts rollout of ‘self-healing’ network technology

self-healing network
Image by Hendra Su

Spark 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. It is believed to be the first time these ‘self-healing’ capabilities have been deployed in New Zealand. In addition, 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 Gigabit per second (Gb/s) (Spark’s previous links operated at 100 or 200 Gb/s). 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 rollout 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, which we believe is a first for New Zealand, 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. 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, so this is a big step forward. We expect to be able to restore services much more quickly so we can get customers back up and running.”

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.

“Kiwis love their video streaming, mobile services and online applications, and there is an increasing customer expectation of connectivity anytime, anywhere. Since 2016, we’ve seen a 700% growth in data consumption across New Zealand,” Fraser said.

“We know that the rollout of our 5G network will drive data consumption even higher as businesses and consumers across New Zealand start using 5G technology with its greater data capacity and speed. It’s already common for business customers to ask for a 100 Gb/s connection, whereas even five years ago 10 Gb/s connections were standard. The up to eight-fold capacity increase we’ll get with the OTN 2 network is key to meeting this huge demand for data capacity.”

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