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The current state of backbone fiber-optic networks in Russia and the need for their modernization in the period between 2020 and 2030 (updated)

February 2022

Analytical Report (full version)

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Analytical Report (full version)

The current state of backbone fiber-optic networks in Russia and the need for their modernization in the period between 2020 and 2030 (updated)
The current state of backbone fiber-optic networks in Russia and the need for their modernization in the period between 2020 and 2030 (updated)
February 2022

The current state of backbone fiber-optic networks in Russia and the need for their modernization in the period between 2020 and 2030 (updated)

February 2022

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According to the data provided by the Russian federal statistical portal EMISS, in 2020 in Russia the total volume of backbone fiber-optic networks, including intra-zone lines, exceeded 1.05 million km. Taking into account the fact that their implementation started in the early 90s of the last century, a number of lines has been in use for more than 20 years and requires an upgrade of the optical cable. According to J'son & Partners Consulting, in 2020–2030, more than 400 thousand km of fiber-optic cables will be replaced in the country, and this process will most strongly affect the networks of large telecom operators.

 

In Russia, the development of fiber-optic communication networks started in the early 90s. By the end of 2020, according to J'son & Partners Consulting, the total length of the backbone fiber-optic communication lines of major operators has reached the figure of about 700 thousand km (Fig. 1). A critical factor for the continued operation of optical cables is the exhaustion of their service life, which today is estimated as 20-25 years, depending on the quality of the optical fiber.

 

The process of physical aging of optical fiber is accompanied by a decrease in its optical properties during operation. However, today a more important factor for the major fiber optic lines is the moral aging of the optical fiber laid more than 20 years ago. It is expressed in the impossibility of full-fledged use of transmission systems of the next generation of spectral compaction equipment. For example, with a total data transfer rate of 16 or 32 Tbit/s (or 200-400 Gbit/s per one wavelength, lambda) and more. Today, such systems have begun to be installed by domestic operators in the international European direction, however, receiving and transmitting systems with a maximum transmission speed of up to 4-8 Tbit/s are operated on a large number of regional sites. This may not be enough in the future with the widespread use of digital technologies in the country and, in particular, with the planned introduction of 5th generation mobile networks. Currently, the growth in demand for transit capacity is increasing by 45% annually, according to the data provided by the company TeleGeography. In 2021-2022, two fiber-optic cable systems,  Dunant and Amitie, with a total capacity of 360 and 448 Tbit/s, respectively, will be laid between the USA and Europe. As a result, they will significantly reduce the unit cost of transit of transmitted traffic and accelerate the process of moral aging of cable systems previously installed in the Atlantic region. A recent example of this was the termination of the well-known transatlantic system TAT-14 in December 2020, whose service life was only 19 years.

 

 

Fiber-optic cables have been used in Russia since the beginning of the 90s. We can distinguish 4 stages of accelerated increase in the length of backbone optical networks in the country:

 

• The beginning of the introduction of fiber-optic networks by traditional telecom operators in the early 90s (Rostelecom, regional Svyazinvest companies);


• The emergence of competitive alternative backbone network operators (TransTeleCom and others) in 1998-2001;


• Regional expansion of mobile operators (MTS, Megafon, Vimpelcom) and the growth of broadband penetration in 2007-2009;


• A special program aiming to eliminate digital inequality and to subsidize the construction of fiber optic networks in remote and rural areas, which will last until 2030, as the infrastructure development as part of the National Program "Digital Economy of the Russian Federation".

 

According to J'son & Partners Consulting, in the near future, the requirements for fiber-optic infrastructure will increase due to the use of even more powerful transmission systems using coherent optical signal processing technologies, integrated optoelectronic solutions and improved quality optical fiber. According to Huawei, equipment which is currently under research and development will be able to provide a total transmission rate of traffic over a pair of optical fibers up to 64 Tbit/s at a transmission rate of 800-1000 Gbit/s per lambda (Fig.2.).

 

 

These new systems will require the implementation of an extended optical spectrum in optical fibers, which is obviously impossible in outdated optical cables with service life of 20-25 years or more.

 

The key projects of the National Program "Digital Economy of the Russian Federation" are, in particular, the construction of the 5th generation mobile networks, creation of regional data centers and improvement of the backbone infrastructure throughout the country. At the same time, the fiber-optic infrastructure is an important link between these projects and we can expect further investment growth in this market segment, including in the modernization of existing communication lines. First of all, this will affect the main lines of large operators. However, fiber-optic cables are used not only on general-purpose operator communication networks, they have been actively used for a long time on railways, in the energy sector and for oil and gas transportation. Thus, the modernization of fiber-optic infrastructure will cover a wide range of critical sectors of the economy.

 

The updated version of the report, prepared by J'son & Partners Consulting, is intended for manufacturers of optical fiber and fiber-optic cables, distributors of these products, large telecommunications and departmental telecom operators, as well as investment companies. This research is based on the analysis of our own database concerning construction of trunk and intra-zone fiber-optic communication lines since 1995. The new version also has an additional section dedicated to the optical fiber market assessment and the production of fiber-optic cables in Russia, as well as its forecast until 2030.

 

According to J'son & Partners Consulting, in 2020–2030, more than 400 thousand km of fiber-optic cable with a service life of more than 20 years are planned to be replaced in Russia. At the same time, cable infrastructure modernization will affect not only operators of general-purpose communication networks, but also operators of departmental networks of railways, energy and oil and gas industries. 

 

This report contains 130 pages of text, including 46 figures and 49 tables.

 

 

 

  

 

Detailed results of the study presented in the full version of the report:

 

“The current state of backbone fiber-optic networks in Russia and the need for their modernization in the period between 2020 and 2030”

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