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When focusing on networks there is ever-increasing pressure for faster speed, additional connections, and greater distances.

Data Centers, cable, telco, and internet content providers are chasing increasing enhancements in optical technology when developing their networks for improved capacity.

Standards organizations are developing details to maintain interoperability, to overcome these industry challenges. Usually, these organizations are made up of specialized staff from hardware manufacturers, telephone network operators, government watchdogs, and academics.

These groups strive to create unique specifications that may incorporate the work of other standards groups to create solutions with the widest possible market and to eliminate similar work. In this blog, we will focus on the key standards for optical devices and interfaces that are important for any company to engage with as they build their crucial optical strategies.

Multi-Source Agreement (MSA)

This sort of agreement is created by companies separate from official standards bodies. Numerous effective MSAs are being used for data networks and coherent optical transceivers at 100G and higher data levels. They are usually created for the following reasons:

Companies choose to provide intellectual property to MSAs to help standardize a particular technology and to market it.

Key standards organizations to consider for the optical market are:

Internal Telecommunications Union and American National Standards Institute (ITU-T / ANSI)

The ITU-T and ANSI have developed Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) and Synchronous Optical Network (SONET). The ITU-T is the leader in the development of standards for optical transmission mainly used in the Telco industry. In Telco and Independent Communications Providers (ICP) industries, their research is often included when there is a need for long-distance data transmission.

Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE)

IEEE specifies all physical and signaling standards for Ethernet. The IEEE and its representatives lead a worldwide group to innovate towards a better future. The IEEE defines Ethernet components and protocols that represent a large part of the optical market and is a global trustworthy “voice” for computing and information technology

Optical Interoperability Forum (OIF)

This body is accountable for creating Advance Programming Interfaces (API) that permit the interoperability of optical components and software across multiple network levels. The 400ZR Coherent Optical Interfaces Implementation Agreement, published in April 2020, is the first in the industry to achieve coherent optics interoperability. Since then several agreements have been created for coherent optics.


This group has been formed from several cable providers working to establish guidelines for the cable industry and has created the Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) specifications. They seek to establish and expand optical standards in order to provide HFC networks with greater optical efficiency and management. Its cohesive optical specification P2P(Peer-2-Peer) defines coherent 100G and 200G optical usage interfaces for DWDM on the HFC networks access area.

CableLabs also defines a two-way, consistent single wavelength optic for application in fiber constrained environments. They have developed various existing standards in its specifications for interoperability with other components, systems, and networks both for ITU and for IEEE. Cable Labs is accessible to any company that wants to test transceivers to ensure alignment with their standards and interoperability with other suppliers.

Organizations Concentrating on Network Management

Standards bodies may identify a certain degree of control with respect to their technology, but none specifies all the optical technologies needed to establish a completely operational network. Therefore, several groups are developing optical management standards and specifications.

The MEF has recently developed the requirements and Implementation Agreements to create a protocol orchestration for data networking, but the emphasis has been on establishing guidelines for Ethernet services. A limited portion of their research is associated with the operation of optical interfaces. Furthermore, open-source software such as Ansible, Puppet, and Chef can be used to manage certain optical interfaces.

Strategic planning for future scalability is critical to a network's success

Advancements are progressing quickly in the fields of packaging, optical, electrical, grey, and DWDM coherent pluggable optical interfaces that deliver 100G and greater data rates. The developments and alternatives provided by vendors make it challenging for end-users to understand the right technology for creating optical networks.

By partnering with AddOn for your fiber network needs, you gain our vast decades of expertise. We provide insights you can trust depend on to make the right decisions for your needs. We follow the evolving standards and are working on emerging technologies with our suppliers.

Our experience with optical networks across the globe enables us to understand your challenges when reviewing the various options. We then evaluate the needs and develop innovative standard-based approaches in collaboration with our clients that meet their network needs.

For our full series of coherent articles, follow the links below:

Contact us for help with strategic planning for your next fiber network expansion.