Microsoft acquires Lumenisity – hollow core fiber high speed/low latency leader
Microsoft announced it has acquired Lumenisity® Limited, a leader in next-generation hollow core fiber (HCF) solutions. Lumenisity’s innovative and industry-leading HCF product can enable fast, reliable and secure networking for global, enterprise and large-scale organizations.
The acquisition will expand Microsoft’s ability to further optimize its global cloud infrastructure and serve Microsoft’s Cloud Platform and Services customers with strict latency and security requirements. The technology can provide benefits across a broad range of industries including healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, retail and government.
Organizations within these sectors could see significant benefit from HCF solutions as they rely on networks and datacenters that require high-speed transactions, enhanced security, increased bandwidth and high-capacity communications. For the public sector, HCF could provide enhanced security and intrusion detection for federal and local governments across the globe. In healthcare, because HCF can accommodate the size and volume of large data sets, it could help accelerate medical image retrieval, facilitating providers’ ability to ingest, persist and share medical imaging data in the cloud. And with the rise of the digital economy, HCF could help international financial institutions seeking fast, secure transactions across a broad geographic region.
Types of Hollow Core Fiber:
Various types of hollow-core photonic bandgap fibers:
(a) Photonic crystal fiber featuring small hollow core surrounded by a periodic array of large air holes.
(b) Microstructured fiber featuring medium-sized hollow core surrounded by several rings of small air holes separated by nano-size bridges.
(c) Bragg fiber featuring large hollow core surrounded by a periodic sequence of high and low refractive index layers
Lumenisity HCF benefits:
Lumenisity’s hollow core fiber technology replaces the standard glass core in a fiber cable with an air-filled chamber. According to Microsoft, light travels through air 47% faster than glass. Lumenisity’s next generation of HCF uses a proprietary design where light propagates in an air core, which has significant advantages over traditional cable built with a solid core of glass, including:
- Increased overall speed and lower latency as light travels through HCF 47% faster than standard silica glass.
- Enhanced security and intrusion detection due to Lumenisity’s innovative inner structure.
- Lower costs, increased bandwidth and enhanced network quality due to elimination of fiber nonlinearities and broader spectrum.
- Potential for ultra-low signal loss enabling deployment over longer distances without repeaters.
Lumenisity was formed in 2017 as a spinoff from the world-renowned Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton to commercialize breakthroughs in the development of hollow core optical fiber. In 2021 and 2022, the company won the Best Fibre Component Product for their NANF® CoreSmart® HCF cable in the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC) Exhibition Industry Awards. As part of the Lumenisity acquisition, Microsoft plans to utilize the organization’s technology and team of industry-leading experts to accelerate innovations in networking and infrastructure.
Lumenisity said: “We are proud to be acquired by a company with a shared vision that will accelerate our progress in the hollow-core space. This is the end of the beginning, and we are excited to start our new chapter as part of Microsoft to fulfill this technology’s full potential and continue our pursuit of unlocking new capabilities in communication networks.”
The purchase is also noteworthy in light of Microsoft’s other recent acquisitions in the telecommunications sector, which include Affirmed Networks, Metaswitch Networks and AT&T’s core network operations (including 5G SA Core Network).
Microsoft isn’t the only company interested in HCF technology and Lumenisity. Both BT in the UK and Comcast in the US have tested Lumenisity’s offerings.
Comcast announced in April it was able to support speeds in the range of 10 Gbit/s to 400 Gbit/s over a 40km “hybrid” connection in Philadelphia that utilized legacy fiber and the new hollow core fiber. Comcast worked with Lumenisity.
“As we continue to develop and deploy technology to deliver 10G, multigigabit performance to tens of millions of homes, hollow core fiber will help to ensure that the network powering those experiences is among the most advanced and highest performing in the world,” said Comcast networking chief Elad Nafshi in the release issued in April.
Comcast Deploys Advanced Hollowcore Fiber With Faster Speed, Lower Latency
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Jeff Baumgartner of Light Reading:
Comcast is using a virtualized cable modem termination (vCMTS) and a distributed access architecture (DAA) to underpin a wave of multi-gigabit downstream speeds and enhanced upstream speeds in dozens of markets before the end of 2022. That work will serve as a springboard for the deployment of a more advanced DOCSIS 4.0 network that will start to deliver symmetrical multi-gigabit services in late 2023.
In concert with Wednesday’s launch of 2-Gig downstream speeds and faster upstream speeds in Denver, Comcast showed off some of its handiwork with city leaders and some media here at a headend that houses some of the new technologies that are making its new network go.
Currently based on DOCSIS 3.1, the access network that is delivering those new capabilities features a vCMTS paired with a distributed access architecture (DAA) powered by fiber nodes outfitted with remote PHY devices (RPDs). That will place PHY layer functions of traditional CMTS at the edge of the network and boost capacity by digitizing the HFC network all the way to the node.
Comcast is also boosting the DOCSIS upstream with a “mid-split” upgrade that expands the amount of spectrum dedicated to the upstream – from a legacy range of 5MHz-42MHz to a wider range of 5MHz-85MHz.
This week’s launch in Denver tied into Comcast’s plans to launch 2-Gig downstream speeds along with 5x to 10x faster upstream speeds (up to 200 Mbit/s) to 34 cities and towns before the end of the year. Similar upgrades are underway in markets such as Colorado Springs; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Hartford, Connecticut; Augusta, Georgia; Panama City Beach, Florida; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Washington, D.C.
“Our network upgrade is in full swing,” Elad Nafshi, Comcast’s EVP and chief network officer, said here during a briefing.
Comcast initially is limiting access to the new, faster upload speeds to customers who take xFi Complete, a package that sells for an additional $25 per month that includes Comcast’s gateway, its advanced cyber security product, Wi-Fi controls and unlimited data.
DOCSIS 4.0 update
Those 2022 market upgrades are setting the stage for a move to DOCSIS 4.0 and the introduction of symmetrical multi-gigabit speeds. Comcast plans to introduce that capability in select markets in the second half of 2023 and to bring them to more than 50 million homes and businesses before the end of 2025.
Comcast announced earlier this week that it had completed its first “live” DOCSIS 4.0 trial in the Philadelphia area. It marked the first time Comcast delivered a DOCSIS 4.0-based service to a subscriber location, Nafshi said.
The trial connection, which delivered symmetrical speeds of 4 Gbit/s, ran off of Comcast’s vCMTS outfitted with DOCSIS 4.0 code in tandem with DOCSIS 4.0-based remote PHY devices and modems, he said.
The Philadelphia trial used a “node+0” architecture, whereby fiber is pulled deep enough so there are no amplifiers required between the premises and the node. Comcast is also developing an FDX Amplifier that will enable the operator to deploy DOCSIS 4.0 to the vast majority of its HFC network, including portions of the plant that have multiple amplifiers (up to six, and potentially more) present between the home and the node.
Nafshi said the FDX Amplifier is still in development, but “there’s lots more to come on that in 2023.” CommScope, a key vendor partner on that project, showed a prototype FDX Amplifier in October at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia.
As Comcast looks ahead to D4.0/FDX deployments in 2023, Nafshi confirmed to Light Reading that the operator will base it on HFC networks built to 1GHz (the FDX specs support bandwidth up to 1.2GHz).
Nafshi said Comcast doesn’t feel the need to upgrade capacity to 1.2GHz at this point. “Everything can fit under the 1-Gig umbrella,” he said. However, he points out that taps being deployed today are capable of supporting 1.2GHz.
Comcast, he added, will be able to generate the speeds delivered at its D4.0 demo at CableLabs in April (8.5 Gbit/s downstream and 5 Gbit/s upstream) with the 1GHz configuration, and “roll this out broadly.”