BT is first public customer for Nokia’s new flagship routing range

A year on from shipping its high end carrier routing platform, Nokia has announced its first public customer, the UK’s BT. The UK incumbent will deploy the Nokia

7750 SR-14s IP routing platform, which is based on the Finnish firm’s homegrown FP4 chip.

The telco says the traffic through its core is growing by 40% a year and it needs to invest heavily in upgrading capacity and efficiency, ahead of major FTTP (fiber-to-the-premises) expansion and 5G launches later this year.

“BT’s FTTP footprint is growing on a daily basis, and we are launching 5G this year in the busiest parts of 16 of the UK’s busiest cities,” said group CTO Howard Watson. “These technologies create an amazing customer experience, and drive people to watch more, play more and share more. We have to stay ahead of the massive traffic growth that this will bring, and Nokia are a key part of that, giving us the capacity and automation that we need.”

The router BT has purchased is not actually Nokia’s highest capacity model. That is the 7950, also based on the FP4, but billed as a “petabit class” platform, and targeted at webscale companies as much as telcos. But Nokia also used the FP4 chip t upgrade its existing flagship series, the 7750 – originally the fruits of ALU’s acquisition of start-up TiMetra.

The new routers were charged with reversing a decline in that business between Nokia’s acquisition of ALU, and the launch of the FP4 in mid-2017. At that time, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said that the fixed networking division was “too heavily weighted towards communication service providers, and that market is currently quite soft”, and set out a strategy to pursue large enterprises and cloud providers too.

While Nokia has a more well-rounded enterprise cellular offering than Ericsson, it is not clear how far it is succeeding, to date, in pushing the FP4-based routers towards non-telcos.

The FP4 aims to drive Nokia platforms into new markets:

The FP4 processor is capable of 2.4Tbps of performance. It is a successor to the venerable FP3, which was itself a 400Gbps game-changer when it burst on the scene back in 2011. The new chip is implemented in a 16nm FInFet process, a significant advance on the FP3’s 40nm, and Nokia claimed at launch that it was not just “the world’s first multi-terabit chipset”, but also up to six times more powerful than any other processor currently available.

Several processors can be combined in one package to enable line cards capable of 12Tbps. These can be used in new routers – to achieve the sixfold traffic boost – or slotted into older ones of up to 10 years old. In that scenario, they could double the capacity of a 7750 SR-12 Service Router, or treble that of the newer 7750 SR-12e.

The new 7750 SR-14s is a single-shelf design, able to handle up to 144Tbps.

The new line-up is also designed to be more programmable than its predecessors. For instance, the FP4 can stream traffic statistics to an external analytics system, such as the Deepfield IP platform acquired by Nokia, in order to spot hacker attacks and other security issues, or gain better insights into traffic patterns overall. This is something the webscale players are good at, the vendor says, but service providers need to catch up, as their networks are “more opaque”.

Nokia designed its own memory and MAC address chips to drive performance still further, and is using a 2.5D packaging technology which was originally devised for the gaming industry. The decision to take ‘intelligent memory’ design inhouse was taken because very high throughput speeds are highly reliant on memory, and Nokia wanted to be able to control that key technology, and push it beyond what most merchant suppliers are doing.

Now BT will aim to take advantage of these capabilities to ease the expansion of its fixed and mobile networks. Sri Reddy, co-president of IP/Optical networks at Nokia, said: “Our exclusive partnership will allow BT’s converged core network to grow, and move to a programmable, insight-driven network architecture, creating a platform for BT’s growth to continue as demand for its services in FTTP and 5G expands.”