Spark says the first stage of its new Optical Transport Network, OTN 2, is live. The link connecting Glenfield and Papakura is now operating at 800Gbps.

The telco says OTN 2 will be the first fibre network of its kind in New Zealand to be capable of self healing. That is, it will be able to automatically restore services after a natural disaster or other outages.

Campbell Fraser, who leads Spark’s Technology Tribe says OTN 2 will increase resilience. He says this means the company can respond and restore service faster after incidents such as the Kaikoura earthquakes.

Until now, if a fibre cable was cut, engineers would need to use manual processes to fix the break.

Fraser says the sharp growth in network traffic means manual restoration is becoming unmanageable. With a self-healing fibre network, the technology automatically reroutes light signals after a cut.

The new OTN will increase data capacity on Spark’s network by a factor of up to eight. That’s important. Fraser says Spark’s data traffic is growing fast: it is up 700 percent since 2016.

Fraser expects the roll out of 5G mobile networks to drive data consumption higher again.

He says: “It’s common for business customers to ask for a 100Gbps connection, whereas even five years ago 10Gbps 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.”

Spark’s OTN is the company’s fibre backbone network connecting cities and towns back to a central hub. It handles mobile, broadband, landline and business customer traffic. Spark also uses the network to connect to other service providers and to international networks.

Spark is using the same Ciena’s WaveLogic 5 Extreme coherent optics system that featured in a similar announcement made by Vodafone last week. Like Vodafone, Spark says the new technology will mean reductions in power use.

The OTN 2 roll out will take two years to complete. It started in Auckland and will then extend to Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.