We are at a pivotal time in the telecom industry as bandwidth demands driven by the 4th Industrial Revolution impact how service providers are building their next-generation networks. Traditional networks are extremely expensive, and they are not sustainable or scalable in a new era of connectivity that includes adding 50 billion devices to the network. As such, service providers are moving away from single-sourced purpose-built platforms from incumbent vendors that come with massive CapEx and OpEx costs – and are moving toward new networks based on open reference architectures from a multi-vendor ecosystem.
Broadband service providers are feeling this strain on their networks. They are gaining a significant increase in subscribers – both residential and enterprise – and must be able to support new use cases and services such as triple-play (phone, TV, internet), TV-to-TV calling, and more. In order to keep up with subscriber demand and connect billions of new devices, broadband service providers must transform their traditional networks with open software-centric technologies.
Software-defined Passive Optical Network, SD-PON, is a new technology targeted at the last mile of the network, where passive optical networks are used to service multiple enterprises or home. SD-PON solutions virtualizes network functions that originally resided on proprietary legacy OLT (Optical Line Terminal) “black boxes” and moves them to open and disaggregated “white box” solutions from a multi-vendor ecosystem. By leveraging open components in their network transformations, broadband service providers can break vendor lock-in, reduce costs and accelerate innovation.
SD-PON also delivers a common software platform that is access agnostic, thereby enabling broadband service providers to leverage one solution for any access technology that they use, including DSL, cable, or fiber. When deploying SD-PON, broadband service providers’ overall deployment model remains unchanged. They are not replacing the fiber (or other access technology) which would be extremely expensive. Rather, the OLT is deployed as an open and disaggregated white box solution that is built with bare minimum silicon, x86 hardware, and general-purpose commodity platforms.
An SD-PON solution brings two major benefits to broadband service providers:
- Hardware abstraction and open design allows for OLT vendor neutrality and deployment flexibility
- High programmability and SDN control deliver agility of service deployment and lower OpEx
Service providers are in early trials
Broadband service providers have the option to deploy SD-PON in the Central Office or in edge data centers. This deployment flexibility allows service providers to meet their enterprise and residential subscribers’ unique requirements for performance and latency.
Service providers, primarily in Europe and Asia, have begun trialing SD-PON solutions in their networks. In Europe, Deutsche Telekom has publicly stated its plans to deploy next-generation fixed broadband access; its Access 4.0 program will leverage a combination of bare metal hardware, cloud technology, and open source software. It plans to deploy edge data centers that are technically aligned with SD-PON to deliver broadband services to its subscribers. In Asia, a tier-one service provider is trialing SD-PON at the network edge.
Broadband service providers globally are embracing the industry trend to disrupt their networks with open telecom solutions. With its disaggregated and open approach, SD-PON will help define how broadband networks of the future are built.
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