Vendor View – Building a bigger broadband

Fibre Network Broadband Fast

By Cai Jingzhe, Vice President of Fixed Products, ZTE Corporation.  

The turn of the century was a transitional period in the history of the internet as the online world moved from dial-up to ADSL broadband. The number of high-speed lines in service increased by 157 percent in the US in 2000 to almost one million lines, compared to about 370,000 lines at the end of 1999 according to the FCC. Analyst firm Statistica estimates that broadband penetration in the US will stand at 92.5 percent by year-end. By 2017 China is expected to overtake the US and boast the world’s largest number of fixed bandwidth households, while the ITU estimates there are currently 3.2 billion internet users globally.

Speeds are on the rise too. Dial-up typically clocked 56 kbps in 1999, shooting up to 200 kbps with the advent of early ADSL and today network providers are offering consumers 200 Mbps. That would be like a sports car upping its top speed from 150 to 150,000 mph. Imagine then a car able to travel at 150,000,000 mph, and you will have an appreciation for the step change of broadband delivered via a 10G-PON ultrafast pipeline.

Ultrafast pipelines alone though are just one part of the Big Broadband picture. Returning briefly to the car metaphor, it doesn’t matter how fast your theoretical top speeds are, if you’re travelling on old roads you’ll never reach them. Operators need simplified and intelligent networks to unlock the potential of ultrafast pipelines.

Network architecture and service provisioning is made easier with simplified and intelligent networks. Integrated access, unified management, zero touch maintenance, and plug and play to facilitate network monitoring, detection and proactive maintenance, and application programming interfaces are all enabled by simplified intelligent networks.

While an ultrafast pipeline is the cornerstone of the ZTE Big Broadband concept, network architecture simplification and operating efficiency enhancements are required for operators to develop their networks and control total cost of ownership. Software defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) are the two enablers of intelligent and simplified networks. SDN separates control planes from the network equipment and offers interfaces that can enable changes to the network, whether it’s design or more fundamental programming alterations. NFV decouples the network functions from proprietary hardware appliances so they can run in software. It reduces opex, capex, accelerates time to market, and delivers flexibility and agility.

ZTE’s ElasticNet integrates SDN and NFV technology to create a flat network that suits diverse functions and demands. It decouples the control and forwarding functions so that network control is centralised, and it ensures the network complies with open, standard protocols. ElasticNet provides a programmable environment, which makes the network visible to applications and promotes network innovation.

In short, ElasticNet makes a network dynamic. The network can be scaled to meet increased service demands, reduce the cost of network construction, and maximise network utilisation. The network evolves from a fixed, complicated system to a flexible, reconfigurable software-based system.

To simplify network operation and maintenance, ZTE uses a unified service platform, a unified pipe and a unified access platform. To improve operation and maintenance efficiency, ZTE uses a series of intelligent operation and management systems, including an eODN system and an intelligent link detection system.

The final piece of the Big Broadband jigsaw is the provision of on-demand deployment which provides different access according to end users’ requirements for services, bandwidth and charges, and uses suitable equipment to meet deployment requirements under different application scenarios, thus keeping the balance between construction cost and network competitiveness.

On-demand networking employs integrated fibre optic and copper strategies including fibre to the cabinet, building, distribution point (FTTdp) and home (FTTh) to provide services in an efficient and budget friendly way. The ZTE FTTx on-demand solution is based on all-in-one access platform with latest copper and fibre technologies including GPON, XG-PON, NG-PON2, GE/10GE, VDSL2 and G.Fast. With flexible FTTx deployment strategies, the operators’ priority is to deploy fibre to the home in a single step, in areas where conditions permit.

If conditions are difficult for FTTh other solutions other solutions for low cost broadband solutions are needed, continuing with copper as part of fibre to the cabinet, building or distribution point. All operators should make full use of fixed-mobile integration to offload traffic, while using the advantages of fixed-line resources and bandwidth to access small cells.

With the ongoing evolution of wireless and optical telecommunication technology, the cost to carriers per bit of data transported is lower now than ever before. The imminent arrival of widespread SDN and NFV, in combination with the establishment of next generation operation and maintenance solutions, will create further operational efficiencies that will help to drive down the cost per bit and improve network flexibility regarding the adoption of new services.

Think of the service improvements we’ve enjoyed in the relatively short lifetime of broadband. In 1999 a simple video service such as YouTube would have been impossible, a 700 MB movie would have taken 28 hours to download. Householders today can comfortably stream HD movies in one room, play video games online in another, and surf the web in another, all over the same pipe. The service potential of Big Broadband is nothing short of phenomenal, and just 15 years since the advent of broadband, the online world stands on the brink of yet another transition.


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