Shane Eleniak Issue: Europe II 2016
Article no.: 7
Topic: Broadband unbound – A communications network vision for 2020
Author: Shane Eleniak
Title: VP of Product Line Leadership
Organisation: Calix
PDF size: 211KB

About author

Shane Eleniak, VP, Product Line Leadership, Calix.
Shane Eleniak is responsible for product strategy, positioning, and systems roadmaps at Calix. He has more than 25 years of experience in the telecommunications industry.
Prior to joining Calix, Shane was the Group VP of the ABS business unit at CommScope, responsible for all edge, access, and CPE products within the Broadband Division. Earlier, at Alloptic, he guided product, sales and corporate strategy to deliver the industry’s first 10G EPON and RFoG products.

Article abstract

Today, operators all over Europe are building fibre access networks as the first step to realizing a dynamic communications network of the future. In Ireland, carrier-neutral wholesale provider enet has been quietly offering open access bandwidth to small towns for the past decade, an ambitious and impressive way of allowing Irish businesses to remain competitive in both urban and rural communities. 

Full Article

Imagine the communications network of 2020. It is scalable, flexible, connected, and responsive to the varied needs of individuals and society. People and organizations connect and share information, selling and buying goods and services. The communications network of 2020 will empower the subscriber, be it a person, or a collection of devices operating in concert to automate and personalize our environment. And if the communications network fulfills the vision of placing the subscriber first, then it must also be a network that frees the operator from the mundane activities of operating the network. To accomplish these two goals, the network must be intelligent – programmatic – so that it is dynamic and responsive to the subscriber and provides the automation and operational simplicity that will allow the service provider to prosper.
The innovation cycle of the Internet will be applied to the underlying communications network and extended from the data center to the subscriber’s home, places they visit and the locations that provide their entertainment and livelihood. The benefits of next generation communications network are not lost on governments and institutions. For the last two decades, information and communications technology has fueled our cultural, economic, and political interactions. Adoption of the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) by the European Union is clear recognition of the profound power of communications networks to empower and energize a single family, community, state, and the whole of Europe.
Our communications networks are compartmentalized into many pieces, from the data center to the home, traversing virtual and physical resources, fiber and copper technologies, fixed and mobile infrastructure. Yet if we compare our list of attributes for the communications network of 2020 – scalable, flexible, connected, responsive – to current networks, we see that much of the network is already racing ahead to deliver the vision. The greatest shortcoming of the current network, and thus the greatest opportunity for advancement, is in the access network: that part of the network that connects our home and wireless networks back to the service provider’s central serving location. The access network is made up of a heterogeneous collection of aging copper and new fibre optic lines. It is often buried below centuries-old cobblestone streets and encumbered by the weight of civil engineering and public agencies. Access has often been the antonym of flexible and responsive. Yet there is light at the end of the conduit. Two independent technologies are converging on the access network – Next Generation Passive Optical Networks (NG-PON2) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) – that will together enable the access network to deliver on the promise of the 2020 communications network vision.
It is not often that we say so about a technology in the access network, but next generation passive optical networks will surge over the service provider landscape and change it forever. NG-PON2 is a 2015 ITU-T telecommunications network standard for the latest generation of PON. It was developed as a successor to GPON, a technology that has been lighting up the world’s optical access networks for the past decade. Like any PON technology, NG-PON2 broadcasts data through fibre optic cables, offering high capacity connections to multiple subscribers at a relatively low cost. NG-PON2 exceeds the capabilities of GPON in two fundamental ways. First, while GPON is capable of delivering a 2.5Gbps data service downstream toward subscribers, and 1.25Gbps upstream to the network, an NG-PON2 OLT (Optical Line Terminal) is capable of sending 10Gbps symmetric upstream/downstream speeds. By the numbers, this downstream speed increase is four times greater than what GPON can support, but because of the statistical nature of bandwidth sharing between the many subscribers on a PON, will result in a capacity increase of much more than a 4x multiplier.

Figure 1. Multi-wavelength passive optical network with tunable lasers and receivers
NG-PON2 is the first multi-wavelength access standard. By utilizing TWDM (Time and Wavelength Division Multiplexed) technology, NG-PON2 supports a minimum of four wavelength groups of 10Gbps PON over a single fibre. At the premises, tunable lasers and receivers in the ONU (Optical Network Unit) will dynamically tune to one of the offered wavelengths, achieving speeds up to an incredible 40Gbps when aggregated. The technology of NG-PON2 is emerging in 2016, and will be cost optimized and widely deployed in the communications network of 2020. Simultaneously, the availability of multiple wavelengths enables a convergence of all services – residential, business, industrial, government, wireless aggregation – to converge onto a single NGPON2 PON infrastructure. Truly, for most subscribers, the physical constraints of the access network will be eliminated with the adoption of NG-PON2. But it will take the simultaneous emergence of SDN to empower the subscriber and unburden the service provider.
Software Defined Networking is an evolution in network architecture in which network control is centralized, directly programmable, and decoupled from data forwarding within the network node (e.g. router, OLT, or otherwise). SDN is not a new concept, and the industry has moved on from conversations regarding, “Will SDN actually happen?” to those of, “Where will SDN have it next great impact?” SDN is not so much a revolution in networking, but an evolution in standards, open interfaces, and optimized network design. A key aspect of SDN is that it provides open and standardized interfaces to the network orchestration and control layers. While subscribers may think in terms of a web GUI, the SDN framework revolves around new machine-to-machine APIs such as OpenFlow® and NETCONF/YANG. These APIs and standard data models are really the most interesting part of SDN. With them, we can standardize how equipment is programmed, abstract away peculiarities of the physical world (like NG-PON2), and accelerate integration of new technology and services into mainstream applications.

Figure 2. Centralized business applications and network control speed adoption and delivery of new services
The optical technology of NG-PON2, combined with the application control SDN provides, will be transformational for the communications network, enabling new services and revealing unexpected business opportunities. Two simple examples of NG-PON2 and SDN working together illustrate the point. Imagine a community of residential, mobile, and business subscribers, mixed within single family and multi-unit buildings. Throughout the day, week, and year, subscribers have need of connectivity, services, bandwidth capacity. As each service request comes in from the application-enabled subscriber, the network dynamically sets up the service, enables service flows across the network and even seamlessly shifts subscribers from one NG-PON2 wavelength to another when necessary. All without the network operator moving a muscle. The network ebbs and flows logically, and for the first time, physically, as resources within the access network are modified to meet the changing needs of the subscriber.
Today, operators all over Europe are building fibre access networks as the first step to realizing a dynamic communications network of the future. In Ireland, carrier-neutral wholesale provider enet has been quietly offering open access bandwidth to small towns for the past decade, an ambitious and impressive way of allowing Irish businesses to remain competitive in both urban and rural communities. Recently, enet built a one Gigabit-per-second fibre broadband network in rural North Kerry to showcase its capability to deliver part of the Government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP) to extend high-speed broadband to all of rural Ireland. “We’re not here today to promise what we will do, but to demonstrate what we have done,” commented Conal Henry, the Chief Executive of enet. Mr. Henry is right to be proud of enet’s accomplishment. With fibre in place to each premises, enet and its open access ISP partners will be delivering a life-changing broadband experience for many decades to come. [sources: enet.ie website and press releases]

Figure 3. NG-PON2 and SDN enable new business opportunities and differentiated services
In another network, the ultimate in open access is realized when each service provider can offer services to subscribers as part of one shared optical network investment. Subscribers can select independent service providers within one NG-PON2 wavelength, or have their ONU tune to a new service provider that is fully independent of the others. Each service provider can choose application-specific ONUs to match the services they offer, and each wavelength can be independently operated so no service impacts subscribers on the shared optical network. The combination of high capacity, multiple independent wavelengths, and tunable ONUs will provide a wealth of service innovations for the Internet of people and things.
The full potential of the next generation fibre access network will be realized in metropolitan areas, where the multiple 10 Gigabit wavelengths will be shared by a large spectrum of services and subscribers. As a result of the Very High Speed Plan launched by the government in 2013, France is steering a steady course toward fiber. Service provider Orange is planning to have nine of the largest cities in France 100% covered by its FibreNetwork from late 2016, providing end-to-end fiber for all parties: the public, professionals and businesses. Paris will truly be the “City of Light”, poised to deliver the communication services that will empower its citizens to develop innovative digital uses well beyond our current experiences and imagination. [sources: orange.com website]
In 2020, broadband access networks will be unconstrained and the opportunities limitless. High speed optical networks will flex and adjust, at the packet and wavelength level, to deliver what will seem like unlimited bandwidth for nearly all subscribers. Standardized programmatic management interfaces will invert the control of the network, moving it into the hands of the subscriber who knows what, when, and how much of a good thing they need. For the service provider and network operator, the future delivers more for less, faster. More services, more revenue, more opportunity, with less operational cost and at a pace that will seem magical when compared to 2016. Communities and regions that invest in fibre to the premises will open up new business applications and environments for social and business entrepreneurship. Welcome to broadband unbound.