|Topic:||Access technology trends|
|Title:||Senior Vice President of Operations EMEA|
Gert-Jan Schenk is Juniper Networksí Senior Vice President of Operations for the EMEA region. Mr Schenk has over 15 years of experience in sales and channel management roles in enterprise networking and the telecommunications industry. Prior to his current position, Mr Schenk was VP Channels at Unisphere Networks, which was acquired by Juniper Networks in 2002. Other positions held include Director of Channel Sales EMEA at Redback Networks and Regional Sales Director Central and Northern Europe for Madge Networks. Mr Schenk holds a Bachelorís degree in marketing and business economics. He also holds a certificate in Computer Science and Advanced Data Communication & Networks.
The advent of broadband-hungry services has strained the ability of service providers to add affordable new capacity. A study of broadband consumers in major Western European countries shows that most value price and speed, in that order, above all other considerations. Carriers, however, find it hard to reconcile these two demands. The arrival of HDTV, video on demand, on-line gaming and high-quality voice and, generally, ëlifestyle servicesí, though has given people a reason to pay extra for broadband.
‘Content is king!’ Was the common claim at the dawn of the ‘Net 1.0’ era based on a belief that the network was a ‘given’ and could handle and deliver anything that was thrown at it. It is of course true that content is a key element in service delivery, but content without connectivity and a means of consumption is just content. It is now generally agreed that, as we enter the ëNet 2.0í era, a combination of content, connectivity and consumption is crucial to the business success of many service providers. The connectivity required for the ëNet 2.0í era is certainly different than the connectivity that fuelled the Net 1.0 boom over recent years. User expectations and the service provider communityís need to play a pivotal role in the transformation of rich lifestyle services for consumers have created a surge in the demand for greater bandwidth and predictable, consistent delivery. With HDTV, video on demand, on-line gaming and high-quality voice as examples of these new ëlifestyle servicesí, the insatiable demand for bandwidth is not surprising. The step change from the Net 1.0 era is that end users now demand a consistent, predictable quality of experience for these services equivalent to what they are accustomed to for terrestrial and satellite TV and the PSTN, public switched telephone network. No one expects to pick up a fixed-line phone and receive an out-of-order message, nor watch a movie on broadcast or cable TV that jumps, hesitates or freezes every few minutes! To deliver on the promise of experiencebased services such us video and voice, the network, the services and applications have to ëunderstandí each other like never before. Intelligent, bandwidth-hungry services One of the greatest challenges for service providers, given todayís intelligent, bandwidth-hungry services, has been to ensure that contemporary access network technologies have both the capacity and intelligence to meet the growing demand now and for the immediate future, whilst simultaneously meeting key business objectives, including return-on-investment. The access network components are the largest cost contributor in broadband service delivery architecture, so access network decisions must be both technically and commercially optimal. On the technology side, it is not simply a case of picking one technology and focusing everything around that; service providers must demonstrate a high level of agility and flexibility to meet changing user demands over time and be able offer the same set of services at the same or higher levels of quality for a growing mix of technologies – including true ëpresenceí-based service delivery. There has been a massive transformation of bandwidth technology offerings over the past few years to address the growing demand created by bandwidth-hungry services. Copper technologies have advanced through normal ADSL through to ADSL2+, VDSL and VDSL2 to a point where it is even feasible to deliver a 50Mbps service – although, only over a relatively short distance (500m). In Europe, for example, DSL technologies are dominant in terms of numbers of broadband lines deployed, which was to be expected given the capability to re-use the existing ubiquitous copper loop. HFC, hybrid fibre coaxial, cable networks have also seen both widespread adoption and changes over recent years, with potential developments like DOCSIS 3 to deliver up to 100Mbps per customer, albeit over a shared infrastructure. Fibre, either directly to the home or the curb, in the form of passive optical network technologies such as G-PON or E-PON, are still in their infancy in the European market. They clearly have great promise in terms of the bandwidth per user they can deliver but the high capital investment required to deploy them is still a major inhibitor for now. Wireless networks Moving to the wireless arena, mobile network operators have not stood still in the race to deliver additional bandwidth to the mobile handset to fully enable the delivery of this new service set. Technologies like HSDPA and HSUPA, high-speed downlink/uplink packet access, are beginning to transform the types of applications and services that can be deployed to a mobile handset and will clearly be fundamental service enablers. Much is expected of wireless broadband, especially WiMAX technologies, which can deliver broadband wireless connectivity over several kilometres. As a ësharedí technology, WiMax networks need careful design to deliver a consistent multi-megabit delivery service to end users for the experience-based services previously mentioned. It was often said by industry watchers during the Net 1.0 era that bandwidth costs will trend to zero. Whilst in some areas bandwidth costs have reduced, this has not always been reflected in the access layer, in consumer pricing, as rising bandwidth requirements have forced providers to re-think and change technology in many cases. This raises an interesting point – bandwidth alone does not provide a complete answer. Intelligent policy and control provides a far better solution, but where should the intelligence reside? It is obviously in the interest of service providers, when considering service deployment across multiple access technologies, to implement the intelligence and control necessary to provide the end user with a consistently high quality of experience. This is very difficult, if not impossible, to do at the access layer itself due to the wide variations of technology implementations. It is far better done at the layer behind the access layer itself, a common service delivery point where all of the access technologies meet. The one thing that is common to the access technologies mix is that 100 per cent of the applications carried in the Net 2.0 era will be IP-based. Consequently, service delivery should originate at a location that has highly scalable, richly featured, IP capability that can ensure policy control and intelligent traffic priority handling, and which provides a uniform security gateway to the network beyond. The broadband services router is the ideal point in the network to deliver on the above, cost effectively and at scale. Less complexity – lower costs Service providers clearly face a huge business challenge planning their access technology and service delivery strategies as demand grows for greater intelligent capacity. To put this into focus, we estimate that in Western Europe it typically costs the service provider some US$145 per year for access, backhaul, aggregation, support, development and return on capital employed to deliver a broadband connection. Of this, US$48 or 33 per cent of the overall cost is the access technology itself; it is the single highest cost item and therefore an important cost to focus upon. To lower the cost, the goal is to minimize access layer complexity. In a recent survey of 6,000 broadband consumers conducted in six Western European countries – France, Germany, Italy Netherlands, Nordics and the UK – a number of very interesting patterns and trends emerged that could be indicative of wider trends that service providers should bear in mind when considering broadband service expansion plans. The most telling statistic from this survey was that when asked, ëWhat are the most important elements when choosing a bundled telecoms deal?í The two dominant factors were speed and price – an average of 74 per cent across the 6,000 interviewed voting for speed, 67 per cent for price. The challenge this raises for service providers is that it is very difficult to sustain a long-term differentiated business model upon these two elements alone and crucially, it could be argued, this raises a question about future investments in the access layer if usersí predominant concerns are focused on these elements. For individual countries, it is interesting to note that in France the percentage of people who considered price a key concern was 67 per cent, Italy 65 per cent, whilst in the UK it was 79 per cent. France and Italy are the two leading countries in EMEA when it comes to multi-play delivery (voice, video and data) using an IP broadband connection, whereas the UK is just beginning to deploy these services via broadband. When users see the types of service delivered in a broadband Net 2.0 environment, they start to think more of the services and their lifestyle needs, and concerns about price begin to soften. So what does the future hold? The demands for greater bandwidth and intelligence at the access layer are clearly growing. Service providers cannot invest massively to feed that growth if bandwidth and speed alone are the consumersí main concerns, because the long-term business case is quite simply not sustainable. The provision of a much richer set of services and a flexible choice of access technologies, dependent on local business requirements and implemented in an incremental manner to build both consumer visibility and therefore confidence, is a far more sustainable approach.