In 2017, service providers tested and trialed new access technologies such as Gfast, XGS-PON and NG-PON2, while cablecos vastly expanded their DOCSIS 3.1 deployments. This year, the results of operators' continuing investments pay off in new and enhanced services, reduced operational costs and the foundation of expanded next-generation technologies that deliver enhanced benefits.
Speed underlies or propels many discussions operators have, both internally and with customers. Bandwidth will increase continuously throughout 2018, Cai Jingzhe, vice president of Fixed Network Products at ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) told Broadband World News.
"[While] 100 Mbps access capability for end users is popular now, we believe that within the next 10 years, 10Gbit/s will become a typical access bandwidth for end users, and PON will be the main choice of broadband networks," he said.
That puts cablecos and MSOs in a "bandwidth arms race," as both residential and enterprise customers seek more capacity at lower prices, said Kurt Raaflaub, head of strategic solutions marketing at Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN), in an interview. Consumers want to watch pay-TV and streaming video services at 4K resolution on large-screen displays, while business users need high-speed access to cloud-based applications that deliver everything from basic PBX dial tone to specialized and vertical services via monthly subscriptions, he said.
As a result, telcos and cablecos will expedite 2017's transitions, said Raaflaub.
"Cable MSOs will be plotting a sound and future-ready migration path from legacy DOCSIS technologies to advanced DOCSIS or fiber technologies, moving away from the traditional DOCSIS-based, head-end-centric network and to one that is open, distributed and scalable," he said. "A distributed architecture is the solution to centralized head-end congestion, with virtualization as a key benefit. MSOs are moving to fiber-deep architecture, pushing fiber as far to the edge as possible to take advantage of the improved performance and smaller service groups."
Virtualization: up a notch
Now that operators have seen evidence of virtualization's benefits, they are increasingly interested in this approach, said Stefaan Vanhastel, marketing director for wireline fixed access at Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), in an interview.
"The fixed network was one of the last parts of the network to be touched by virtualization, but it really took off in . I would say fixed-network operators are very skeptical; virtualization is fine, but it has to be more than hype. There have to be very concrete use cases," he said.
Network slicing, for example, allows operators to "define multiple network slices on top of whatever fixed physical infrastructure you have or mixed physical infrastructure," said Vanhastel, "and then use different slices for different purposes."
An example: One slice could be residential and another could be enterprise, while a third could be 5G fronthaul, he added.
Opening up to SD access
Service providers will amp up their implementations of software-defined access, Greg Owens, director of product marketing at Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX), told Broadband World News. Operator adoption of SD-Access fuels, in part, the race for Internet of Things (IoT) services and deployment of PON solutions, he said.
"SD-Access facilitates that race to NG-PON2 and the concept of NG-PON2 gets substantiated in 2018," said Owens. "SD-Access is a movement to virtualization, away from the physical. The biggest hurdle is folks thinking about things in the old way, not the new. Conventional thinking needs to go out the window."
Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) will enjoy continued adoption this year as providers deploy cost-saving solutions that support subscribers' demands and eliminate high overhead costs, Raaflaub said.
"2018 will be a watershed year for commercial validation of highly disruptive CORD reference architectures as leading network operators begin commercializing services using carrier-hardened versions of these open, disaggregated and highly scalable CORD-based reference systems," he noted.
Operators will use early versions of SD-Access architectures to deploy 10Gbpos fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) networks as XGS-PON optics become more mainstream -- and cost-effective -- this year, said Raaflaub.
These smart networks also will fuel cloud analytics, said Calix's Owens. Cablecos and telcos are seeing the results of early investments in these solutions and recognize the benefits -- increased savings, enhanced customer service, improved service level agreement performance, better security through automated patching -- that more use of cloud analytics, big data and automation will provide, he said.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News.