[CR] Future Networks Forums : Welcome to the Gigabit era and virtualization?

Future networks wrap-up

The 2015 Digiworld summit sessions devoted to telecoms gave off a view on the move toward very high speeds in mobile, fixed and satellite and how this is strongly supported by the EC.

How mature are the technical solutions being used to supply Gigabit Internet?

How mature are the technical solutions being used to supply Gigabit Internet?

Customer push for higher speeds

The discussion started around customer needs. The Gigabit race is driven by a strong customer demand for speed and volume Mr. Maloberti highlighted. Customers need good network quality and experience and that is the reason why telcos will continue to invest in networks.
Valérie Chaillou, head of telecoms at IDATE confirmed this trend. She gave a wide panorama on VHB fixed broadband connections in the world. There were 265 million VHB fixed connections in the world as at end 2014 according to IDATE (three main architectures are considered as VHB: FTTH/B, FTTN and FTTx/D3.0 deployed by cablecos). FTTH/B is largely available in most-advanced Asian countries and the most deployed architecture among FTTX connections above VDSL and far from FTTxDOcsis3.0. At a regional level, major discrepancies remain.FTTx Docsis 3 dominates in North America while FTTH is the main technology deployed in other regions. Pierre Michel Attali had a more French focus and mentioned 3% of French people get fiber-based internet access at home. On the mobile side, Valérie Chaillou mentioned that more than 500 million LTE subscribers were registered at world level as at end December 2014. She illustrated how massive is LTE adoption among mobile operators and customers. Distribution of LTE mobile connections is not homogeneous and the most-advanced Asian countries are again eading the pack. China the guest country of this 37th edition of the Digiworld Summit jumped at the second world rank in the first half 2015 with a total of 225 million subscriptions (compared to almost 100 million at year-end 2014). And migration to LTE is really much faster than 3G.

A Gigabit race being run at a different pace across the globe, but with one thing in common: the growing involvement of local authorities

In the USA, Google fired the starting gun for the Gigabit race in the US. Google’s very local approach attracted a great deal of attention from cities which, when they failed to be chosen as one of the company’s rollout locations, elected to become involved in deploying their own infrastructures, in some instances in partnership with other local bodies such as universities. AT&T, which had initially focused its efforts on VDSL but is now also deploying FTTH networks, which has enabled the carrier to introduce its 1 Gbps Gigapower plan.

In Europe, Gigabit networks are also making headlines in Europe, although the situation is very different, largely because operators there are taking more wide-ranging technological and commercial approaches. Some were quick to gain a foothold in this new market, while others are waiting for market demand to build. Although the targets for connection speeds set in Europe Digital Agenda and mentioned by Anna K from the DG Connect are more modest, Gigabit-speed access could nevertheless become an industry standard for both public and private sector players, as local authorities begin to play a larger role in SFB/UFB network rollouts. The EC public consultation on the needs for internet speeds and quality beyond 2020 runs til December 7th, 2015.

Fixed, mobile and satellite are in the game

On the fixed side, several promising technologies to reach 1 Gbps. Valérie Chaillou highlighted that theoretically, several technologies (FTTH, Docsis3.1, FTTN) are capable of providing end users with a 1 Gbps connection. Naturally, end-to-end fibre connections are currently the fastest ones available. The technologies used by new solutions that rely in part on copper or coaxial networks, and which have recently been standardised, will become commercially available in the coming months.

A number of technologies on the mobile side should have a significant positive impact on mobile network performance: Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA) which will bring more flexibility to mobile operators for improving throughputs and capacity through the use of widely available and freely usable unlicensed spectrum, LTE Wi-Fi Aggregation/ LTE-H is expected to unify both LTE and Wi-Fi, improvements in carrier aggregation, adapting LTE for machine type communication, Device to Device (D2D) is a mode that enables two devices to discover themselves directly and communicate with or without the need for a network. 5G is expected to deliver 1 Gpbs internet. But 5G is at an early stage even widely accepted by the industry. 5G basic principles are widely accepted within the industry but it is in an early stage. It aims to provide 1000 times higher wireless area capacity and more varied service capabilities compared to 2010. The big change, understood to be the one that will not be compatible with LTE evolution, pertains to the new radio interfaces, which must be developed for 5G.
There are, currently, in the industry, many different proposals of foundations for those new air interfaces and there is still relatively little on the choice to be made. There are basically two types of air interfaces, one based on orthogonal waveform and that is more or less an evolution of that currently used in LTE OFDM, and another, based on non-orthogonal waveforms. To support those multiple waveforms, the frame structure will be adaptive.


Jean-Hubert Lenotte from Eutelsat

But Jean-Hubert Lenotte from Eutelsat asserted satellite is coming back in the game. “Infrastructuer is the main bottleneck to more growth.”
He highlighted that satellite performs well compared to terrestrial standards and is also competitive in certain circumstances. "Cost for satellite is going down: divided by 5. Much more capacity on satellite, much more flexibility
Satellite is able to deliver high speed internet at reasonable cost in remote regions and rural areas where terrestrial infrastructure/coverage is lacking.


Is network virtualization a game changer?

In addition to the race in the deployment of fixed and mobile superfast systems (link to forum#1), networks’ future evolution is directly linked to the integration of cloud architectures and the virtualization solutions. The concepts of SDN, NFV and network virtualization are considered as the main upcoming technological disruptions in networking architectures and are at the heart of telcos’ and equipment suppliers’ strategies.

Round-table: Reality check

Moderated by : Vincent BONNEAU, Head of Innovation Business Unit

Mervyn KELLY, EMEA Marketing Director, Ciena
François LEMARCHAND, Head of SDN product strategy, Ericsson
Michael RITTER, Vice President Technical Marketing and Analyst Relations, Adva Optical
Laurent BILLES, VP Network Architecture, Orange Labs Networks, Orange

Software Defined Network and Network Function Virtualization are two very hot topics in the telecommunication industry. What are their benefits, what is the maturity of the solutions available, the challenges that will have to be faced and most importantly as well with which outlook for the coming years? Those were the questions raised and answered during this session at the Digiworld Summit 2015.

What are NFV and SDN?

SDN stands for Software Defined Network. It is the decoupling of the control plane and the user plane in the network. Network Function Virtualization on the other hand is the softwarization of network function that are run on legacy x86 IT servers rather than on dedicated and proprietary hardware today found in mobile networks.


Several benefits can be listed

- Financial savings notably through CapEx and OpEx savings. While OpEx saving were mentioned as quite obvious in near future, interviewees were more cautious regarding possible CapEx saving, noting that it would take more time to materialize.

- Energy savings resulting from a more efficient and flexible network where resources can be pooled and distributed on the field depending on real usage,

- Time to Market: Virtualization of the network enable to launch services more quickly and thus to be more competitive and reactive on the market

- Foster innovation : thanks to the flexibility and agility that SDN and NFV enables, new services can be launched and the reliance of operators or service providers on infrastructure equipment provider development cycle is less important

Reality check

Although a hot topic, the stage of maturity of SDN and NFV is still at the beginning. Around 30 proof of concept have been demonstrated, some trials have been carried out, some commercial solutions are even available but very few commercial deployments so far.
What came out is the fact that for a greenfield operator, SDN and NFV can be deployed quite quickly and quite successfully. Challenges are met when SDN and NFV have to be integrated in existing network.
Interoperability today is a real issue. There are a lot of solutions from multiple vendors using very different standards. While the number of initiatives tells a lot about the opportunity that the industry sees in SDN and NFV, it also raises its own problems.
In this context, open source will be a key driver to enable interoperability between all vendors and more importantly to foster innovation by enabling new players to develop their own service.

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Challenges and impact on the industry

The two main challenges for the years to come will be the interoperability of solutions as well as the ability to handle security very seriously. Price of course is a big question. Of course, pricing should be more affordable but to what extent is the big question. By 10%? 20%? Currently we have not enough hindsight to give an answer to this question.
What is sure is the fact that SDN and NFV will have a big impact on the industry. Operators and service providers will have to move from a telecom centric environment to an IT centric environment, which is not a small thing for an operator. Indeed, Mobile Network Operators will have to rethink their organization and way of thinking. The transformation of infrastructure from a product to a service will usher many opportunities but surely require adaptation.
As warned during the session, business plans will have to be very conservative because we still lack some hindsight as most deployment will take place between 2018 and 2020

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