The Broadband Forum (BBF) is working on what it terms “a landmark project” with Japanese telco NTT to standardise the virtualisation of operators’ PON networks to support the delivery of Time Critical Applications (TCAs), such as 5G fronthaul.
The project, which was initiated by BBFmember NTT, looks to open up new business opportunities for operators and vendors by using network virtualisation technologies such as Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) to cost-effectively upgrade their PON networks. This is intended to enable the rapid introduction of new services, including the key issue of fronthaul for 5G services, and adds to the BBF’s ongoing work on the convergence of fixed and mobile networks.
“As users’ usage changes, both in regard to the different services required and the amount of data coursing through fibre networks, operators need to update their PON networks, including by adding TCAs,” observes Akihiro Otaka, Executive Manager at NTT Access Network Service Systems Laboratories. “This used to require the remake of PON equipment for each service, but should be done via a software upgrade in the near future to improve cost-effectiveness. With demand for this increasing, it is important we ensure there are standards in place to achieve a vendor-agnostic system and ensure mass deployment of this new system architecture, which is essential if we are to deliver agile and flexible next-generation broadband networks for emerging services.”
The project – PON Abstraction Interface for TCAs – looks at how SDN and NFV can be applied to Optical Line Terminals (OLTs) to disaggregate PON functions to functional modules with open interfaces. The first phase will define the disaggregation policy and functional requirements of interfaces to disaggregate PON functions which need time-critical processing. The second phase will define the detailed specifications of the interfaces as Application Programming Interface (API) sets.
“As we work to meet the demand for new services, faster connectivity and more bandwidth, our focus is shifting from the fixed network to a holistic broadband network,” adds BBF CEO Robin Mersh. “We know fibre will play a huge role in the delivery of 5G and this project looks to define that role and make it possible for operators to offer fronthaul services, among others, via their PON networks.”