Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Craig Thomas, VP of Strategic Marketing and Business Development at Broadband Forum, looks at how fixed internet access is evolving.
Broadband internet access is not a luxury, but a necessity for economic and human development and it acts as a powerful tool for the delivery of essential services such as education and healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in smart working has diversified the role of the customer, acting as both the business (smart worker) and residential user on the same broadband access via the same Customer Premises Equipment (CPE).
End-users have always opted for the quickest and most reliable broadband at the most reasonable price. Fixed broadband access has been the dominant option for many years. There is now utilization of assets that serve both mobile and fixed access requirements. As advances in cellular have narrowed the gap between two traditional separate deployment models in fixed and wireless, operators are faced with the challenge of integrating both fixed and wireless technologies within the same network. Now operators need to create a seamless environment between the two different network types so that the end user’s Quality of Experience (QoE) is not affected.
Managing multiple customers in the home – QoE
Not only do operators need to manage the experience in the home, but they also need to manage the experience from the Wi-Fi access point to the devices in the home as they are now looking at connecting multiple customers across a single broadband network. Consumers are increasingly expectant of their service providers to guarantee high-quality, fast broadband services. All of these devices need to be remotely controlled and managed. Broadband service providers are continually looking for ways to better manage and monetize the connected home.
This demand for better network services has presented operators with the opportunity to turn towards end-user network gateways such as Wi-Fi routers as a platform to unlock a myriad of third-party applications and services. These end-user gateways often serve as the central point for connectivity and network security inside the home.
By leveraging a centralised Internet gateway device or other CPE, service providers can effectively deploy, activate and manage third party applications such as parental controls, private homeworking, Wi-Fi analytics, smart home functions, any third party entertainment and gaming services and security solutions to consumers. This also allows service providers to differentiate and scale their business models to provide a more customizable offering to each subscriber.
The exploitable functionality of an additional app-like service layer right at the edge of the network will allow more control and better resilience for all the players in the ecosystem, as well as improving choice and the overall experience for customers. This paves the way to what many could see as the broadband service providers own “dynamic app store”. Driving any additional services to be uniquely stored on the subscriber’s broadband gateway and separated in individual secure software containers.
Creating seamless migration with disaggregated software approaches
Revolutionizing networks will not happen overnight, meaning that operators need to ensure that there is the ability to migrate across from existing hardware platforms to a totally virtualized and disaggregated network. The Broadband Forum’s CloudCO demo at this year’s Network X displayed improved quality and user experience in case of Wi-Fi or network congestion, better utilisation of network resources, and zero-touch service provisioning.
The CloudCO framework brings tangible benefits to the industry and helps operators migrate from legacy networks traditionally based on many individual network elements to a truly open software defined access network. This virtualisation and disaggregation of the network can help operators build their network based on their specific requirements, and they can have confidence that these components can interoperate with each other, helping achieve superior QoE.
The introduction of cloud, virtualization and Software Defined Networking (SDN)-based automation of ultra-fast access technologies and open source are at the heart of the revitalization of the broadband ecosystem, with the Network Function Virtualization (NFV) market expected to reach $122 billion by 2027.
Service providers are keen to welcome the benefits of cloudification to their networks, and utilise co-existence and a migration plan from their existing network investments. With standards, operators are armed with the tools to flexibly plan and build their cloud-native networks and deliver faster services to their customers.
The standardized, automated and accelerated deployments of new cloud-based access infrastructure and services are of huge benefit to the industry. This means that operators can continue to integrate their processes with cloud-native systems and embrace virtualization to build and scale their networks while making sure that these new network architectures are compatible with their existing infrastructure.
QoE is the end goal
Today’s access network segments form a collection of application specific, purpose-built devices. While this has been the foundation for large-scale successful deployments, the emergence of new technologies and approaches has resulted in a re-examination of the deployed network in the quest for a more responsive, agile ecosystem to better enable new revenue opportunities and operational cost savings.
A seamless customer experience is more critical than ever. The broadband industry’s emphasis must shift from simply achieving higher speeds and higher bandwidth. With traditional revenue declining, the majority of employers are willing to adopt home working, and the spotlight has firmly landed on achieving superior QoE. Consumers and workers now expect impeccable experience and consistent low latency that is relevant to the applications they demand. By recognising the need for app-enabled services and virtualisation of their networks to better manage the experience of their customers, operators can unlock new revenue streams that weren’t readily attainable previously.
Once broadband speed no longer prohibits the users’ required services, QoE will become even more important than additional faster connectivity, especially with the increasing take-up in homeworking, eHealth, eEdcuation, new 8K+ video streaming and AR/VR entertainment services.
Craig’s role within the Broadband Forum is to own and drive the marketing strategy from focus to delivery. Supporting Broadband Forum’s vision, key principles and meeting the needs of our members and industry education as a whole. An accomplished public speaker he brings over 25 years’ experience of telecoms marketing to the Broadband Forum. Having International product, field and strategic marketing roles from dial-up to the latest PON technologies as well as IP MPLS, SDN/NFV and mobile backhaul. Previously he has held senior strategy, product and marketing positions at Calix, Tellabs, Talk Talk, Cosine Communications, Ericsson, Alcatel and Newbridge Networks.