Software Platform-Driven Transformation of the Broadband Access Network

Software is having positive business impacts on operations efficiency, capital cost reductions, and new revenue opportunities.
Continuous development / continuous integration (CD/CI) reduces time to market for new applications while simultaneously nurturing an innovation environment that quickly responds to consumer demand. Software platforms host applications that are fully programmatic and instrumented, delivering operations efficiency across a global scale.

The exciting news for service providers is that this same software platform paradigm applies to the broadband distribution network and the on-premises systems that connect consumers to their online content. As we look across the new subscriber-centric broadband network, we see that software is having profound positive business impacts on operations efficiency, capital cost reductions, and new revenue opportunities. Two examples, one in the distribution network, and one in the premises illustrate the principles. 

Figure 3

Software-defined access

Service providers are extending the benefits of Software Defined Networking and network virtualization into the access network’s central office (CO) and cable head end. All components of the subscriber service delivery chain – broadband network gateway (BNG) router, aggregation switch, 10G/GPON OLT – are being disaggregated and reformulated to make the network centrally managed and programmatically controlled. 

FIgure 4

Software platforms, with their ability to deploy modular software components in the optimal network locations, are extending the transformation to include optimal use of the data plane. The OLT data plane is required for operation of the point-to-multipoint passive optical network (PON) operation. And because the OLT’s terabit-scalable data plane must, by necessity, support per-subscriber service quality of service (QoS) and policy enforcement, the question then becomes, “What else can we use this data plane resource for?” The OLT’s software platform can host a wide range of applications, including the IP aggregation and subscriber management functions found in the BNG router. Leveraging software abstraction from the underlying hardware, modularity, and portability, the software platform consolidates three networks systems into one, providing the step-function cost savings sought by service provider.


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