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February 9, 2022

Fiber for All: Expanding Role of FTP

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Today’s fiber access networks are satisfying multiple needs – from traditional leisure time-focused home broadband to business connectivity and mobile backhaul. But, to fulfil this evolving role, fixed broadband infrastructure needs to adopt new technologies and architectures.

Summary Bullets:               

  • Inspired by expanding demand, partly generated by COVID-19 pandemic societal impact, operators are beginning to use their fiber access infrastructure as a medium for not only home broadband, but also a whole host of other use cases.
  • This expanding role of broadband requires technical upgrades to the fixed access network itself, and the whole end-to-end network infrastructure underpinning the delivery of broadband services.

The onset of COVID-19 pandemic inspired telecoms operators around the world to take a long and hard view at their fixed access infrastructure, and their overall network architecture. In parallel, as the pandemic unfolded, it became clear how important the fixed access infrastructure is for delivering crucial services of the society, such as e-learning, e-health, and e-government, and supporting economy in general, as large numbers of home-bound employees started to use their home broadband to perform their work duties.

The pandemic impact, however, is not the only important trend shaping the demand for fixed access network transformation – in fact, the pandemic impact compounded with several long-term changes in demand patterns:

  • Increased capacity demand: Demand for higher capacity in broadband access is a constant and probably most important driver for network builds and upgrades. However, the usage patterns at home, with multiple high-speed video, video communication, and gaming streams, favor very high capacity technologies.
  • Symmetricity: In the past decade, most demanding broadband applications emphasized the download speed, and led operators to deploy highly asymmetrical fixed access technologies. Today, however, use cases such as two-way video, cloud gaming, enterprise cloud applications, and mobile backhaul emerge as drivers of need for more symmetrical – ideally fully symmetrical – fixed access services.
  • Connection quality: Two-way communication and cloud-based applications emphasize the need for high-quality communication, with low latency and low latency variation (jitter). The quality of connection, again, becomes critical with real-time communication services, and becomes a crucial parameter with e-health or IoT services used by households or businesses.
  • User base diversification: With use cases for fixed access multiplying, so will the types of users on the network. What was in the past a monolithic household user base, differentiated only by the bandwidth required, becomes a much more diverse spectrum, from traditional “download-centric” user households, to SMEs and even wholesale and mobile backhaul clients.

In accordance with these changes in demand, operators need to work on extending their access network capabilities. These changes will, of course, be mostly focused on the access network layer itself, but will extend into transport network, operators’ software layer, and finally CSP organization and go-to-market approach as well.   

  • The time is right for 10G PON: The confluence of increased capacity demand, need for symmetricity, and improved network equipment economics favors focus on fiber access expansion, predominantly based on state-of-the-art technologies, like XGS-PON. In most cases the implementation of 10G PON can be gradual, as leading equipment vendors support PON products combing several different access technologies in parallel and allowing gradual customer base transition. For greenfield operators, however, XGS-PON is becoming a de-facto standard.
  • Closer Correlation of Transport and Access: Traditionally, operators were focused on treating access separately from other network domains (predominantly transport) and have relied on high degree of multiplexing to save on transport CAPEX, at the cost of potential quality degradation of services delivered to customers. Today, however, any degradation of experience will be much more visible, simply because the services running over the access network are becoming more demanding and sensitive to latency or jitter. Operators therefore must plan transport capacity upgrades in higher correlation with access expansions, and work on simplifying end-to-end network. Another need is implementing sophisticated control mechanisms allowing insight and coordination of various network domains, with the goal of assuring optimal QoE for different types of customers and applications.
  • Multi-use Access Networks: Operators also need to ensure their organization and OSS/BSS software capabilities are aligned with the expanding nature of broadband use cases. When it comes to ensuring QoE and security for different types of users or applications, novel mechanisms such as fixed access network slicing will become crucial. The network slicing mechanisms, in turn, require implementation of SDN controllers in access and transport domains, as well as slicing-capable hardware, and orchestration solutions for coordination between domains and with northbound software layers.
  • Expansion of Broadband Business: On this underlying infrastructure, operators should seek to develop new business practices, creating new revenue streams. In addition to diversifying the residential market and opening new revenue streams, like temporary and flexible bandwidth upgrades, or guaranteed quality, operators should look at possibilities for extending their B2B and wholesale offerings. In B2B, capability to offer enterprise grade connections should be combined with flexible charging mechanisms, allowing businesses to acquire connectivity for their home-bound or remote employees, and manage those connections in concert with their other connectivity services. In wholesale, operators should seek to offer services with guaranteed SLAs, using above-mentioned hardware capabilities and software upgrades.

The change in demand patterns and associated technological and architectural changes in operator networks therefore represent not only a step forward in solidifying broadband business, but also reflect the new role of broadband in serving increasingly demanding use cases and customer segments. These expanded network capabilities require strategic approach and bring changes across network domains and operators’ organizational structure; however, the payout for this effort is sizeable, both in terms of new business created, and – for fast movers – in improved competitive market position and adjacent business opportunities.  

About ZTE’s FTTP Solution:

1. ZTE provides a full range of end-to-end FTTH solution and product, including OLT, ONU/ONT and ODN, to meet operators’ 10G PON development needs, and to help operators for flexible access, rapid deployment, intelligent management, operation and maintenance. ZTE also provides Turnkey project deployment, and pre-terminated ODN products,

2. ZTE is the first in the industry deployed the Combo PON solution to achieve a smooth migration from GPON to 10G PON, and the first company to support 16-port Combo PON card. ZTE provides a full range of ONT products, and has first released Wi-Fi 6 certified XGS PON ONT which supports 10GE and IoT protocol. ZTE has the first ONT that obtained EasyMesh R2 certification.

3. As the end of 2020, ZTE’s Both FTTx market share and 10G PON market share were in the top 2 positions worldwide, and PON ONT product market share was the first in Q4 of 2020. Currently, one out of every four households that uses ZTE FTTx product worldwide.

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