The promise of fifth generation (5G) wireless technology coming in the next decade (2020 – 2030) will deliver more capability to support 100Mbps to gigabit mobile broadband applications, as well as 10 to 100 times more “IoT” devices, mostly from connected homes and cars. Decade long construction projects of new 5G networks will ensue, matching the capabilities of today’s fixed broadband technologies – whether it’s Comcast cable or any number of Gigabit fiber network services. So if you’re the type to easily grow tired of your smartphones, you’re in luck, as wireless advancements will have you upgrading your smartphone for years and decades to come.
Alternatively, fixed broadband internet service providers (ISP) like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon are undergoing key network changes right now – not in ten years. There networks are becoming more open, programmable and scalable than ever before. These network improvements are driven by double digit annual growth of internet and mobile services and their need to keep up with the innovation and competitive threat of Web2.0 companies like Facebook and Amazon.
Broadband ISPs need open and programmable networks to support rapid new service creation and simplified network deployment. Just like your iPhone or Facebook account seamlessly supports new apps with a simple download, your residential or business gateway that provides your broadband connectivity will soon do the same.
Subscribers who wish to enable a new application, say, a medical imaging device or a virtual reality game, that demands changes to their existing broadband service. Those changes can be ordered via an app built and delivered remotely just as a smartphone app works. With new customer premises devices, like virtual home gateways, upgrades to memory or computer processing will be simplified. Those functions are no longer part of the residential or IP business gateway sitting on the desk, but “live in the cloud.” This is the essence of cloud computing and software-defined networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV).
What about adding bandwidth? Most fiber networks offer 1 Gigabit per second service rates. Certainly, this is a lot, 100 times more than the average residential broadband connection today, but 1Gbps is what many large enterprises and most cell site backhaul services demand. So what happens if a new application needs 2 or 3 or 10 or 20Gbps and the residing IP business gateway only supports 1Gbps? Does this mean waiting for a new, more capable device to be shipped from your service provider or for that not-so-punctual technician to visit? With past cable and fiber access technologies the response would be yes. This all changes in 2017, however, due to last year's standardization of a new multi-wavelength next-generation FTTH technology. You will see business or residential gateways support up to 10Gbps or more in dynamic bandwidth using this new 10Gbps FTTH technology.
The service provider community is extremely excited about NG-PON, because it offers some very unique and key value as it underpins the open, programmable networks and virtualized services of the future.These are as follows:
Moore’s law and cloud computing has allowed us to stop really worrying about the cost and capability of storage and processing for some years now. The next access technologies have always been a part of the conversation due to either a finite limit in bandwidth capacity or the inability to effectively support some current or future application or another.
NG-PON2 uses TWDM-PON technology to allow the support of multiple wavelengths per fiber – meaning the user-selectable delivery of Nx10Gbps of bandwidth to a customer device. This results in no truck rolls or network grooming and the support of zero-touch service turn up, regardless of an application’s bandwidth requirement. This also means full support of dynamic bandwidth on demand applications. You just open your browser, order more bandwidth and an additional 10G wavelength can be delivered.
So unlike your smartphone, which you will upgrade several times over the next two decades, you had better like the color of your ISPs' next broadband or business gateway, because it might be sitting on your desk for some time. It will be a long while before you’ll have any reason to need a new one - you know, that next one that will support a Terabit (1 000 0000 Mbps) service to your home, when your clunky 80 or 160 Gigabit version starts getting on your nerves.
Kurt Raaflaub leads ADTRAN’s strategic solutions marketing, and has more than 20 years of experience in telecom.