- Crane flags importance of broadband customer experience in OpenBNG work.
- Latest round of TIP updates suggests BT remains focused on core and access networks, while European peers DT, Telefónica, and Vodafone more openly embrace end-to-end development.
BT Group was notably missing in a number of new disaggregation schemes unveiled at TIP Inside Series, an online conference event charting progress made by Telecom Infra Project (TIP). One eye-catching contribution, however, was involvement in the drawing up of initial specifications for a disaggregated broadband network gateway (BNG).
Under the auspices of the Open Optical & Packet Transport (OOPT) project group, BT — working alongside Deutsche Telekom (DT), Telefónica, and Vodafone, as part as part of their TIP collaboration in Disaggregated Open Routers, an OOPT sub-group — published technical requirements for an OpenBNG solution in a whitepaper.
Speaking on a panel to discuss OOPT progress, Paul Crane, Converged Network Research Director at BT, said it was essential that the platform was not only cost effective, but provided quality-of-service required for broadband services.
Crane said that the next stage of development will see an increase in industry engagement, the production of more detailed specs and the creation of new project groups as the participants “focus on the main architectural options that you that we have with OpenBNG”.
The first OpenBNG lab trials are slated to start before the end of 2020, and are then intended to move into “early field trials” in 2021. Crane added, somewhat warily, that “thorny implementation issues” would need to be tackled.
Crane, a 20-year BT veteran, described work to upend traditional supply chains by disaggregating software and general-purpose processor hardware through open application programming interfaces as “probably the biggest change in the way that we build stuff that I’ve seen since I’ve been involved in the industry”. The direction of travel, he added, was to “effectively regard the network as a set of distributed compute resources, which are going to be running network or application functions”.
In what seemed a slight dig at TIP, and perhaps other industry efforts surrounding virtualisation and disaggregation, Crane indicated that, because of the focus on cost savings, that quality of experience (QoE) tended to get overlooked. One of the great promises of having a “programmable network”, said Crane, is “you can be much more agile and innovative, and hopefully produce very reliable services to your end customers”. OpenBNG work, thought Crane, was essential in turning that vision into reality.
Watching from a distance
Compared with European peers Telefónica and Vodafone, and increasingly DT, BT tends to keep out of the limelight at major TIP events, bar its annual hosting of a TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Centre event (BTwatch, #309). The UK incumbent has recently quietly declared support for several open core and RAN-related projects (BTwatch, #312 and #315), but the TIP Inside Series event engendered the feeling that BT was more spectator than participant.
Despite Crane’s enthusiasm for programmable networks, in which software-defined networking (SDN) plays a key role, BT was absent from a new OOPT subgroup called Mandatory Use Case Requirements for SDN for Transport (MUST). The main objective here is to accelerate and drive the adoption of software-defined networking (SDN) standards for IP/MPLS, optical, and microwave transport technologies. DT, MTN, Orange, Telia Company, and Vodafone each threw its weight behind the subgroup.
Nor was BT directly involved in Solution Groups, unveiled a few days before TIP Inside Series, which is tasked with developing “end-to-end” interoperability across access, transport, and core networks. Attilio Zani, Executive Director at TIP, explained the thinking behind the initiative. “For the last couple of years, through our project groups, we have dealt with point products, and delivered against the requirements and development of those components”, he said. “Now we’ve been asked [by TIP members] to build end-to-end network configurations that address specific market environments and topographies”.
Solution Groups will focus on combining contributions from existing TIP project groups, including OOPT, Open Core, OpenRAN, Open Wi-Fi, and Wireless Backhaul.
BT TIP on the QT
Despite fairly low-key involvement in the latest round of TIP updates, BT has shown greater enthusiasm for the Facebook-backed project in recent months. The operator lent support to a new Open Core Network (OCN) project group, as well as RAN Intelligence & Automation, a subgroup under the auspices of a re-jigged OpenRAN project group that now includes 5G work (BTwatch, #312 and #315).
The OCN project group, as announced at the online TIP event, published the first release of technical requirements for 5G fixed wireless access use cases, which includes core network functions, orchestration, cloud-native infrastructure, and deployment automation.
BT also co-chairs TIP’s vRAN Fronthaul and End-to-End Network Slicing project groups and hosts a TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Centre in the UK. TIP, meanwhile, collaborates with the O-RAN Alliance, an industry group fostering the development of open, disaggregated radio access network technology, which now counts BT among its members (BTwatch, #310).
[Further reference: TIP launches Solution Groups to define and validate end-to-end open network solutions — Telecom Infra Project, 30 September 2020; Four major operators collaborate through the Telecom Infra Project to define the next generation of open and disaggregated BNG — Telecom Infra Project, 5 October 2020; TIP community achieving significant momentum on the path to open, interoperable, disaggregated and standards-based networks — Telecom Infra Project, 6 October 2020; TIP OpenRAN project group is streamlined to accelerate development and deployments — Telecom Infra Project, 6 October 2020; Six major operators to drive SDN for transport adoption and acceleration through the Telecom Infra Project — Telecom Infra Project, 6 October 2020.]