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Operators looking to quickly and cost-effectively deliver new 5G services are today a step closer to being able to do so, as the Broadband Forum and NTT successfully demonstrated the disaggregation of time-critical PON functions.

Launched with NTT last year, the PON Abstraction Interface for Time Critical Applications (TCAs) project looks at how Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) can be applied to Optical Line Terminals (OLTs) to eliminate the need for operators to rebuild an OLT from the preliminary stage of development, for example, a remake of the PON chip, which requires a large amount of investment. Time-to-market for new offerings, including support for 5G fronthaul interfaces and services for business users, is also accelerated.

The quick progress the project has made was showcased for the first time on the last day of the Broadband Forum’s Q2 meeting, where NTT demonstrated two scenarios – mobile and FTTH – where a future OLT could be optimized with Dynamic Bandwidth Allocation (DBA) software to significantly reduce latency to meet the stringent latency requirements of 5G fronthaul interfaces. This enables dense small cells to be accommodated cost-effectively by TDM-PON. A second DBA software could also be applied to OLTs in FTTH services that require high bandwidth efficiency.

“Time Critical Applications are essential to meet changing user behavior,” said Akihiro Otaka, Executive Manager at NTT Access Network Service Systems Laboratories at NTT. “The demonstration we have carried out at the Broadband Forum meeting is a significant step for the project as it shows how operators can cost-effectively upgrade OLTs via a software upgrade. Standardization in this area is essential as it will achieve a vendor-agnostic system and ensure mass deployment which is critical to realizing agile and flexible next-generation broadband networks and the delivery of 5G.”

Following the successful demonstration, the Forum and NTT will now look at whether a cooperative interface, which controls the TCAs shown in the demonstration, can be established between the Central Unit in mobile networks and an OLT. This will involve coordination with standards defining organizations such as 3GPP and CPRI and IEEE.

The Forum’s meeting, which took place in Osaka, Japan, last week also saw the Forum elect a new Technical Committee Chair. Lincoln Lavoie, of UNH-IOL, will take on the position and aims to further advance next-generation work within the Forum, including projects around 5G, CloudCO and User Services Platform (USP).

A joint workshop between the Forum, FSAN and ITU-T was held immediately after the Q2 meeting on Friday, June 15. This saw discussion around future expectations, NG-PON deployment plans, ONU certification vOLT standardization, PON convergence and the Broadband Access Abstraction project.

“Consumer demand, in regard to both quality of service and types of applications being used, is advancing at a rapid pace – the speed of which is being matched by how quickly new technologies and concepts are being developed,” said Broadband Forum CEO Robin Mersh. “As we hurtle towards this new era of broadband connectivity, the work we are doing within the Forum remains key, but as fixed and mobile networks converge, it is more important than ever that this work is not done in silos. Industry-wide collaboration will ensure the interoperability we are enabling does not end at a certain point in the network but encompasses the whole architecture to create an open broadband infrastructure.”

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