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Cloud Native/NFV

Operators call for more vendor support in open source projects

When it comes to open source projects, representatives from global operators such as Deutsche Telekom, BT and Telefónica say that they would like the incumbent telecom vendors to get more involved in open source projects instead of sitting on the sidelines.

Speaking at the Broadband World Forum's virtual panel on "Open Source Initiatives to Build the Modern Telecoms Operator," this week, Deutsche Telekom's Manuel Paul said that vendors shouldn't view open source projects as competitive but instead as an enhancement to the marketplace. "It would help the addressable market if they helped in the development," he said.

And not only would it help operators but the entire industry. According to Paul Gunning, principal researcher at BT Applied Research, competing operators are members of these open source initiatives such as the Open Networking Foundation's SDN Enabled Broadband Access (SEBA) group, among others, and yet they benefit greatly by collaboration. "We compete as operators but at a technical level we see the benefits of collaborating," he said. "Vendors too can evolve to reflect these changes that are good for everybody."

OpenBNG moves closer to reality

As an example of further collaboration among operators, Rafael Cantó Palancar of the Chief Technology & Information Officer (CTIO) team at Telefónica announced that Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, BT and Vodafone have joined forces to write the Open Broadband Network Gateway (OpenBNG) technical requirements document within the Telecom Infra Project (TIP). "What is important is that we work together to build an ecosystem for the industry and avoid overlaps and try to get the most of this," Palancar said.

The OpenBNG project is an initiative within the Open Optical & Packet Transport Project Group's Disaggregated Open Routers sub-group. Its goal is to develop a way for operators to deploy broadband services to different types of customers – residential or small and medium enterprises – and be able to grow their traffic without impacting performance. In addition, OpenBNG is tasked with trying to determine if BNG functionality should reside in a centralized location or be distributed in the network.

The OpenBNG document, which was written by the four operators, includes hardware and software requirements for an open and disaggregated BNG device that all operators will be able to deploy in current and future networks. In addition, the paper also discusses the role that software-defined networks (SDN) play in the broadband network and how operators should approach fixed-mobile convergence. It also talks about the required hardware and proposes non-mutually exclusive software packages that will support more functions.

Telefónica, BT, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone plan to do lab trials of OpenBNG in the fourth quarter of this year, and move to field trials in 2021.

COVID-19 impact

Panelists couldn't help but note the impact the current COVID-19 pandemic is having on broadband networks around the world. Paul, Deutsche Telekom's senior expert for standardization, said that even as demand for broadband increased during the pandemic, the company's broadband network was able to keep up thanks to the open source software that DT had implemented. "Even before COVID we saw that we needed a model that would allow us the prototyping and implementation of hardware and open source software," he said. "We needed to leverage that."

Likewise, Cemil Soylu, a senior architect for fixed access networks at Turk Telekom, noted that his company didn't change its strategy because of the pandemic, but he said the company did realize the need to be agile. "The necessity of acting quickly has changed. We try to deploy much faster than we did before," he said.

— Sue Marek, special to Light Reading. Follow her @suemarek.

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