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What the Broadband Forum Did NextWhat the Broadband Forum Did Next

The Broadband Forum is adapting its focus to account for the impact that virtualization and programmable networking will have on access network topologies and operator business plans.

October 9, 2015

3 Min Read
What the Broadband Forum Did Next

"Adapt or perish," British author HG Wells once wrote.

I think he was on to something.

I don't know if the folks at the Broadband Forum have been dipping into Wells of late, but they appear to be following his advice with the Broadband 20/20 vision strategy that was announced during the Gigabit Europe 2015 event in Munich last week. (See Broadband Forum Unveils Its 20/20 Vision.)

The Forum, previously known as the DSL Forum, has long been developing specifications, data models, use cases, test programs and more for its network operator and vendor members, with the TR-069 protocol probably the best known and most referenced Forum application. (See TR-069: Still Sexy After All These Years and DSL Forum Changes Name.)

Now the Forum is adapting its work agenda, operations, staffing and strategy to account for the impact of SDN and NFV on access network technologies, broadband service development and service provider strategies. Basically, it is joining the New IP club.

What? Another industry forum throwing its hat into the SDN/NFV ring? Aren't there enough already?

There are more than enough (more than 30): That's why Light Reading has been the driving force behind the formation of the New IP Agency, which, as part of its mission, will cut out the noise and focus on the useful information and developments from the SDN and NFV world. (See The New IP Agency Is Born at BTE.)

But the Broadband Forum's take on SDN and NFV isn't another "me-too" move: It's aiming to build on its area of expertise, the broadband access network, and use its decades of experience and existing specs and protocols to help make sense of how virtualization and programmable networks will affect the last mile. I don't think anyone else is doing that.

So its strategy is complementary and, according to the Forum's CEO, will focus on areas where it has a great deal of familiarity:

  • Ultra-fast infrastructure

  • Intelligent home/small business

  • Seamless converged wireline and wireless networks

  • Performance-assured on-demand IP broadband services

  • Personalized network experience

That makes sense. And its efforts should feed into and help the other key organizations that are working on the "cloudification" of wide area communications networks, such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specification Group (ISG) and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF).

In fact, as Kevin Foster, the Forum's chairman and General Manager, Service and Operations at BT Group, explains in the video below, the ETSI group has handed the Broadband Forum the remit to develop the specifications needed for its access networks use case:


But the Forum still has a lot of work to do to prove its worth. It has a reputation of sticking to its area of expertise and delivering useful, tangible end products, whether that's specifications, software code, testing methodologies or other, and I stress, genuinely useful outcomes.

Like any other industry organization it will need to continually justify its existence. It has a good starting point, though -- it already has hundreds of members, including the world's top Tier 1 operators and major vendors, that are guiding its path and making use of its output.

If the Broadband Forum can adapt its focus and continue to deliver useful, focused end products, then it should still be around in 2020 and beyond. If not, it could end up in the history books along with other industry bodies that either fail to adapt at all, or fail to adapt successfully -- and I'm pretty sure there are going to be quite a few of those in the coming years.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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