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Delivering DSL for the next generation

By Micheal Brusca, Vice President, DSL Forum

Michael Brusca, Vice President, Strategy, of the international DSL Forum explains why DSL broadband is the only option for delivering next generation broadband services to the mass market.

Consumers all over the world have begun to see their broadband DSL connections as more than a supplementary communications tool, or an aid for remote working - more even than a 24-hour, always-on information source. With the advent of peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, on-demand entertainment, and the increasingly popular home network, a high-speed internet connection is now the stepping-stone to a highly sought-after e-lifestyle. In this environment, foundations must be laid for crucial capabilities such as quality of service (QoS) support to deliver the bundle of interactive services increasingly demanded by both business and residential DSL subscribers.

As bandwidth-hungry applications become increasingly mainstream, many industry on-lookers believe that the smart money goes on developing fibre. However, the core network infrastructure and delivery mechanisms for services over DSL are already in place, making DSL the only viable option for swift delivery of next generation services to homes, businesses, libraries, schools, and more.

True, the founders of DSL technology described it as an ‘interim technology’ that would last 40 years, but that was before the DSL technology advancements that have increased it’s reach and speed. DSL is the world’s leading broadband technology, accounting for 56% of connections worldwide. As recently as summer 2001, the ‘magic’ milestone of 10 million global DSL subscribers was reached – just 1% of copper phone lines. This figure today has increased by over six-fold, according to industry analyst, Point Topic, who predict year end 2003 subscriber figures of 62 million. The current growth curve outstrips the heyday of mobile phone sales growth, and foretells of a life span that goes far beyond early expectations.

It was evident from the presence at the January 2004 TV over DSL conference in Paris of all the key industry players that there is currently a real buzz of curiosity and a sense of adventure inherent in the possibilities of added value services. This was fuelled by news of the recent success of some innovative TV business models in DSL key markets, including Japan, Italy and France. However, the over-optimistic were soon brought back to earth by the concluding tone of the conference, mirroring the overriding need of standardisation in order to ensure success.

The DSL Forum recognises that to support not only the TV growth area, but the accelerating rollout of the whole spectrum of IP services - telephony, video, gaming, bandwidth on demand, and corporate VPN access – certain delivery issues must be met. The whole network needs to be IP aware to provide support that scales as the number of DSL subscribers and the number of applications per subscriber increases. These exciting new services require a more sophisticated broadband network than the best-effort approach of the first generation DSL networks.

Developing the requirements and architecture for the next generation DSL networks has required consensus among many of the world’s largest service providers and equipment vendors to define the vision and specify the architecture. Throughout 2003, the DSL Forum’s technical committee has not only prioritised interoperability progress, but also devoted work to support the deployment of the architecture and technology that will ensure the potential for this exciting growth area is met. As a priority in 2004, further technical work across the whole range of best practises and developments will aid even more effective mass market delivery of services over DSL.

A series of new Technical Reports has already been published that provide the specification for how to extend current network capabilities so that existing services can co-exist with QoS dependent services increasingly required by businesses and broadband DSL-enabled homes. The combined result represents a milestone in broadband DSL technology development.

In October 2003 the TR-058 and TR-059 outlined the key service requirements for a next generation framework, and translated these into a recommendation for a next generation network architecture to support QoS-enabled IP services as opposed to best-effort. The reports outline how technology can be used to create a content and delivery revolution from within the very confines of the existing infrastructure. The vision is to extend the utilisation of the current network, improve traffic management and increase service flexibility to better deliver the latest content and services. Complemented by recent advances in interoperability, this new IP-centric Architecture will allow for an overlay of new service offerings from a multitude of service providers.

The TRs provide guidance to deliver economic benefits, such as improved network utilization and traffic management, as well as service flexibility and enhancements for broadband DSL customers. Such guidelines are providing the foundation for capabilities such as QoS support; bandwidth on demand; multi-casting and real-time service delivery. A key benefit to service providers is the ability to implement QoS over Internet Protocol (IP) network architecture. This opens up a new range and level of service offerings from value-added ASPs and ISPs. Opportunities using DSL can now go far beyond fast data transfer to include multiple voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) channels for voice communications, video conferencing, streaming entertainment video, rapid interaction online gaming and remote access to hosted applications.

A central element in TR-059 is a new generation of network Gateway Router, today referred to as a broadband remote access server (B-RAS). The B-RAS will not only allow broadband aggregation and basic subscriber management, but will also facilitate dynamic bandwidth management, billing and QoS on a per-customer basis. TR-059 gives general guidelines for this new class of B-RAS and requires the equipment to fit into existing network architectures, while allowing for interworking with new customer premises equipment (CPE) that supports the traffic management of individual customer sessions, or ‘micro flows.’ This traffic management employs the traffic types defined in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) specifications for DiffServ.

Real time media applications such as voice and video require adequate resources along the transport path, and therefore require specific QoS support. Under the new technical report specifications, a variety of QoS flows can be supported for multiple real time applications over a single DSL connection. Until now, fast data transfer for web surfing, email and file exchange have been the key reasons why millions of subscribers have chosen to upgrade to broadband DSL from a narrowband Internet connection. With the implementation of the capabilities specified in TR-059 that build on today’s networks, subscriber upgrades to DSL will be even more compelling.

The broadband industry is already gearing up to the new specifications set in 2003, and equipment vendors advise that next-generation B-RAS are currently flying off the shelves, particularly in Europe but also in younger markets such as the Middle East. This clearly indicates that carriers across the world are working hard to ensure users will start to see the effect of the DSL Forum’s guidelines sooner rather than later. The global explosion of new services and online content options, which represents such an enormous opportunity for the entire broadband DSL industry, is upon us.

Our work doesn’t stop here, and developing the network architecture to fully enable the digital home and business still presents significant challenges ahead, but this doesn’t detract from the rosy outlook for 2004. The next generation network architecture will stimulate the attractive consumer pricing and innovative product development that is critical to mass-market take-up of broadband. With the DSL industry working in harmony to ensure interoperability and create a robust, efficient end-to-end network architecture, we can deliver effective, reliable, scaleable DSL for the most bandwidth hungry of applications, and we can do it now.

About the DSL Forum
DSL Forum is an international industry consortium of over 200 leading service providers, equipment manufacturers and other interested parties, focused on developing the full potential of broadband DSL to meet the needs of the mass market. With the established goal of 200 million customers by 2005, DSL Forum works to streamline processes, develop specifications and share best practices that set the stage for effective deployments, and explosive global DSL growth. By developing new standards and embracing new applications, DSL Forum is tailoring DSL to meet the needs of the next generation of multi-media services and the online community. Established in 1994, more information about the DSL Forum is available from its industry site www.dslforum.org. Information tailored to end-users is available on www.dsllife.com.Outcomes of that work are published as Technical Reports for use throughout the global industry and are available from our website www.dslforum.org. Further information on the DSL Forum, its work, members and meeting schedule can be found at www.dslforum.org. DSL Forum’s website dedicated to providing information to end-users can be found at www.dsllife.com

DSL - more than a phone line - it’s a global solution.

Michael Brusca
DSL Forum Vice-President, Strategy;
Verizon Communications

Michael Brusca has over 20 years of telecommunications business experience in transport and switching technologies. He has a BSc from Fordham University and an MBA in Marketing Management from St. John’s University.

Michael has led teams in preparation of business cases, strategic network and operations architectures, requirements documents, and deployment guidelines for DSL as well as IP over optics, ATM, SONET, Digital Loop Carrier (DLC), Frame Relay, and Digital Cross-connect technologies for Verizon, Bell Atlantic and NYNEX. In addition, he has held leadership positions in product and project management and regulatory. He was a major contributor to the founding of an Engineer, Furnish and Install (EF&I) line of business, which today focuses on the deployment of Remote Terminal based DSL. Starting as an engineer at New York Telephone, Michael has managed multi-million dollar budgets that cross many organizations.

Some of Michael’s envisioned concepts for the support of integrated data and voice services have been published in Telephony, IEC Annual Review of Communications and proceedings from the Broadband World Forum, National Fiber Optics Engineering Conference (NFOEC), National Communications Forum (NCF) and Supercomm. His writings in these publications described the functional components that combined ATM and DLC as well as SONET capabilities, today considered Next Generation DLC. After 5+ years since the writing of these papers, similar products that use this type of an integrated approach are being implemented today.

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