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  Intercomms Issue 23

Broadband Forum logoStandards Critical as the Smart Home Becomes a Reality

By Robin Mersh, CEO of the Broadband Forum

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Eric Brabänder, Chief Marketing Officer, FNT
Eric Brabänder,
Chief Marketing Officer, FNT

Standards organizations work to ensure both continued broadband deployment and bandwidth growth, to meet rising global demand, has never been more critical – particularly as a host of new technologies are introduced. These technologies, allied to increasing convergence across fixed and mobile, and the introduction of the Smart Home, mean that standards development and implementation is both complex and critical.

In the twenty years of the Broadband Forum, originally the DSL Forum, subscriber numbers have exploded from around a million to now more than 700 million. And we are not just talking about broadband access alone here – speeds have increased out of all expectations since the DSL Forum met for the first time in London in 1994. Throughout this time, network device interoperability has been important and to support this, the Forum continues to develop test plans and procedures, and more recently has developed industry-wide Certification Programmes.

In 2014 new technologies promise even more bandwidth, greater quality of service and new innovative ways of deploying and managing the network. A great example of this is Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) – attracting an explosion of chat, articles and videos at the moment. While some are dubbing these new buzzword technologies as the “holy grail” that operators have been waiting for, others have their doubts. The potential to ease pressure on fixed costs whilst also dynamically developing new revenue streams shows the attractiveness of NFV, potentially using SDN, but business conditions remain challenging on all fronts and this includes both regulatory issues and in standards development.

SDN and NFV are technologies with promise but how do we realize that promise? Things are already happening - the Broadband Forum recently announced that it is continuing to collaborate with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s (ETSI) Industry Specification Group for Network Functions Virtualization (NFV ISG) after agreeing a formal liaison relationship last year. The collaboration aims to achieve a consistent approach and common architecture for the infrastructure needed to support virtualized network functions, and will help the industry channel its efforts towards achieving a rapid roll-out of NFV solutions. After meeting with ETSI’s NFV ISG in July of this year, the Broadband Forum will help bring NFV solutions and related technologies into operation and help make them the mainstay of the networking industry. The Forum’s SDN and NFV activities already underway include:

  • WT-345 Migrating to NFV in the context of TR-178 (the current Multi-Service Broadband Network – MSBN)
  • SD-340 Introducing NFV into the MSBN
  • SD-313 SDN in Broadband Networks (high level requirements and a framework for)
  • WT-317 Network Enhanced Residential Gateway architecture (partial virtualizing of RG functions)
  • WT-328 Virtual Business Gateway
  • SD-326 Flexible Service Chaining

From the earliest days of broadband, its growth has been governed by the relationship of three developments: new innovative technologies, new standards and best practices, and, the new services that can take advantage of them. These processes have been fundamental to where broadband has reached today, device interoperability has underpinned the growth of broadband, which will be highlighted at this year’s Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, where organisers Informa have been working closely with the Broadband Forum to create the most advanced Interoperability Pavilion that this event – or any around the world – has ever seen.

The Interoperability Pavilion will focus on G-Fast, vectoring VDSL2 , GPON and TR-069 and includes experts from around the world, who will be on hand to discuss and explain the latest developments that will revolutionize fixed networks. Companies already confirmed include Actelis, ADB, Adtran, Alcatel-Lucent, EXFO, Huawei, ITU, Juniper, LAN, MT2, Sagecom, Sckipio, Telebyte and the University of New Hampshire Test Labs (UNH-IoL).

An example of how the Forum has not only already played a significant role but now stands on the brink of a whole new era is TR-069, the protocol that has revolutionized broadband device management for telecommunications operators worldwide. TR-069 created an entirely new market for the management of CPE, and has enabled many of the most successful and new companies that you see at the Broadband World Forum. It began as a configuration protocol targeted towards home gateways, initially focused on performing firmware upgrades and initial provisioning of the subscriber network, such as WiFi. Since then, it has expanded to include a host of service specific devices, such as video set top boxes, home and business voice devices, network attached storage, femto cells, and more. Furthermore, TR-069’s robust proxy support allows nearly any broadband enabled device to be managed.

Now in its tenth year, TR-069 manages a projected 300 million devices worldwide, and has established itself as the premier network management protocol for both home and business broadband deployments. The Forum’s TR-069 capabilities are rapidly developing to encompass the Smart Home of the future, and game-changing technologies including M2M (Machine-to-Machine).

The tool has continued to be acknowledged and endorsed by important industry figures such as 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), Small Cell Forum Ltd., International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T), European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE), and the Home Gateway Initiative (HGI).

Kamalini Ganguly, Senior Analyst at Ovum (the authors of the landmark report on industry adoption of TR-069 in 2012), commented on TR-069: “The CPE WAN TR-069 protocol is now ten years old and continues to go from strength to strength. It is increasingly being adopted by all types of broadband providers as the number of connected IP devices within the home continue to grow at a rapid pace. The list includes a growing number of cable companies who need to support QAM, IP and hybrid video on multiple devices. There are other benefits too, Rogers Cable implemented the protocol a few years ago to remotely manage their DOCSIS 3.0 gateways and introduce cloud based home networking services. And Liberty Global will be using it to remotely provision and manage CPE for a new VoIP service.”

While the industry continues to evolve, tools such as TR-069 are integral to the management of cable and telecom operators alike as simple but coordinated management is paramount to deliver quality next generation broadband services. However, like the industry itself, TR-069 too needs to continue to develop. TR-069 needs to be smart, evolving to incorporate virtualization in broadband services, the M2M environment and the Internet of Things.

We are all working together to improve connectivity within a standards-based environment and the Forum is the vehicle for the global industry to move forward in this period of unparalleled growth and development. This was reflected at our Q3 2014 quarterly meeting, where we welcomed a utility company to join us. Jan Holm, CEO of Norwegian energy, fiber and triple-play provider Lyse Smart, emphasized that localizing Smart Home energy and broadband via device automation and management solutions can be a win-win situation for both providers and end-users. The Forum’s TR-069 device management solution is a key component of Lyse’s vision, however having a utility company present affirms that it’s no longer just about the broadband industry, but instead about many industries coming together to create new possibilities through broadband that will improve customers’ lives.

The Broadband Forum’s Interoperability Pavilion will take place at the Broadband World Forum, RAI Exhibition and Conference Centre, Amsterdam (21-23 October, 2014).

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