Issue 28 Articles

Broadband Forum logoThe Significance of Interoperability for Technologies

By Robin Mersh, Chief Executive Officer
of the Broadband Forum

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Robin Mersh, CEO, Broadband Forum
Robin Mersh, CEO, Broadband Forum

Robin Mersh joined the Broadband Forum as Chief Operating Officer in July 2006, and was promoted to Chief Executive Officer in July 2010. Robin has authored many articles and has spoken at and chaired many broadband industry conferences and exhibitions. He has worked in the telecommunications industry for over 20 years, starting at Cable & Wireless and then moving on to BT before meeting his wife and moving to the US in 1999. Robin has worked in business development and alliance management for various OSS software companies in the United States, mainly in network and service provisioning and activation, where he negotiated and managed several large OEM agreements. He is originally from Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London in 1992.

After providing the industry’s first cross-chipset interoperability demo at the Broadband World Forum, followed by a similar demonstration at the ITU Telecom World, Broadband Forum CEO Robin Mersh discusses, the need for the technology to be interoperable to meet its full potential and the Broadband Forum’s work to help achieve this.

With the chipset market expected to be worth more than $4,200 million by 2022, it won’t surprise anyone that competition among fixed broadband providers is rife.

Whether downloading videos or transferring files, consumers want their online services to be ultrafast, while for operators it is all about how they can provide the market with the technology to enable the sorts of speeds in demand without exerting huge expenditure. This is why G. fast technology is proving to be an increasingly vital technology for the broadband industry. is a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) protocol standard for local loops that are shorter than 500m, with performance targets dependent upon loop length. While actual speeds vary according to physical infrastructure, speeds that surpass 2 gigabits per second have been recorded. The impact that this technology could have is significant. It brings fiber and gigabit-class service delivery over existing copper DSL and coax cable wiring, without the need for premises disruption or an on-site visit when installing the technology. It also gives service providers the opportunity to run services and applications at small offices or homes which are more frequently associated with fiber-connected metro office, while enabling high-end consumer video and gaming experiences. In addition to impacting single locations, opens up a new class of high speed multi-tenant and multi-dwelling building where rewiring would be impractical or very expensive.

This impact is leading to an increase in demand, with analyst house Ovum forecasting subscribers will reach 29 million by 2021. The success of the technology within broadband networks, however, will come down to how interoperable technology vendors make their products.

Why does interoperability matter?

The interoperability between chipsets for Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) and Distribution Point Units (DPU) is by no means straightforward but it is paramount. Having the technology to give consumers access to the higher speeds they crave is all well and good but if there isn’t a set of standards that allow different systems to work together effectively then limitations to the technology will always exist.

By ensuring measures for interoperability are put in place, the amount of equipment available to service providers will be significantly greater and increase the likelihood of the technology being more successful. For service providers, having the ability to select different DPU’s and CPE’s that best suit their needs will ultimately develop the market in the coming years and result in an increase in revenue. This increase in revenue is the bottom line for many service providers, with everything boiling down to increasing growth and revenue through new markets.

Interoperability will also boost service provider confidence in making the move and will ensure competitive pricing as they look to deliver sustained profitability while meeting the challenges of the market. The other benefit of interoperability is that it will prolong the life of in the network.

What’s being done?

To ensure service providers can use to its full potential, the Broadband Forum has a number of programs designed to speed-up the release of interoperable services.

The Fiber to the Distribution Point (FTTdp) management model (TR-355) is the first set of seven software specifications released by the Broadband Forum in the YANG modelling language and essentially lets us achieve ultrafast broadband services offered by optical fiber speeds and applications without the need to upgrade or virtualize infrastructures. By adopting this we are accelerating the management of FTTdp; from specification and design into the network, helping to drive open interoperability between different devices. This means service providers can offer competitive ultrafast services enabled by FTTdp and

The Broadband Forum is also working on an enhanced FTTdp architecture and has a series of plug-fests that aim to ensure chip-set interoperability. In addition, we will be launching a Certification Program, as well as a series of standards to define management of enabled equipment. The former is being run by the University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Laboratory – the world’s first laboratory to test – and ensures that extensive testing before purchase is not required. The program will also reduce costs and increase revenue for stakeholders, as well as create a trusted industry standard for implementation and higher customer satisfaction.

This all follows the release of the ITU-T’s broadband standard. Originally designed to deliver access speeds of up to 1Gbit/s over existing telephone wires, the ITU-T has recently doubled this to provide speeds of up to 2Gbit/s. The standard was developed in conjunction developed in conjunction with the Forum’s FTTdp architecture project.

While interoperability may not be straightforward, the importance is clear and significant progress is being made to ensure the right measures are being put in place to enable interoperable technology for service providers. With this continued development, there is no reason why should not be as successful, or even more, as is currently expected. Further information on, FTTdp and TR 355 may be found at

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