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SDN Broadband Fast & Furious

May 19, 2016

SDN technologies are disrupting broadband deployments for the better. 

SDN BroadbandFast & FuriousAs we enter the Internet of Things (IoT) era, service providers are looking to increase capacity and speed of their broadband services, while also exploring new revenue opportunities. The need is clear: the more connected devices that come on to broadband networks, the greater the need to increase speed and capacity to accommodate them. Broadband networks are critical in bringing IoT to fruition. But how do vendors and operators know what technologies to implement during this time of adjustment?

The Broadband Forum, a non-profit organization focused on engineering smarter and faster broadband networks, issued their Broadband 20/20 vision to unlock the potential for new markets and revenue growth by leveraging new technologies. What the forum has discovered is that innovations such as SDN and NFV are playing a critical role towards realizing the full potential of the broadband of tomorrow.

Service providers have always focused on profitable revenue-generating services, and the deployment of SDN and NFV technologies on broadband networks not only creates ultra-fast connectivity for consumers, but, more importantly, creates new business opportunities and services. The technology opens up new markets and business models for providers worldwide to deliver services and applications, transforming the way people communicate, purchase, and consume content. In addition,  the diverse delivery technologies, for mobile video and IoT especially, practically mandate SDN so that control and application services are not dependent on the specifics of the last mile.

In fact, we are already seeing some SDN deployments within broadband networks. Take, for example, Google Fiber, which leverages SDN technology. First launched in 2010, the industry first thought Google Fiber was just an experiment in delivering broadband to select cities. In its first six years of deployment, Google Fiber is now seen as a catalyst to force other Internet service providers to invest further in their networks and deploy SDN technologies. Since its rollout, progress has been relatively slow, with deployments of gigabit Internet in Kansas City, Kansas; Provo, Utah; Austin, Texas; and more cities in the works. However, recent announcements from Google indicate that a lot of progress has been made in the background.

In March the technology giant announced the launch of Google Fiber Phone. That is right – a landline service. While you might scratch your head and wonder why a landline service would be needed, it does have broader implications for increased revenue streams. This move is an indication that Google Fiber could be used to easily roll out and deliver Over-the-Top (OTT) TV services to consumers. Sure, Google already has a thriving OTT business with YouTube, but consumers are demanding a different viewing experience from traditional TV service providers, which is focused far more on the delivery of premium TV content, apps, and interactive content. The potential for Google Fiber to be the leader in revolutionizing broadband speed and services is great. The service will continue to expand to more cities in 2016, including Atlanta, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Related to but not part of the Open Compute Project, the Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP) launched by Facebook and major telecom service providers seeks to revolutionize and enable the delivery of Internet service to the developing world. Surely the technologies developed in TIP will pervade the developed world as well, and will coexist with many legacy networks. So they represent another network to be abstracted by SDN so that control and services remain ubiquitous and independent of the last mile. Services like TIP and Google Fiber are completely disrupting the traditional broadband deployment model for the benefit of consumers. In order for service providers to remain on the cutting edge, the savvy ones are already incorporating SDN and NFV technologies into their broadband networks to reinvent revenue streams and provide consumers with the services and connectivity speeds they demand now, or do not even know now that they will need in the future.

- Dan Pitt, Executive Director

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Dan Pitt