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Broadband Edge Industry Trends


Broadband service providers are enabling our evolution toward a culture where everything is connected and our business and social lives are managed from a digital device. This trend toward universal connectivity is stimulating rapid network expansion, driven by subscriber growth, high-speed access networks, and bandwidth-hungry, media-rich applications such as online video.

At the same time, network operators want to increase the average margin per user (AMPU) in an environment that demands competitive pricing, and requires rapid and efficient new service introduction. Unfortunately, the traditional broadband edge network does not support this service agility or velocity.

Modern service-centric edge network architectures improve network economics, service agility, and service velocity. This creates the opportunity for operators to consolidate their separate business service, carrier Ethernet service, mobile backhaul, aggregation, and broadband edge networks into a single, scalable network edge that supports all of these functions.

Broadband Challenges

As a result of massive subscriber growth, broadband network operators worldwide are realizing increased revenue. This revenue comes at a cost, however, as service providers are experiencing margin erosion due to expensive network buildouts and service introductions, as well as increased competition.

On top of these challenges, operational expenses are rising, because legacy edge architectures cannot efficiently handle this growth. Some of the structural problems of legacy broadband edge architectures include lack of automation and complex provisioning processes for subscribers and services, the inability to efficiently scale, and the use of single-service network elements.

Industry trends indicate that consumers prefer a bundled voice, video, and data service package and that they prefer getting a single bill from a trusted operator that can supply all of their service demands. Figure 1 illustrates how this preference has developed. Under these circumstances, broadband network operators have evolved from connectivity providers to all-inclusive solution providers. This business model evolution requires a multiplay-capable network that supports Internet access, voice, data, and video-on-demand services, as well as broadcast services, and all with operational simplicity that allows faster, efficient service introduction without compromising reliability. The adoption of multiplay services at scale has faced a wide array of technical barriers that have resulted in long deployment cycles and expensive roll-outs for new services.

Figure 1: The Evolution of Residential Broadband Multiplay
The Evolution
of Residential Broadband Multiplay

Another challenge is the common practice of maintaining separate edge environments for each market segment (broadband, business, mobile). This separation of market segments is inefficient; the operator must pay for and separately maintain discrete edge networks and, in most cases, must also pay for full redundancy in each network “silo” to ensure “always on” services. The back-end support infrastructure for each network must also be duplicated, as management and operation of the various market segments is typically achieved by completely separate groups. Finally, the metro/aggregation layer of each network must contain a larger number of links into the network edge; this drives up the cost of doing business and erodes already thin margins.

Provisioning new services and subscribers is also an increasingly difficult challenge in traditional broadband networks. With a wide array of devices and provisioning points throughout the network, operators often find that new subscriber activation requires multiple interactions with the network and back-end support systems. These provisioning interactions often require multiple steps—the network team provisions the last mile and subscriber information while the back-office support personnel provision authentication and billing. Additional points of provisioning might be required depending on the type of service. This complexity is a roadblock to service innovation. The chance of errors introduced by the need to replicate new service profiles across the entire broadband network, potentially covering multiple access types, introduces configuration issues that slow time to revenue for new service offerings.

The same forces stifling innovation in the traditional broadband networks also impede the ability to easily scale network capacity and increase performance. The sheer number of devices that need to be configured, or even upgraded, to increase capacity and throughput, can be prohibitive and further erodes operating margins.

Addressing the Challenges

The answer to these challenges is the introduction of a scalable and flexible architecture that reduces operating and capital expenses, and enables service agility while maintaining support for legacy service offerings. The solution requires elements that can support multiple service offerings to enable a unified and consolidated broadband edge.