Increased interoperability is providing the critical building blocks for a surge in new services and applications.

Technology development is accelerating, and consumer and enterprise demand for bandwidth-hungry content and applications continues to expand. Today, the need for global standardization has become an industry prerequisite, driven by the needs of service providers to deliver robust new services quickly and cost-effectively. As new technology and management standards emerge, service providers are faced with the question of how to adapt their current architecture, network makeup or management practices.

Standards set the bar for quality and new service definitions, but they can be open to interpretation. It is the detailed specifications developed by organizations like the Broadband Forum that establish migration options, capture best practices to facilitate greater industry adoption, and lead the development of comprehensive interoperability and compliance certification programs that expedite the cost-effective network evolution for providers everywhere.

Service providers have been leading the push for compliance and interoperability programs within the industry’s standards bodies and are major contributors to establishing the global market requirements. For the last 18 years, the Broadband Forum has been a key broadband organization, addressing test plan development and testing activities such as private Plugfests, public interoperability demonstrations, and now market-driven certification programs to serve the industry. Beginning with a focus on ADSL, the Forum has engaged in test development on other network aspects such as fiber and management protocol adherence.

Certification validates product standards compliance
Certification provides the certainty for service providers that the devices they are deploying or supporting on their networks comply with the standards and will be interoperable. It ensures equipment and services can be rolled out more quickly and offers added confidence to consumers and resellers that everything they purchase will operate compatibly with one another.

BBF.247The Broadband Forum BBF.247 GPON ONU Certification Program, launched last year, is a prime example of how important such programs are for service providers. This program was heavily led by service provider requirements and developed in cooperation with Full Service Access Network (FSAN), and as such, it is paving the way for optimum interoperability within fiber networks. To date, ONUs from Alcatel-Lucent, Broadcom, Cambridge Industries Group, FiberHome, Huawei, PMC Sierra, PT Inovacao, Tecom and ZTE have been certified.

According to Gavin Young, head of strategy and planning, technology strategy, and architecture at Cable & Wireless Worldwide: “GPON interoperability and assured performance levels will be key to optimizing the choice of GPON equipment for use in different types of premises and for different market sectors. It will help to give greater choice to service providers as they seek to balance functionality and cost for different deployment scenarios.”

The benefits have been recognized around the globe.

Wei Leping, speaking on behalf of China Telecom, commented, “With the Chinese market moving toward an estimated 250 million subscriber lines by 2015 and a household penetration of 50 percent, China Telecom sees GPON and the advent of certified GPON products as an important step in making this a reality.”

Alain Maloberti, senior vice president of Orange Labs Networks at France Telecom-Orange, developed this further and said: “Our expectation is that this certification will allow next-generation systems to come to the market promptly and with interoperability from day one. It will allow us to reduce dramatically the amount of specific testing needed before we deploy new equipment in our network.”

Certification is key to connected home success
BBF.069The latest certification option offered by the Broadband Forum is the new BBF.069 Device Certification Program, which verifies device conformance to the TR-069 management protocol. TR-069 enables the cost-effective remote configuration, monitoring and control of a wide range of devices and is one of the most widely deployed broadband home management standards in the world. TR-069, also known as the Broadband Forum’s CPE WAN Management Protocol (CWMP), was first released in 2004 and has grown to be globally recognized as the “gold standard” of remote CPE management. It was recently recognized with a prestigious InfoVision award for “Outstanding contribution to broadband success” at the Broadband World Forum.

A recent Ovum report estimated that there are more than 150 million devices already managed via TR-069, and vendors are quick to point out their TR-069 adherence in their product descriptions. Originally conceived for the connected home market, TR-069 continues to evolve with the times and has been updated to address business services, M2M and cloud environments.

The BBF.069 CPE certification has been welcomed by service provider representatives such as Michael Fargano, industry standards program manager at CenturyLink’s Office of the CTO, who commented: “Building on our commitment to customer service excellence and our active engagement in developing the TR-069 protocol, we at CenturyLink are pleased to support the launch of BBF.069. This certification program is a great step forward in helping service providers like us roll out new products and services with great confidence and success, knowing that they are certified and will be easily provisioned and managed by CenturyLink. It all comes down to happier customers, and that is what CenturyLink focuses on every day.”

TR-069 chart
TR-069 is particularly important against the backdrop of a rapidly changing market. As a plethora of new devices come online, connecting users to new services and applications, there is a growing need for a compliance and interoperability program that ensures that all of these devices recognize one another and do their job correctly within a multi-vendor, multi-device network. The BBF.069 Device Certification Program verifies that devices are TR-069 protocol-compliant, and therefore market-ready. The goal is to simplify integration of home networking systems and equipment into providers’ networks and to improve device interoperability, making it cost-effective and easier for service providers to provision and manage their devices. The program just launched in October 2012, with five companies’ products already passing certification: Broadcom, Cisco, D-Link, Huawei and Lantiq.

Certification gives service providers worldwide confidence in the quality, and therefore the competitiveness, of their vendor equipment selection. Network planning and installation is simplified, and maintenance and support costs are reduced. Certification to a standard means equipment and system vendors can address a larger overall market. At the same time, the end user experience is improved, and consumers can benefit from lower costs, speedier rollout, and therefore mass deployment of superfast broadband.

Connected home
Independent, standards-based certification creates a common language, understood by service providers and vendors alike. It is a badge of certainty in a constantly evolving world, and it helps to reduce costs for vendors that are able to develop products to agreed specifications, and to competitively position their products globally. It shortens test cycles by offering a single round of universally recognized tests, and it eases the launch of products and expedites broadband deployments.

Interoperability provides the stable platform for all innovation
As broadband achieves global mass market, the industry is at a key turning point. Increased interoperability and shared architecture and management tools are providing the critical building blocks for a surge in new services and applications. Providers are harnessing the power of interoperability to expedite deployments and to evolve to the next-generation network that can support all of the new applications and opportunities coming to light. It is time to focus on empowering this next wave of innovation and to define the long-term broadband evolution.

With its commitment to facilitating a wide range of standards-based deployments at the forefront of its development, the Broadband Forum has launched a new working group called SIMR – Service Innovation and Market Requirements. This is chartered to drive medium- to long-term innovation in broadband. Focused on the early detection and addressing of future business requirements, as well as potential enablers and disruptors, the Forum is committed to leading the delivery of interoperability standards as early as possible in the product development lifecycle, before products are implemented and deployed. Work has already started on the potential impact of cloud, virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN) on current broadband deployments.

With greater anticipation and planning for the next wave of innovation in place, the Broadband Forum can provide early migration solutions and drive interoperability from day one of new services – proactively removing many obstacles to new service provider offerings and ensuring greater customer satisfaction.