Network aggravation: why today’s broadband network gateway (BNG) tech is falling short

© Juniper Networks

© Juniper Networks

  • BT, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone have agreed a joint spec for an ‘Open BNG’
  • And they want to ‘carrot and stick’ the vendor community towards a next generation of open hardware and software to support it 
  • To get there they expect to see the emergence of a ‘collaborative community’

When big network operators get together and jointly issue documents using phrases like “operators need a new, community-driven industry approach”  you might presume that something has been misfiring across the various technical standards bodies which traditionally guide telecoms technology development. 

Either BMG supplier interests have trumped (nothing to do with him) big telco requirements;  the necessarily complex and taxing task of pulling together an agreed standard approach to some key area(s) has slowed or stalled; or the technology focus has shifted and the standards bodies have failed to catch up.... or a combination of all three. 

This happens to some extent all the time, but it’s now happening in a big way on what BT, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone are calling the IP Broadband Edge where there’s a pressing need to sort out the Broadband Network Gateway situation to clear a path to a next generation network capable of competently dealing with multiple networks and protocols. 

The BNG, they explain straddles their collective access and backhaul networks and they need full and open collaboration to get the problems rinsed out. 

“On the one hand it (the BNG) aggregates, terminates and imposes policy for several thousand broadband user sessions – both residential and business – across the fixed access network. On the other hand: it provides the gateway for connectivity across the backhaul network. It provides the platform that underpins our respective wholesale and retail products and services, both for ourselves individually, and for other operators.”

In other words it’s plainly become a hugely complex and critical area of technical concern, but the problem is the various broadband standards have too often evolved in silos, serving different sets of customers and applications. 

According to the OPEN BNG positioning paper “the BNG has evolved over the past three decades. From its initial manifestation as a broadband remote access server (BRAS) to support dial-up remote access services; to current configurations that embrace additional network functions. These functions include full IP network routing with Provider Edge (PE) capabilities for Mobile Backhaul (MBH) and enterprise services. 

“Each of us [the four operators] has evolved our respective BNG estates to address our individual, particular historical set of challenging objectives and goals. These determined the choices we made.”

But, they say, over time this approach has led to implementation divergences that their existing suppliers have accommodated and that they’re now stuck with. To solve this, argues the position paper, will require a sort of industry reset. 

New principles and processes must be brought into play and the companies are  looking at the experience of the hyperscale cloud operators who have coupled continuous oversight of capital and operator expenditure together with DevOps disciplines to drive efficiency. 

In fact the approach involves adopting the sort of classic disaggregation  we’re concurrently seeing being urged upon the radio access network (RAN), so it’s not as if it’s a step into the dark. 

The efficiencies the operators are seeking “are contingent on competitively sourced, openly specified modular, merchant-silicon outfitted Open BNG hardware from original design manufacturers (ODMs.) We believe that splitting-apart (“disaggregating”) the BNG software from the BNG hardware will lower the barrier-to-entry and attract the greater participation of both existing and new hardware vendors and software suppliers. Innovation will flow; development cadences will accelerate; all will benefit.

The Open BNG Operator Position Paper can be downloaded here


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