Slicing the fibre: fixed network slicing opens up access

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Jun 10, 2019

via Flickr ©  pj_vanf (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © pj_vanf (CC BY 2.0)

  • Fixed access network slicing to be trialed in Lebanon
  • Nokia's slicing technology designed to open a single fibre deployment to customer's premises for multiple SPs
  • It's hoped customers will be liberated to chose between broadband providers

You thought network slicing was going to be a 5G thing? It will probably make itself felt in 5G services over the coming years, but it’s already making a potentially important appearance on the fixed network where it’s intended to be used to open up access to multiple providers over a single fibre connection.

Nokia has just announced that Ogero, Lebanon's fixed network services provider, will be one of the first operators to trial Nokia’s FANS (Fixed Access Network Slicing) solution to help “solve the long-lasting challenge of fixed infrastructure sharing”.

In that business model context Nokia is absolutely right. If you think about the last 25 years or so, the points of greatest tele-political conflict were usually around access infrastructure sharing. I’m thinking of open access requirements and unbundling in particular.

When unbundled DSL was applied to the copper access network the ‘splitting’ of the signal between voice (often retained by the incumbent telco) and data could be seen as a species of network slicing. Today, however, the need to open the access network to enable infrastructure sharing and wholesale/retail arrangements of various kinds has become a major technological thrust. Standards to easily enable such arrangements  are a pressing area of endeavour.

Last week we reported on Dell EMC and ADVA getting together to create a properly open universal CPE offering designed to make network end-point connectivity more flexible and above all ‘open’ in dealing with applications and other connections on user premises (see - Injecting open networking and virtualisation into access networks).

Nokia’s FANS tackles the same sort of requirement, not by enabling VNFs at the premises, but by enabling  Ogero to “create several discrete network slices over its existing Fiber-to-the-home network in a fully programmable way,” claims Nokia. The result is that customers can get access to a virtual slice that looks, feels and operates just like a physical network.  

The solution is based on Nokia’s cloud-native software platform Altiplano and SDN programmable Lightspan FX OLTs.

The trial in Lebanon demonstrates how Ogero can use slicing to maximize the usage of its fiber access infrastructure and provide a virtual portion to Mobile Operators, Data Service Providers (DSPs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) challenged with building their own networks.  

It’s hoped the move will unleash all sorts of innovation. Because users are no longer locked into a single provider they will be liberated to choose the broadband provider that can deliver the best ultra-broadband service to meet their needs.

According to Sandra Motley, president of Nokia's Fixed Networks Business Group, "Virtual network slicing will become an important part of the fixed access industry going forward.  Network slicing gives service providers the right capabilities to innovate while unlocking the full business potential of fiber-to-the-home markets. Software-defined access networks will play a key role in revolutionizing conventional network infrastructure management models; helping to simplify operations and deliver better, lower cost services than previously possible.

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