Operators: It's time to converge your access networks.
While cost is always an issue and change is never easy, multiple factors have aligned to forge a close-to ideal scenario for service providers to put aside their silos, think outside purpose-built fiber access networks and innovate across outside plant architectures, says Dan Grossman, contributing analyst for Heavy Reading in "Converged Access Infrastructure," released Aug. 31.
The report looks at the trends driving converged infrastructure in the access network; discusses synergies between business segments and trade-offs between architectural alternatives; and addresses complementary technologies involved -- such as software-defined networking, network functions virtualization, central office as a data center, network slicing and fog/edge computing.
This year -- dubbed the Year of Cable Access Network Spending by Jeffries & Co. -- features aggressive fiber rollouts by cable operators and telcos. (See Year of Network Infrastructure Investment for Cable Operators – Report.)
That's a good reason for operators to think big-picture, Grossman told UBB2020.
"Service providers, particularly those with multiple lines of business like fixed consumer/small business, mobile, or enterprise, should look at their needs for new fiber infrastructure as a whole, rather than in terms of their traditional silos," Grossman said. "The business case for fiber projects will be much stronger for all businesses than it will be for individual ones."
Verizon and AT&T have recently adopted a "one network" approach, triggered by the urgent need for 4G density and preparation for 5G. But rural co-op, municipal and new players have followed this philosophy for some time, Grossman said.
"It is becoming an industry best practice," he said. "I don't necessarily expect siloed access to go away. Instead, there is a resurgence of new fiber deployments and those will be converged from the beginning."
Well-established operators face the challenge of integrating silos -- and addressing territorial, management and workflows associated on the human side of existing systems. Similar issues apply to government and rules.
"Access networks are infrastructure in the same sense as power plants and airports. There's a lot of concern in Washington that the US is falling behind in fixed and mobile broadband. Access network convergence is a big enabler for closing that gap," Grossman said.
"The question is whether public policies at all levels of government work to help or hinder. For example, the Federal Communications Commission is re-examining the rules surrounding pole attachments, which are one of the biggest hindrances to broadband access projects. On the other hand, some states and localities have put up various legal, political and bureaucratic roadblocks."
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.