What are your peers saying about fixed access networks slicing?
As broadband operators start weighing up the potential of fixed access network slicing, new research from Benoît Felten, Chief Research Officer of Diffraction Analysis, sheds light on what operators consider the risks and opportunities.
For his paper The Potential of Fixed Network Slicing, Diffraction Analysis spoke with senior decision makers within the Technology Office of 15 service providers of different shapes and sizes in North America, Latin American, Europe Middle-East & Africa and Asia-Pacific.
The research shows different levels of readiness between incumbents and altnets, multi-national, national and regional players, wholesalers and owner-operators, and interesting differences in the driving use cases for network slicing. Of course, I’m going to ask you to download the paper to learn the details, but the state-of-play was summed up by one incumbent operator thus: “The CTO office is very involved on the topic and quite enthusiastic, but so far we have failed to articulate the benefits to business decision makers.”
So what are those benefits that enthusiasts should be articulating better?
Firstly, cold hard cash in the form of return on investment. While a lot of operators have enough of a cushion to fund the roll-out of fiber networks, those extra capital resources they think they have may be a mirage. For many, it's really about whether they can get an acceptable return on capital employed, which gets harder when multiple parallel access networks are deployed.
Fixed access network slicing creates truly consumable broadband networks. It uses SDN/NFV to create logical network partitions, virtual networks within the physical network. The virtual slice goes vertically through all the layers of the network, so it can include the passive infrastructure and active nodes up to the ONT/CPE. Because each slice is made by software, it can be completely controlled by software. This delivers more competitive products with more operational control, combining the best of L1 physical unbundling and L2+ bitstream solutions, whether providers are in a heavily regulated or mostly deregulated market. Network tenants can create new customer engagement and business models and go after sustained partnerships that help them to remain competitive, keeping clear of a race-to-the-bottom, or to defend against substitution or competition.
Another benefit is agility. The level of control and flexibility afforded by a software-defined network means operators can react much more quickly to market opportunities and, generally, operate much more quickly and efficiently. It also makes sharing a more palatable option for those using the same network infrastructure. Tenants can manage as much of the network infrastructure as they want.
Whether you’re an operator looking to converge your separate networks, or to share infrastructure with others, or simply share the investment costs, then network visibility is key; both for the tenant of a slice and the overall owner of the infrastructure. Visibility is what creates the third business benefit: it allows you to measure QoS and model customer experience over time, giving the insights to provide the best possible service to end users. The degree of visibility in any network sharing opportunity should be one of your key selection criteria.
I encourage you to read Diffraction Analysis’s research to help shape your own thinking about fixed access network slicing and if you’d like to get deeper into the business benefits, why not check out our white paper, Network slicing to unlock the Network as a Service.
Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #SDN #NFV #networkslicing #fixednetworks #SDAN.