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Jan 13 2015

MSO network forecast is partly cloudy–Part3

So let’s map out the evolution of the MSO network based on the observations, predictions, and emerging trends discussed previously. In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we discussed how CONTENT, CONNECTIVITY, and CLOUD are the 3 essential ingredients for the future success as a user experience provider.

CLOUD and CONNECTIVITY can be combined to minimize today´s network complexity, lack of dynamic scalability, and non-optimal cost structure. And also to unlock unfulfilled commercialization potential (new revenue). We showed how by moving to a cable edge cloud architecture and using technologies such as SDN and NFV will allow the creation of a network that is 100 times more powerful in terms of higher bandwidth and lower latency than today.

MSO network evolution

Today, MSOs generally run separate siloed networks as shown in Figure 1. They’re comprised of:

  • HFC for residential and small business internet and video services
  • PON for greenfield deployments and high capacity business services
  • Some IP and carrier Ethernet business services and wireless (including Wi-Fi®) backhaul
  • SDH/SONET for legacy voice and video network transport

These different networks are disjointed from an operations standpoint, which results in excess cost and lack of service continuity from one domain to another.

The (r)evolution

I predict that moving forward the following changes will be made by the leading MSOs to prepare for future success:

  • Wireline and wireless access will converge into a single ultra-broadband access network, with wireline access infrastructure providing wireless connectivity to all people, places, and things.
  • Real estate facilities such as hub offices will no longer be an OpEx burden, but rather a key enabler of cable edge cloud hosting.
  • Customer premises equipment will increasingly only provide basic connectivity and (video) device control, with all enhanced services provided by ”virtual CPE” functions running in the edge cloud.
  • The HFC network will migrate to Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) with virtualization of L2/3 functionality using edge cloud facilities and remote physical layer nodes, serving small user groups.
  • Fiber-based technologies such as PON will increasingly be used to connect these remote nodes to the edge cloud control plane, to provide wireless (cellular and Wi-Fi) backhaul, and to provide business services.
  • IP and optical transport layers will become more tightly integrated using SDN-approaches to provide lowest cost/bit metro and core transport with the scalability, agility and efficiencies necessary to deliver differentiated all-IP and cloud services.
  • The shift from broadcast video to unicast will be driven by the arrival of cloud-DVR services and the human desire to consume personalized content anywhere, anytime on mobile devices. The resulting massive-scale CDN will be hosted in the same cable edge cloud.
  • User-generated and artisanal content will become increasingly professional in quality and will begin to compete with large-scale content.
  • OSS systems will be radically simplified, driven by the move to a single ”all IP” network infrastructure, with SDN and NFV support. This will massively accelerate service automation and innovation, and enable new IP and cloud-based business models.

This new architecture is illustrated schematically in Figure 2.

The winning solution

In summary, we see a future where the winners will be those who have a leading solution in the 3 key dimensions: CONTENT, CONNECTIVITY, and CLOUD. MSOs are well-positioned within this framework due to their leading CONTENT and CONNECTIVITY positions.

But since highly scalable, high performance connectivity solutions increasingly require the CLOUD, it is critical that MSOs quickly move to embrace edge cloud architectures. It will let them optimize their own services delivery and reduce COMPLEXITY, as well as unlock the potential for new revenue and COMMERCIALIZATION opportunities.

In conclusion, it might be fair to say that the forecast is ”cloudy” but most certainly not overcast!

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To contact the author or request additional information, please send an email to networks.nokia_news@nokia.com.

About Marcus Weldon

Marcus is the President of Nokia Bell Labs and CTO of Nokia. He has championed many technological disruptions in telecommunications networks, from the evolution and convergence of networks to “all IP,” the evolution of copper-based Access networks to support sophisticated interference cancellation (so-called vectoring), the evolution of wireless networks to highly-distributed networks of small cells and the emergence of virtualization and Software Defined Networking as profound industry changing forces that will drive a new integrated and federated network architecture and economics.