CenturyLink sets NG-PON2 stage, cites business, wireless backhaul as initial service targets

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SAN FRANCISCOCenturyLink says that the initial targets for its eventual NG-PON2 deployment will be on serving business customers and wholesale wireless backhaultwo opportunities well suited for the 10 Gbps and above speeds the technology is capable of delivering.

Following an initial rollout in Omaha, where it had an existing cable TV franchise, CenturyLink set a goal in 2014 to extend the footprint of its symmetrical 1 Gbps fiber to the premises (FTTP) service footprint to residential and business customers in select locations in 16 cities.

As part of that strategy, CenturyLink planned to provide 1 Gbps service to residential and business customers in 10 cities and business customers in another six cities.

RELATED: CenturyLink extends 1 Gig fiber-based service to 16 cities

In May, the service provider announced that it made its 1 Gbps speed fiber-based services available to 47,000 small to large business customers in 2,533 multitenant unit (MTU) office buildings in Arizona, including more than 810 MTUs in the Phoenix metro area.

Frank Miller, VP of architecture for CenturyLink, told attendees during the 2017 Calix Analyst and Media Day event that businesses are a good fit for NG-PON2 services.

“Right now, we’re mainly thinking about the enterprise perspective,” Miller said. “Our direct intention is to sell enterprise services and there are a lot of features there.”  

Emerging backhaul opportunities

Wireless backhaul is another likely target for its NG-PON2 technology rollout. CenturyLink could use the architecture and emerging capabilities like channel bonding to serve new wireless architectures.

“I am really intrigued about relationships with the mobile network operators (MNOs),” Miller said. “If you look at MNOs, they don’t have the type of spectrum that we have for 5G in other countries so there will be pressure to deliver het net solutions with a microcell.”

Miller added that “with our acquisition of Level 3 in the metro, we have much better access to fiber and conduit so some of these use cases are directly tied to the capacity we get on NG-PON2.”

But NG-PON2 is only one part of the backhaul equation. The service provider can use the PON network in combination with its growing use of SDN-based elements to stand out in the crowded wholesale backhaul space.

“As you go to 5G, there are requirements for upgrades in your base band unit,” Miller said. “The technologies are changing that there’s a manner where if we’re intelligent in leveraging NG-PON2, intelligent in leveraging our fiber network, and intelligent in leveraging our edge compute network, we can offer differentiated products to MNOs as they go to 5G.”

Accelerating edge, core scale

As CenturyLink implements new fiber-based technologies like NG-PON2 along its core and edge networks, the service provider can leverage new virtual tools to more rapidly scale bandwidth.

Unlike the traditional methods that required service providers to deploy more network elements, the emerging SDN and software-based approach allows the telco to meet subscriber desires more gracefully.  

“We are looking at how to leverage merchant silicon and how to separate the data and control plane to provide horizontal scalability on the edge,” Miller said. “From a software perspective, you have policy control talking to your shelf and aggregation point and what’s interesting is you get horizontal scaling, which is cloud scaling.”

These capabilities enable CenturyLink to take advantage of web-scale platforms that were traditionally championed by non-telco competitors like Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud.

“You need the same cost economics, dynamics and scale that you see in current public web platforms,” Miller said. “Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook have been going to the network domain for a while now.”

So how does CenturyLink achieve the web-scale capabilities via software?

The company is developing a multidomain orchestration network that ties together all of its platforms. For delivering cloud services, CenturyLink has also developed an NFV-based framework to deliver its cloud-based services. It also ties that into a southbound interface via Calix’s AXOS software defined access (SDA) framework to make the commands to pick a business’ building location and put the circuits together.

“We have no release date yet, but one of our key goals is to integrate this all together into a managed office product,” Miller said. “This would allow a business to pick everything we got and put it all together.”

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