Broadband Forum CEO: 5G will require a strong wireline transport network

Broadband Forum touts its efforts to create standards to help operators get transport solutions to support their 5G wireless networks. (Image: 3GPP)

As wireless operators prepare for the upcoming 5G wireless rush, Broadband Forum CEO Robin Mersh says they will need a robust wireline network.

Mersh told attendees during this week’s Mobile World Congress 2018 trade show that the underlying transport network is in danger of being overlooked, with industry talk and innovation currently focusing on radio capabilities and the services 5G could realize.

Broadband Forum
Robin Mersh

“So, to answer the question: what’s fixed got to do with 5G? The answer is: everything! At some point, the radio ends and the network begins and it is at this juncture that all of 5G’s advantagesincluding increased capacity, higher performance and improved speedsmust be maintained by that infrastructure,” said Mersh. “It is the transport that enables this. To deliver on the promise of 5G and meet consumer expectations, convergence between fixed and mobile networks is a must. This is why the Forum’s new work on both 5G wireless-wireline convergence and 5G transport is an important contribution to 5G’s success.”  

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A key metric that highlights how important wireline transport will be for 5G wireless is a recent IHS Markit report.

The industry research firm forecast that there will be 28 billion connected devices and 6 billion smartphones using 5G by 2021which Mersh said will require a “massive scaling of the transport network.”

For its part, the Broadband Forum is conducting work centered around 5G and coverged wireless and wireline networks.

This work includes addressing standards efforts for transport network enhancements to support 5G, Wi-Fi as last mile for broadband access, small cells, hybrid access (dual access), functions between wired and wireless networks that may be instantiated as a common element, wireline and wireless network interworking and convergence at the transport, service and customer levels. 

Conducted in cooperation with 3GPP and other select global organizations, the Broadband Forum’s projects are focused on developing technical specifications for the wireline broadband system evolution to support wireline backhaul for 5G. These projects also consider network migration and operational integration.

One example of this work came in December when the Forum began work with NTT to standardize the use of SDN and NFV in service providers’ PON networks to support Time Critical Applications, such as some types of 5G fronthaul. 

Specifically, the project looks at how SDN and NFV can be applied to Optical Line Terminals (OLTs) to disaggregate PON functions to functional modules with open interfaces. The first phase will define the disaggregation policy and functional requirements of interfaces to disaggregate PON functions which need time-critical processing, while the second phase will define the detailed specifications of the interfaces as Application Programming Interface (API) sets.