Broadband Forum, NTT move 5G forward with recent PON demo

NTT showed how splitting up time-critical PON functions enables 5G fronthaul at a recent Broadband Forum meeting. (Pixabay)

After first announcing the project last year, the Broadband Forum and NTT successfully demonstrated the disaggregation of time-critical passive optical networking (PON) functions.

The demo took place last week in Osaka, Japan, during the Broadband Forum's second-quarter meeting. The PON Abstraction Interface for Time Critical Applications (TCAs) project was designed to look at how software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) could be used with optical line terminals (OLTs).

The project splits up PON functions by separating those with time-critical functions from those without. Mobile fronthaul) and mobile backhaul require time-critical functions to ensure low latency. The end result, according to the Broadband Forum, was that time-to-market for new offerings, including support for 5G fronthaul interfaces and services for business users, was accelerated.

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Using SDN and NFV also reduces the need for service providers to rebuild an OLT from a preliminary stage of development—such as a remake of the PON (passive optical network) chip—which requires a large amount of investment.

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

NTT demonstrated two scenarios – mobile and FTTH – where a future OLT could be optimized with dynamic bandwidth allocation (DBA) software to cut down latency to meet the latency requirements of 5G fronthaul interfaces. This enables dense small cells to be accommodated cost-effectively by time division multiplexing-PON. A second DBA software could also be applied to OLTs in fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) services that require high bandwidth efficiency.

"Time critical applications are essential to meet changing user behavior," said Akihiro Otaka, executive manager at NTT Access Network Service Systems Laboratories, in a prepared statement. "The demonstration we have carried out at the Broadband Forum meeting is a significant step for the project as it shows how operators can cost-effectively upgrade OLTs via a software upgrade. Standardization in this area is essential as it will achieve a vendor-agnostic system and ensure mass deployment which is key to realizing agile and flexible next-generation broadband networks and the delivery of 5G."

The next phase for the Broadband Forum and NTT will look at whether a cooperative interface, which controls the TCAs shown in the demonstration, could be made between the central unit in mobile networks and an OLT. That step will require working with standards organizations such as 3GPP and CPRI and IEEE.

Also at last week's meeting, Broadband Forum members elected University of New Hampshire-InterOperability Lab's Lincoln Lavoie as the new technical committee chair.