CenturyLink says G.fast is part of a broader software delivery platform vision

copper wiring legacy networks
CenturyLink says G.fast and NG-PON2 are part of its broader vision to enhance service velocity in order to stay competitive with nontraditional providers.

SAN FRANCISCO—CenturyLink’s G.fast deployment targeting multiple dwelling units (MDUs) is all about accelerating the service provider’s ability to quickly get ahead of customer broadband needs.

In September 2016, CenturyLink installed G.fast in Platteville, Wisconsin, to deliver up to 500 Mbps broadband in 44 MDUs. It is also conducting similar deployments in Minnesota. However, the telco sees the opportunity to use the technology to enhance the reach of its Ethernet service.

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Frank Miller, VP of architecture for CenturyLink, told attendees during the 2017 Calix Media and Analyst Day that G.fast and NG-PON2 are part of the company’s broader vision to enhance service velocity in order to stay competitive with nontraditional providers.

“When I first came to CenturyLink as the VP of architecture and strategy, my main call was more tied to service velocity,” Miller said. “Our competition of the future is not a telecom company, but rather the Amazon, Facebooks and Hulus of the world, so we had this one time to transform to a software platform and the first to key projects are G.fast and NG-PON2.”

The service provider is achieving these goals by tying its G.fast deployments with an underlying software-based SDN platform that allows it to more flexibly provision services for customers. By leveraging Calix's last-mile gear and software, CenturyLink created an orchestration platform that would enable it to more rapidly provision G.fast services. The service provider had implemented northbound Yang interfaces from which it was able to create APIs to its northbound orchestration platform via what it calls “Platform CenturyLink.” Ultimately, CenturyLink is focused on enabling its customers to provision and call up services and adjust bandwidth via a portal.

“The key is that the amount of IT time and development required was minimal,” Miller said. “We weren’t dealing with legacy IT infrastructure, but rather software.”

Speeding time to market

CenturyLink may not be afraid of the idea of bringing fiber all the way to each customer in an MDU, but G.fast allows the telco to use the existing Category 5 wiring, coaxial or copper.

This translates into two main benefits: speed and staying ahead of cable competitors that are delivering up to 1 Gbps via DOCSIS 3.1 architecture.

“At the end of the day, if I have Cat 3, I can deploy gigabit speeds from the main distribution frames,” Miller said.

By leveraging the existing wires inside an MDU, CenturyLink can immediately begin offering higher speeds to customers with minimal disruption. This means CenturyLink will not have to drill through walls to install service in each living unit.

“We can deliver up to a Gig service quickly with the least amount of work. A lot of our target markets have been MDUs that have small businesses, so it fits perfectly,” Miller said. “If you add the ‘CenturyLink On’ portal on top of that, they can plug in and get service.”

Emerging strategies

While CenturyLink is initially focused on using G.fast for MDUs, the service provider is considering other options. In particular, CenturyLink is looking at how to use the technology in single family unit homes.

The ITU’s third amendment to the G.fast standard will double the frequency range, making it easier for service providers to use G.fast from street cabinets served by fiber, instead of deploying it at distribution points such as a basement or distribution point next to an MDU.

“Some of our next focus on this is we’re looking at expanding in the MDU and MTU space,” Miller said. “Now we’re looking at amendment 3 work with G.fast that has better rate and reach curves from a single family units perspective and accelerate from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps to the house.”

CenturyLink will also be able to take advantage of other capabilities like reverse powering to extend the distance of G.fast. As a new technology being standardized by ETSI and the Broadband Forum TR-301 specification, reverse powering allows power to be sent from the customer premises to a distribution point, in order to power the distribution point unit.

“There’s some really exciting stuff coming up with the later generation that we can leverage to extend service to more rural customers,” Miller said.