Cincinnati Bell division CBTS bows new open source reference architecture

network slicing
CBTS announced a Carrier Open Infrastructure framework to accelerate 10G speeds. (Pixabay)

CBTS, the business services-focused division of Cincinnati Bell, is putting elements of the Open Networking Foundation's SEBA reference design into play with a new reference architecture called COI.

On Thursday, CBTS announced its Carrier Open Infrastructure (COI) framework that's based on the ONF's SDN Enabled Broadband Access (SEBA) reference design and VOLTHA.

CBTS, which goes by the OnX brand name in Canada, also announced new 10G optical networking solutions and open optical network unit offerings.

The ONF's SEBA reference design is a lightweight version of R-CORD (Residential Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter) that was developed by ONF. SEBA supports access technologies, such as PON, Gfast and Docsis. VOLTHA is the primary access network driver in the SEBA reference design.

COI was designed to help carriers leverage open source virtual networking functions (VNFs) and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware to grow revenue as broadband speeds increase and average revenue per user (ARPU) declines.

"One of the things is that R-CORD has been tough for the carriers to do themselves," said Lee Doyle, principal analyst of Doyle Research, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "They're (CBTS) trying to jump on a new market opportunity and we'll see if there's a substantial market for that or not.

"The market is extremely nascent right now. There are a lot of people who are trialing R-CORD, but we've all seen that before with NFV. Just because you're trialing it doesn't mean you're using it."

R-CORD's multiaccess architecture. (CBTS)

COI is multiaccess architecture that works across copper, fiber and wireless at gigabit speeds. It can be used by carriers that have fixed or wireless networks, including cable, wireline and mobile operators.

In addition to developing the architecture and the optical networking components, CBTS is providing  support services, help desk, integration, advanced replacement, and field services for its COI customers.

"COI takes the open framework from the ONF built on SEBA and VOLTHA to abstract the physical hardware away from the operational support systems," said CBTS' Bob Lamb, program director for COI, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "It allows for multiple access technologies to be used and still have a single view into the operational support system.  By doing this, I can lower the total cost of ownership."

Lamb said that being able to consolidate all of the access technologies across one operational support system (OSS) not only reduces complexities but also gives carriers "a single vendor" approach that they're familiar with from using proprietary systems and technologies.

"If you start looking at multiple  technologies in that operating system environment, the cost on the back end is staggering," Lamb said. "And it's not just the cost on the back end. It's also being able to have the right tool for the right job at the right time as opposed to having the one-size fits all approach in the current marketplace. So it gives the carrier a lot more agility and flexibility."

The COI VOLTHA/SEBA framework supports existing Brite-Box vendors and open source-based white boxes.

"We're bringing together this open, vendor-agnostic white box-friendly access framework to the carrier market," Lamb said. "We're looking to drive down the cost curve to improve the profitability,. It's all based upon the carrier-funded, carrier backed, carrier inspired group in the Open Networking Foundation. It's an organization built by carriers just to deliver carrier grade products and services in an open source framework."

ONF's operator membership is comprised of AT&T, China Telecom, China Unicom, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT and Turk Telekom.

RELATED: ONF operators push reference designs out for membership review

COI is currently in five proof-of-concept trials with carriers, but Lamb declined to say who they were. At the ONF Connect conference in December, AT&T, Turk Telekom and Deutsche Telekom said they were working on SEBA deployments while Telefonica has previously expressed interest in trialing SEBA.  AT&T, which put SEBA into the ONF two years ago, is trialing SEBA in Georgia and Texas.

Lamb said that Cincinnati Bell was in the process of evaluating COI.

CBTS debuts hardware solutions

CBTS' new 10GB XGS-PON access solution, CO-OLT24XG-PON, is an OCP and OpenCORD-compatible PON access platform designed for remote terminal (RT) and/or central office applications. It works with SDN controllers from OpenDaylight and ONOS as well as commercial sourced controllers.

On the ONU side, CBTS' XGS-PON Single Family Unit, XG-99K, features 10GB downstream and upstream to support triple-play services including voice, video, and high-speed internet access. Lamb said it was ideal for serving homes by providing three Gigabit Ethernet connections that can be used separately for a home network, business network and video network.

"We also have an ONU built on an SFP stick that gives us a lot of options in terms of being able to do a greater than a 1 gig home service and some additional 10 gig options in the MDU market," Lamb said.

Instead of using Broadcom, Lamb said CBTS went directly to the original design manufacturers (ODMs) to build its hardware based on Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs).

"Carriers love to have chipset diversity," Lamb said. "The hardware has opened up the discussions for us because carriers want that diversity of the physical OLTs (optical line terminals), which has led into the discussions on building out the whole SEBA environment and doing the integration work. That's really what the carrier's ultimately need and those are the long term benefits that they're seeing by working with us."

Cincinnati Bell bought OnX for $201 million two years ago and then combined it with CBTS, which now has 1,500 employees, more than 2,400 customers and revenues of $1.3 billion.