Deutsche Telekom kept its promise to go live with its Access 4.0 platform last year with a customer deployment just before Christmas. The first customer went live on a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) line in Stuttgart, Germany.
The move to more cost effective and flexible disaggregated networks has been underway for years, but Deutsche Telekom's Access 4.0 deployment is proof that it's getting down to the brass tacks. Instead of buying a package of network operating software and hardware from a specific vendor or a system integrator, disaggregation allows service providers to pick and choose what they want, which includes cheaper off-the-shelf hardware.
“Disaggregation is now a reality," said Abdurazak Mudesir, head of services and platforms and access disaggregation at Deutsche Telekom Technik, in a statement. "For the first time we’re producing a BNG on whitebox hardware and are using software-defined networking technology to control that gateway.
"That’s a hugely important step toward our broadband network’s future structure. With the software-defined approach of Access 4.0 we’re driving forward automation and can implement lean processes ourselves in combination with our OSS platforms.”
Vendor-specific closed systems are being replaced on the Access 4.0 platform with open, disaggregated, and microservice-based technologies. Vendors in the Access 4.0 ecosystem, which includes chipmakers, virtual routing companies and white box vendors, include RtBrick, Reply, Broadcom, Adtran, Siticom, BISDN, Radisys, OneIT, and Fibre Industries.
Orange's software-defined networking (SDN) access renewal and evolution strategy (ARES) program is similar to Access 4.0. While Orange and Deutsche Telekom are using different program names, the disaggregation goal, and some of the gear, is the same.
There are also an open source elements to Access 4.0 as Deutsche Telekom works with the Open Networking Foundation, the Open Compute Project and the Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP). Along with Telefónica, BT, and Vodafone, Telefónica, Deutsche Telecom is one of the service providers that are driving TIP's Open BNG initiative. Open BNG is a new standard that was created by TIP to develop open, disaggregated broadband network gateways.
The Broadband Forum and the Open Networking Forum (ONF) also have BNG projects underway that are related to disaggregation.
Access 4.0 is primarily tailored to Deutsche Telekom’s broadband internet access for FTTH or fiber-to-the-business services. Deutsche Telekom said the underlying technology should be able to support other applications at the network edge in the future, especially in the 5G and Open RAN environment.
The next step for Deutsche Telekom's project team is to improve the platform as it rolls out in other regions.