Intel: Next-generation COs will address multiple wireline, wireless services at greater densities

Modern data centers ask for hyperconverged systems and beyond
Service providers are retooling their Central Offices into new hubs to support a broader range of wireless and wireline services. (iStockphoto).

LOS ANGELES—As the service provider industry’s focus has shifted towards enhancing the edge of the network, the next-generation central office (CO) concept is beginning to emerge as a central hub to deliver a richer and larger set of consumer and business services.

New concepts like Central Office Rearchitected as a Data Center (CORD) are transforming these COs into hubs to host a diverse set of wireline, wireless and cloud-based services.

Dan Rodriguez, VP of data center group and general manager for the communications infrastructure division at Intel, told attendees at an afternoon panel session at the Open Networking Summit that these locations need be more flexible in nature.

“In this vision, the next-gen Central Office must be able to support both fixed and mobile communications,” Rodriguez said. “It also must be able to support a plethora of devices, data and a ton of new subscribers.”

But these so-called next-gen COs aren’t like the traditional legacy telecom provider offices hosting large TDM-based voice switches. Instead, they are being transformed into new sites to deliver a larger base of services. These COs are not only being transformed in large cities, but also in lower-density rural areas.

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“Service providers are starting to see their Central Office as a strategic point in their network to deliver all sorts of new experiences, including 5G use cases, IoT, immersive media and entertainment,” Rodriguez said.

Getting to the next-gen CO concept is also a scale issue—something that service providers are now embarking upon as they shut down more aging Class 5 and copper facilities as consumers ditch traditional POTS voice service for VoIP or wireless voice.

Since the traditional CO was designed to provide only one service—voice—these locations often won’t be able to support the densities needed for new services.  

“If you think about a typical CO today, these facilities typically don’t have the right compute, storage or the ability to deal with these new workloads in an efficient manner and still deliver the right quality of service,” Rodriguez said. “This portion of the network is ripe for transformation and will set us up very well for the 5G era.”

While the actual densities could vary, the next-gen CO would support about 35,000 subscribers. A typical CO today can only support about 5,000 subscribers.

The other issue that makes existing COs a good target of transformation is their general location.

“The CO is typically located between the access network and the metro transport network,” Rodriguez said. “It is a scaled-down version of a data center in a smaller area, but it still delivers the right amount of compute to handle those unique cases that service providers are expected to deal with.”