December 1, 2021

OTN to the Edge: Architecture for Convergence

                   OTN to the Edge: Architecture for Convergence

The telecom landscape is constantly changing, with operators having to cater for an increasing number of mobile, home, and enterprise applications. These new applications often combine high bandwidth requirements with the need for high quality, low latency, and low packet loss. This very much defines service characteristics for the next-generation transport networks – guaranteed bandwidth, low and controllable latency, higher availability, and zero packet loss.

Faced with cost constraints but the need to modernize their networks, operators want to unify their transport networks to benefit from economies of scale and network simplification.

In this blog post, GlobalData’s Emir Halilovic considers the future transport network architecture and the evolution of OTN technology enabling operators’ next steps in transport network development.

Ever-changing demand patterns of end-user applications have brought about a whole new set of requirements for the transport networks. In mobile networks, 5G is bringing a step change in bandwidth demand, coupled with the need for much more stringent timing and synchronization, to support advanced 5G use cases. In the residential sector, increased consumption of 4K video services, streaming AR/VR, cloud gaming, and in-home IoT has created a climate of growing need for bandwidth, combined with the preference for higher connection quality to ensure a superior customer experience.

Finally, in the enterprise segment more bandwidth is needed to ensure access to cloud services and implement various digitalization and IoT initiatives – preferably while ensuring security, guaranteed and graduated QoS options, and flexible provisioning schemes.   

Although from different segments, these evolving requirements create a set of network characteristics that overlap:

Increased and guaranteed bandwidth: Across the telecoms landscape and different customer segments, bandwidth needs are growing in line with the increased consumption of high-bandwidth applications. What’s new is the growing need for transport links to support guaranteed bandwidth. Enterprise users, and mobile networks prefer stable, guaranteed bandwidth connections. Even though bandwidth perception remains relatively flexible in the residential segment, stable and guaranteed bandwidth is increasingly important for some users (like home workers or gamers).  Low and controlled latency: Certain applications across all customer segments served through transport networks prefer low network latency – time-critical IoT applications, interactive entertainment (like online and cloud gaming), and enterprise cloud applications. Additionally, ability to guarantee and control the latency of transport connections allows customers to match the service latency to their connectivity needs.High connection quality: Enterprise users and mobile networks increasingly demand transport links that provide low or ideally zero packet loss, with very low latency fluctuation (jitter) and high availability. In the residential segment, customers usually don’t explicitly require these characteristics, but quickly and negatively react to degraded application performance caused by low connection quality.

Since this set of requirements crosses the boundaries of customer segments, operators are increasingly planning for multi-use transport networks capable of improving customer experience for residential, enterprise, and mobile network users. At the same time, this new transport network can be used as a convergence and evolution platform, replacing legacy technologies, and bringing additional benefits, like improved provisioning and lower network TCO.

In this renovated transport architecture, the characteristics of the edge transportation domain are increasingly important for matching the needs of various applications and improving customer experience. Extending OTN into edge domain enables operators to cater to evolving customer needs, and build a strong and future-proof services roadmap, while opening new monetization opportunities and lowering costs:

Improved customer experience and monetization opportunities: Implementing OTN at the edge allows operators to deploy precisely controlled connectivity services with bandwidth and quality tailored to customer applications. The ability to precisely control transport link characteristics enables operators to offer a wider service offering, and flexibly monetize connection quality parameters.   Transport convergence: OTN at the edge allows operators to serve the most demanding use cases when it comes to bandwidth, latency, timing and synchronization, and packet loss. Combined with rich choice of client interfaces provided by the leading platforms in this transport domain, edge OTN can serve as a platform for convergence of segment-specific connectivity serving mobile networks, residential segment, and enterprise clients. It can also serve as an evolution platform for operators migrating enterprise traffic from dedicated SDH networks without sacrificing security or guaranteed QoS of legacy services.TCO savings: Converged, OTN-based transport network allows operators to significantly reduce their transport network TCO, especially compared to the legacy state of operating several multi-domain, single-use networks. A single multi-use network replacing dedicated single-use networks simplifies network management, personnel training, reduces power consumption, and space requirements.Automation and network simplification: A single-domain OTN network also allows operators to implement automation more quickly and with greater flexibility compared to multi-domain environments. This allows for achieving a higher degree of automation more quickly, thus bringing further TCO reduction. Implementing OTN across all transport network domains allows operators to drastically simplify their networks, reducing management complexity and improving network performance by reducing the number of “hops” and protocol conversions between traffic originating and terminating points. This has far-reaching positive consequences for customer experience and service providers’ operational efficiency. The confluence of automation and network simplification also allows for much more efficient and dynamic service provisioning.

Edge OTN platforms thus provide operators with capabilities that can allow them to take advantage of new monetization opportunities, provide superior customer experience, and reduce TCO compared to legacy networks. Furthermore, through flexible capacity scaling, edge OTN can serve as a foundation for operators’ network convergence and legacy replacement, as well as the future service portfolio growth, across enterprise, residential, and mobile customer segments.

The platforms that provide edge OTN functionality ideally should allow operators to deploy their services flexibly, have ample space for growth, and support a wide array of client interfaces. Physical characteristics – like power, space, and cooling requirements – also play an increasingly important role in operator networks. Modern edge OTN platforms bring enhanced service capabilities to operators and have the potential to reduce their power footprint and optimize space usage. This translates to the potential opening of new revenue streams and preservation of legacy business, while reducing operational costs.

Thus, deploying edge OTN can serve to significantly improve operators business across several service areas, in both residential and enterprise customer segments.   

Click the link to read about Huawei’s E2E WDM/OTN intelligent optical transport solution.

About the Author

Emir Halilovic

Emir Halilovic is a Principal Analyst of GlobalData. His focus is on optical transport layer products and technology including WDM, OTN switching, OADMs, packet optical networking, and converged IP/optical platforms. He has a particular interest in how deep changes in networks, like 5G, NFV, and SDN, affect the evolution of transport products and technologies.

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