Vodafone claims world-first multi-supplier test of new broadband standard

Benu Networks, Casa Systems, Cisco and Nokia join Vodafone in test to pave the way for faster open broadband networks, validating Broadband Forum global standard for interoperability between different suppliers

Vodafone, together with Benu Networks, Casa Systems, Cisco and Nokia, have revealed a successful test of a new open architecture to the broadband network gateway (BNG). Their aim is to make it quicker and easier to deliver faster fixed broadband services to new and existing customers across Europe.

The BNG is regarded as a critical component for connecting multiple users to the internet, enabling it to work using separate software and hardware from multiple suppliers, an important step in opening up the current single-supplier, monolithic broadband gateways to greater technological innovation from a more diverse supply chain.

Called disaggregated BNG, the new technology will change the way broadband networks are built, said Vodafone. Using the global TR-459 standard devised by the Broadband Forum, the test allowed the core control functions of the gateway, such as authenticating a user and increasing bandwidth to support streaming services, to be separated and managed efficiently in the cloud while ensuring multi-supplier interoperability. 

The Broadband Forum TR-459 specification describes how a traditionally monolithic function is split into two main components – the control plane and the user or the data plane. The control plane is the brain of the system and is responsible for managing the interactions with the customer home router, authenticating the user and determining the services and policies that should be applied. 

The user or data plane is then responsible for forwarding the users’ traffic to the correct services and enforcing any required policies, such as quality of service. Standardisation of control and user plane separation enables the control plane from one supplier to control the user plane from a different supplier.

The test used control and user plane separation (CUPS) technologies defined by both the Broadband Forum and the global mobile standard 3GPP, which means there will be more opportunity for converged fixed and mobile service delivery. It was conducted between test labs in Belgium through Nokia, Ireland with Casa Systems, India with Cisco and the US with Benu.

Vodafone believes the system can then separately upgrade, scale and deploy new features and add more capacity, enabling greater agility and faster time to market when making enhancements across its pan-European broadband network. It also sees disaggregated BNG as a way to reduce development costs for existing and new ecosystem partners and allow deeper integration with 5G.

“We are already driving a more diverse and open mobile ecosystem with Open RAN, and now we are targeting fixed broadband,” said Johan Wibergh, chief technology officer at Vodafone. “As an industry, and with government support, we owe it to people with no or slow internet access to quicken the roll-out of new capabilities on fast, fixed broadband.”

Vach Kompella, VP and GM of Nokia’s IP Networks Business Division, added: “Nokia is pleased to demonstrate support for a wide range of BNG deployment models including Broadband Forum’s disaggregated BNG architecture. Nokia envisions a significant evolution in BNG architecture with the introduction of CUPS in fixed, wireless and 5G fixed wireless applications which will allow rapid feature introduction, optimal user plane placement and selection, as well as improved operations.”

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