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Broadband Forum launches app-enabled services network gateway

Communications industry’s open standards development organisation claims forthcoming WT-492 standard will empower service providers with ‘app store-like’ functionality on their subscriber edge platforms

The Broadband Forum has launched a project that it says will “revolutionise” communications providers’ business plans.

The app-enabled services gateway project from the communications industry’s open standards development organisation is designed to help service providers with the effective deployment, activation and management of third-party applications such as parental controls, Wi-Fi analytics, streaming services and security solutions to consumers on a centralised internet gateway device or other customer premises equipment (CPE).

It is also intended to give subscribers such as those from the enterprise community the opportunity to deploy more customisable offerings at a scale of their choice.

The Broadband Forum’s WT-492 Software-Based Architecture for the App-Enabled Services Gateway - Design Principles is also intended to give stakeholders the tools they need to realise a secure, services-based, app-enabled ecosystem for the end-user network. This, says the Forum, also presents an opportunity for “app store-like” or “install on-demand” functionality for end-user services, deployment of secure and trustworthy applications, and the formation of adaptable and powerful platforms to support new and innovative cloud services.

“As networks and consumers move into a post-sufficiency bandwidth world, there is an emerging opportunity to leverage the potential of the CPE as a platform for serving the needs of end-users and suppliers,” said Oliver Johnson, CEO at telecoms analyst firm Point Topic. “The exploitable functionality, properly managed and integrated, of an additional app-like service layer right at the edge of the network will allow more control and better resilience for all the players in the ecosystem and improve choice and the overall experience for customers – the ultimate arbiters of any change.”

The association also regards its WT-492 specification work as being able to benefit a host of players in the broadband sphere, including product manufacturers that can adopt new design principles to introduce technologies and feature enhancements through simpler and faster cycles and make efficient use of open-source gateway systems.

It says subscriber management solution suppliers could adopt standard interfaces and management capabilities to seamlessly operate and deploy any vendor’s products, and application suppliers can build an ecosystem of value-added applications. Service providers will be able to serve all types of access technologies from multiple vendors and seamlessly integrate a mixture of services into their operational and business workflows.

Proposed use cases for the app-enabled services gateways could, for example, monitor and troubleshoot regimens that support unloading bad applications and isolating bad network devices to protect the end-user when needed. These innovative gateways will be hardened against cyber attacks, be able to operate over a broader range of environmental conditions and be robust to changes in technology and equipment failures by upgrading and migrating customer applications and data on-demand.

Expansion and operation with all networked devices to extend connectivity and support internet of things (IoT) services is also said to be enabled through the new gateways.

The Broadband Forum’s Broadband User Services (BUS) work area is known in the industry for developing interoperable and open standards such as TR-069, TR-181 and its flagship protocol, the User Services Platform, aka USP (TR-369). These standards, says the association, have already laid the foundations for the realisation of a standardised, app-enabled services gateway.  

“Service providers’ customers have confronted them with unprecedented demand on their networks and app-enabled services gateways will help unlock a plethora of third-party applications and services,” said Jason Walls of QA Cafe, chair of the Broadband Forum Connected Home Council and BUS work area director. “Our work pulls together industry leaders from multiple standards development organisations and the open-source community to create quality, interoperable, open standards.

“The adoption of faster-access technologies and resulting exponential growth in bandwidth opens up new ARPU opportunities for service providers to capitalise on.”

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