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.

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