Verizon seeks to simplify its network with NG-PON2, a converged core and automation

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.—Verizon's Lee Hicks offered up a laundry list of projects that his company is working on in order to create a reliable, scalable and simplified network.

Hicks, vice president of network planning for Verizon, said that the telco's decision to go directly from GPON to NG-PON2 is creating the right platform to reach some of its stated networking goals. Business and residential customers need to have broadband services that are as reliable as possible because they use them for applications and service such as home security or to telecommute from home offices using HD video.

"Broadband is no longer a want to service; it's a have to service," he said. "We're at 40%, 50% per customer growth in consumption every year. But what's coming on top of that now is the demand for low latency. Whether it's augmented reality, virtual reality, or telemedicine, all these things require very low latency. We're looking for solutions that continue to help with that."

Verizon's customers want faster speeds, but they don't want to pay more for them. Verizon is using fiber to the home to enable those faster speeds while combating 1-Gig broadband offerings from various cable operators.

"What can we do is simplify our network by driving the costs per bit down," Hicks said. "We're very focused on that. We have an internal goal to every year to reduce the cost per bit by 40%. That's what I charge my team with figuring out how to do, that's what I charge Adtran and all of our suppliers to do. Our goal is to continue to develop a roadmap on how to reduce the cost per bit so that we can give good value to our customers."

"That's our vision. And so now how do we think about meeting that, especially on a fiber network? We believe that NG-PON2 is the right platform to do that," he added.

NG-PON2 has four 10 Gigabit wavelengths that increase reliability of the service. Hicks said if one PON card goes down, the other wavelengths are able to continue providing service. The NG-PON2 wavelengths will work on top of the GPON service.

"In the future, we have a roadmap to be able to bond these wavelengths," Hicks said. "We have a built-in ability to go beyond a 10-Gig to 20-Gig, 30-Gig, even 40-Gig down the road. Today with 1-Gig service becoming common place, it's only a matter of time before 10-Gig and beyond become important. You need to be thinking about that. We are and we're trying to pick a platform that could help us do that. Having multiple wavelengths available is important."

Hicks said the second key element of NG-PON2 was the tunable optics that allow operators to assign different subscriber types to different wavelengths. Using dynamic load balancing, a service provider could move a data hog to a separate wavelength via a provisioning command to the optical network tuners (OTL.)

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In Verizon's current GPON deployment, there's a separate broadband network gateway that the OLTs "talk" to. Verizon worked with Adtran to put the network gateway function into the telco's platform, which Hicks said reduced cost, complexity and failure points while adding more precise control since subscriber management is no longer in the OTL.

"And then finally, we see NG-PON2 as our universal access platform," Hicks said. "Because of the reliability features built-in, because of the low latency, we can use it not only for the consumer, but also businesses as well.

"It's not the easiest step to go from GPON right to this (NG-PON2), but it's probably, in our opinion, the best long-term step."

Verizon currently has a NG-PON2 test underway in Tampa, Florida, which was also the location of one its first Fios deployments in 2004. Hicks said there would be more trials forthcoming.

Hicks also said that Verizon was also working on consolidating its various cores into one platform.

"As we built different services, we would often build cores for them," Hicks said. "I had a voice core. I had a video core. I had a private IP core. I had my public IP core, and I had all kinds of interactions and connections going on between those. At times, it was hard for us to figure out what happened and where things went."

"What we're doing is we have a project that we call the 'converged core.' Underlying this core is great long-haul transport technology that we recently did lab tests on. We've got that to 4000-Gig and we'll probably be introducing that next year. It's running at 200-Gig now, 100 or 200 -Gig connections. There's lots of underlying capacity and then a MPLS switching infrastructure on top of that that forms the core," he added.

Hicks said that by forcing all of the traffic to share, Verizon is getting the benefits of scale and a lower cost per bit.

Verizon taps into OpenDaylight

Hicks also spoke about how Verizon is approaching network control, automation and telemetry. Verizon is using OpenDaylight for its Base Network Controller (BNC), which is the focal point for gathering streaming telemetry from network elements.

"The model there is we're going to create standard interfaces to our orchestration and extract the network," Hicks said. "Southbound from the BNC, we will use industry standards, things like NETCONF and YANG models for provisioning, and then we'll use OpenFlow to do network control. We're going to be using this to do telemetry."

In the past, Hicks said every Verizon service had its own set of network probes to gather data, which was then put into separate data lakes with their own set of analysis tools.

"We're not going to be buying probes anymore," Hicks said. "We're going to be using the intelligence that's in the network elements themselves and using streaming telemetry to gather all that. We're going to be bringing it to a single data lake and then doing analytic engines on top of that with closed-loop automation.

"Our vision is on this new network where I have a single data lake, without probes, that I can then do closed-loop automation," he said.