The future of broadband service delivery periodically invites third-party experts to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece, Craig Thomas, VP of Strategic Marketing and Business Development at Broadband Forum, looks at how fixed internet access is evolving.

Broadband Internet access is not a luxury, but a necessity for economic and human development, and serves as a powerful tool for the delivery of essential services such as education and health care. The COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of smart work have diversified the role of the customer, acting as both business (smart worker) and private user on the same broadband access via the same Customer Premises Equipment (CPE).

End users have always chosen the fastest and most reliable broadband at the most reasonable price. Fixed broadband access has been the dominant option for many years. There is now utilization of assets that serve both mobile and fixed access requirements. As advances in the mobile network have narrowed the gap between two traditional separate deployment models of fixed and wireless, operators face the challenge of integrating both fixed and wireless technologies into the same network. Now operators must create a seamless environment between the two different network types so that the end user’s Quality of Experience (QoE) is not affected.

Handling multiple customers in the home – QoE

Operators must not only manage the experience in the home, but they must also manage the experience from the Wi-Fi access point to the devices in the home as they now look to connect multiple customers across a single broadband network. Consumers increasingly expect their service providers to guarantee high-quality, fast broadband services. All these devices must be remotely controlled and managed. Broadband service providers are constantly looking for ways to better manage and monetize the connected home.

This demand for better network services has allowed operators to turn to end-user network gateways such as Wi-Fi routers as a platform to unlock a myriad of third-party applications and services. These end-user gateways often act as the central point of connectivity and network security in the home.

By leveraging a centralized internet gateway device or other CPE, service providers can effectively deploy, enable and manage third-party applications such as parental controls, private home work, Wi-Fi analytics, smart home features, any third-party entertainment and gaming services and consumer security solutions. This also allows service providers to differentiate and scale their business models to deliver a more customizable offering to each subscriber.

The exploitable functionality of an additional app-like service layer right at the edge of the network will provide more control and better resilience for all actors in the ecosystem, as well as improve choice and the overall experience for customers. This paves the way for what many could see as broadband providers’ own “dynamic app store”. Drives any additional services to be uniquely stored on the subscriber’s broadband gateway and segregated into individual secure software containers.

Creating seamless migration with separate software approaches

Revolutionary networking will not happen overnight, which means operators must ensure that there is the ability to cross-migrate from existing hardware platforms to a fully virtualized and disaggregated network. The Broadband Forum’s CloudCO demo at this year’s Network X demonstrated improved quality and user experience in the event of Wi-Fi or network congestion, better utilization of network resources and zero-touch service provisioning.

The CloudCO framework brings tangible benefits to the industry, helping operators migrate from legacy networks traditionally based on many individual network elements to a truly open software-defined access network. This virtualization and partitioning of the network can help operators build their networks based on their specific requirements, and they can have confidence that these components can interoperate with each other, helping to achieve superior QoE.

The introduction of cloud, virtualization and Software Defined Networking (SDN)-based automation of ultra-fast access technologies and open source is at the heart of the revitalization of the broadband ecosystem, with the Network Function Virtualization (NFV) market expected to reach $122 billion by 2027.

Eager to welcome the benefits of cloudification to their networks, service providers are leveraging coexistence and a migration plan from their existing network investments. With standards, operators are armed with the tools to flexibly plan and build their cloud-native networks and deliver faster services to their customers.

The standardized, automated and accelerated implementations of new cloud-based access infrastructure and services are of great benefit to the industry. This means operators can continue to integrate their processes with cloud-native systems and embrace virtualization to build and scale their networks, while ensuring these new network architectures are compatible with their existing infrastructure.

QoE is the end goal

Today’s access network segments are a collection of application-specific, purpose-built devices. While this has been the basis for successful large-scale deployments, the emergence of new technologies and approaches has resulted in a re-examination of the deployed network in pursuit of a more responsive, agile ecosystem to better enable new revenue opportunities and operational cost savings.

A seamless customer experience is more critical than ever. The emphasis of the broadband industry needs to shift from simply achieving higher speeds and higher bandwidth. With traditional declining revenues, the majority of employers are willing to take home work and the spotlight has firmly landed on achieving superior QoE. Consumers and workers now expect impeccable experience and consistently low latency relevant to the applications they demand. By recognizing the need for app-enabled services and virtualizing their networks to better manage the experience of their customers, operators can unlock new revenue streams that were not easily attainable in the past.

When broadband speed no longer prohibits users’ necessary services, QoE will become even more important than further faster connectivity, especially with the increasing adoption in home work, eHealth, eEdcuation, new 8K+ video streaming and AR/VR entertainment services.


Craig’s role at Broadband Forum is to own and drive the marketing strategy from focus to delivery. Supports Broadband Forum’s vision, key principles and meets the needs of our members and industry education as a whole. As an accomplished public speaker, he brings over 25 years of telecommunications marketing experience to Broadband Forum. Having international product, field and strategic marketing roles from call to the latest PON technologies as well as IP MPLS, SDN/NFV and mobile backhaul. Previously, he held senior strategy, product and marketing positions at Calix, Tellabs, Talk Talk, Cosine Communications, Ericsson, Alcatel and Newbridge Networks.


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