Vectoring and bonding: Extending copper cabling lifecycle while boosting bandwidth

by Shibu Vahid, Reichle & De-Massari The technology enables network operators in the Middle East to provide new services to bridge the gap before deploying all-fiber networks.

Content Dam Cim Online Articles 2014 08 Shibu Vahid
By Shibu Vahid, Reichle & De-Massari

The demand for faster networks and the ever-increasing transmission of data is raising challenges for telecom providers in the Middle East. Simultaneously, the surge in the popularity of communications-based applications has meant that the traditional revenues from voice are steadily declining. Telcos are now forced to diversify their service offerings and in addition to data services, many are doing their best to reach out to customers with bundled packages and offer triple-play services—telephone, Internet and TV via one xDSL or cable connection from a single network provider.

To facilitate this, telecom operators are rolling out fiber-optic networks. Full fiber networks, though essential to remaining competitive in the age of growing bandwidth requirements, do require a significant capital investment. At the same time, operators are pressed to extract the full value of their existing network infrastructures, which is why adopting “vectoring and bonding” is a very attractive option for those hoping to increase speeds on the last mile. This technology helps boost copper-network capacity from the last distribution point to the end user. Up to 100 Mbits/sec can be offered, albeit over relatively short distances, by laying fiber up to a point that is as close as possible to network termination. From here, existing copper networks can take over.

Vectoring is generally seen as a way to save money on the last mile of FTTx rollouts while leveraging legacy copper infrastructure. In these instances, it has repeatedly proven itself to be a fine solution.

(Vectoring for VDSL2 is specified in the standard ITU-T G.993.5.)

The telco data center’s changing role

Whenever vectoring is mentioned, it is almost invariably linked to FTTx. However, vectoring can also help open new revenue streams for telco providers by linking data centers to the outside world. How does this work? In the Middle East today, many telco companies operate their own data centers, where they aggregate immense amounts of data. Given the exponential rate at which data is being consumed in the region, telcos find it increasingly important to futureproof their data center investments. Furthermore, developments such as the rise of “Big Data” and customer demand for new information and entertainment services are changing the role of data centers. These are demanding a huge boost in the capacity of the fiber-backhaul network, and this will continue to grow exponentially.

Until recently, some 80 percent of data center traffic was generated by people using a desktop or laptop computer to access server-hosted applications over the Internet or intranet. But recently, this has changed due to the explosion in the number of smartphone and tablet devices. According to Ipsos MediaCT’s “The Digital Landscape 2014” report, smartphone penetration figures in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Lebanon were at 79 percent, 72 percent, 69 percent, and 63 percent, respectively. Because of this, we are now seeing a massive increase in mobile apps and cloud computing, which has resulted in an upsurge in traffic between servers. As data volumes continue to grow, there is a realistic possibility this will result in bottlenecks and compromised service levels. One of the main drivers of greater data-transmission requirements is television services, which include interactive TV, video-on-demand and videoconferencing.

The telecom industry is being pushed toward digital content markets as a result of several factors. Rapidly evolving mobile-data technologies, for example, or Web 2.0 technologies, social networking, as well as a growing market for streaming and on-demand broadband video content.

Vectoring and the data center

Vectoring can’t play a role in helping link data centers together, or joining up servers within the data center. However, for telcos, data centers with powerful content-delivery networks are becoming increasingly vital. Vectoring enables the customer to receive HD video on-demand services. As telcos aren’t eager to leave this market share entirely to dedicated companies, they need to invest in data center infrastructure so they can also provide these services. Providing new services, which are enabled by high-speed residential Internet connections, will allow telcos to tap into new revenue streams. Of course, there are some practical and technical considerations that must be taken into account, such as ensuring the right quality-of-service (QoS) policies and traffic scheduling.

As data volumes in and between data centers grow, driven by changing user behaviors and the industry shift to at least 10G, for example, integrating legacy networks may relieve some of the load. Vectoring and bonding can help realize this, forming a link between data center infrastructure and outside fiber networks. However, telcos must bear in mind that this is a temporary solution, and full-fiber networks must be the end goal.

The competitive environment for telecom providers is rapidly changing. As a result, network operators are exploring new business models outside of, and beyond, delivery of voice and data. The deployment of vectoring can enable telcos to provide new services, such as video-on-demand to take a significantly larger section of the value chain. Previously, the data centers of telcos mainly provided Internet connectivity to their customers. Now, however, they are expected to offer new on-demand services too. Vectoring allows the fast deployment of high-speed residential Internet. Although the end goal is still end-to-end full fiber, vectoring is currently acting as a vital enabling technology that allows telcos to offer new, strategically vital services.

Shibu Vahid is head of technical operations for Reichle & De-Massari (R&M) Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

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