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Broadband Forum brings NFV into the home

Industry group Broadband Forum has released specifications for the ‘virtual residential gateway’, concluding work on what it describes as a landmark project to bring the potential of virtualization into the home.

Document TR-317 Network Enhanced Residential Gateway describes an end-to-end architecture that allows some of the functions that normally reside in the customer premises equipment to be moved to the operator’s data centre.

This eliminates the need to provision and attach new services directly to an end-user’s residential gateway and instead enables service providers to do this centrally from their cloud infrastructures, lowering costs for them and, by extension, their customers.

The architecture will also make maintenance and troubleshooting easier as operators will be able to virtually insert a diagnostic tool in the extended home network to identify problems and support the customer.

 ‘This work is extremely significant because many broadband operators are already working on the delivery of some flavours of cloud-based virtual residential gateway services,’ said David Minodier, network architect at Orange, the Broadband Forum member which led the development of TR-317.

TR-317 provides equipment manufacturers with a first set of specifications to ensure interoperability between the ‘bridged residential gateway’ at the customer premises and the virtual gateway hosted in the service provider’s cloud infrastructure.

The new specification is one of the enablers for the Broadband Forum’s Broadband 20/20 vision which focuses on specific new broadband home and business opportunities that leverage software defined networking (SDN), the network functions virtualisation (NFV) distributed compute / network model, Internet of Things and ultrafast technologies.

Commenting on the announcement, Broadband Forum CEO Robin Mersh said: ‘While the end-to-end architecture has remained fundamentally the same, the business ecosystem has changed significantly, with flagship value-added telco services becoming commoditised and over-the-top companies going from small start-ups to financial giants. At the same time the consumer electronics industry is flooding residential home networks with new devices. Alongside this, the IT ecosystem has changed and cloud services for residential customers have become commoditised as a result of virtualisation and new generation technologies and network concepts such as NFV and SDN. Enabling operator gateway services with the agility of cloud-based software and supporting some new use cases is the purpose of the Network Enhanced Residential Gateway architecture which TR-317 provides.’

Following the initial release of this document, further work to extend its capabilities, as well as new work around the Cloud Central Office (CO) project, will be carried out. This will include evolving the TR-069 protocol to manage the TR-317 components (the bridged residential gateway and the virtual gateway) and associated services. Requirements for the design of the virtual gateway itself are also being discussed, while the possibility of adding in a capability to allow third parties to provide services via the operator is also being examined.

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