The Broadband Forum announced on Wednesday that it was out of the starting blocks with its new specification for virtual residential gateways.
The Network Enhanced Residential Gateway (TR-317) specification leverages NFV by putting functions and virtual storage in the cloud instead of in home-based residential gateways.
By provisioning services and functions centrally from their cloud infrastructures, service providers will be able spin up new services faster and provide personalized end-user packages that could create additional revenue streams. Another benefit of moving to the cloud is that gateways would cost less since they don't require as much built-in memory.
"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," Broadband Forum CEO Robin Mersh said.
The new virtual CPE specification, which is a cornerstone for the Broadband Forum's BroadBand 2020
initiative, also allows service providers to provide Quality of Service (QoS) on a per-device, per-user and/or per-service basis.
"This work is extremely significant because many broadband operators are already working on the delivery of some flavors of cloud-based virtual residential gateway services," said David Minodier, network architect at Orange (NYSE: FTE), the Broadband Forum member that led the development of TR-317. "Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Network (SDN) techniques allow the delivery of such innovative services from a Point-of Presence (PoP) or data center to be envisaged, which was not possible before."
"TR-317 provides CPE 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."
By shifting local features from the home to the networks, customers can reap the benefit of expandable virtual storage, which could be provisioned on a "pay-as-you-grow" basis. The Broadband Forum said the machine-to-machine (M2M) "Home Automation Box" would also move to the network in order to provision upgradeable M2M services.
Parental control per device is also on the roadmap, along with improved diagnosis, troubleshooting and maintenance services, which would allow service providers to virtually insert a diagnosis tool in the extended home network to troubleshoot problems.
"While the end-to-end architecture has remained fundamentally the same, the business ecosystem has changed significantly, with flagship value-added telco services becoming commoditized and over-the-top companies going from small startups to financial giants," Mersh said. "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 commoditized as a result of virtualization and new-generation technologies and network concepts such as NFV and SDN."
Now that the TR-317 specification is out of the gates, the Broadband Forum and its partners will work on extending its capabilities, as well the recently announced Cloud Central Office project. This will include evolving the TR-069 protocol, which was first published by the Broadband Forum, to manage the Network Enhanced Residential Gateway components -- the Bridged Residential Gateway and the virtual Gateway -- and associated services.
Requirements for the design of the virtual gateway are also part of the ongoing conversation, as well as exploring the possibility of adding in a capability to allow third parties to provide services via the operator.
The Broadband Forum has revamped its goals in order to help operators, vendors and open source communities create new ecosystems that leverage NFV, SDN, content delivery networks, open source, the Internet of Things and cloud. (See Why Standards Bodies & Open Source Must Collaborate and Building the New Ecosystem: Open Source, Standards Bodies Must Collaborate.)
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation