Broadband Forum, IP/MPLS Forum Merge To Produce End-to-End Broadband Specs

George Dobrowski, chairman & president, Broadband Forum

George Dobrowski, chairman & president, Broadband Forum

May 18, 2009 – Having spent more than a decade looking from opposite ends down the same broadband service delivery pipe, the home- and access-network-focused Broadband Forum and the core- and aggregation-network-focused IP/MPLS Forum formally announced their merger on May 18, promising to fill critical gaps in efforts to develop an end-to-end multiservice architecture for next-generation broadband services.

United under the Broadband Forum name, the new organization will comprise an enlarged membership of 220 companies comprising most of the world’s leading telecoms along with equipment manufacturers, chip vendors and industry bodies.

“Verizon has been an active contributing member of both organizations, and we applaud this decision to unite,” said Stu Elby, vice president, network architecture, for Verizon Communications. “As broadband convergence continues, the Broadband Forum will be a key organization to ensure providers’ needs are met with a holistic end-to-end perspective [with] no gaps in critical network specifications. We look forward to continuing to provide technical expertise and leadership to this organization.”

Added Philippe Lucas, vice president of international standards and industry relationship for Orange: “We are very enthusiastic to see the industry defragmenting. This union will allow better efficiency and coherence for some key topics, such as transport equipment interoperability, mobile backhauling, access and core networks integration. We believe this union will provide better architectural view on the evolution of networks.”

According to George Dobrowski, chairman and president of both the former and new Broadband Forum, the complementary and sometimes overlapping work of both bodies made their merger a logical step. Both bodies enjoyed considerable common membership; both were already focused on driving the evolution of next-generation IP networks; and both had expanded their scopes to address technical and business requirements across home, access, core and carrier-to-carrier interconnect networks

Membership of BBF will grow six to eight percent “because we already have a lot of overlap,” Dobrowski said. “That was one of the rationales to make the most efficient use of our member companies.

“The merger will help ensure that we have seamless broadband network optimization and convergence,” he said. “And during these economic times, it made sense to make ourselves as efficient as possible” by reducing duplicative technical specification development and other work, often by members who had been forced to work simultaneously on certain solutions through separate organizations.

“As two separate organizations, we had to liaise as we were developing requirements that were dependent on the other organization’s work,” he explained. “We’ll be able to expedite that process. We will have more resources, wider expertise and the ability to make rapid strides in areas such as defining seamless end-to-end specifications, fostering greater interoperability, delivering enhanced quality-of -experience measurement, enabling greater mobile backhaul capabilities and supporting residential and business services.”

The IP/MPLS Forum has produced a dozen major industry specifications including those for IP backbone transport, virtual private network (VPN), MPLS-based mobile backhaul and, most recently, Carrier Ethernet. “We recently completed a certification test suite for MPLS mobile backhaul and circuit emulation over MPLS for TDM services,” said Andrew Malis, former IP/MPLS Forum chairman and president, and now vice president of the Broadband Forum.

Started in 1994 as the ADSL Forum, then DSL Forum and, in 2005, the Broadband Forum, the BBF has developed key access, control and home network specifications now regularly used as vendor requirements by network operators who represent 30 percent of overall BBF membership worldwide. In particular, BBF’s Broadband Home, Architecture and Transport, Testing, Operations and Marketing working groups have developed the TR 069 and TR-106 specifications to characterize the configuration and remote management of devices attached to consumer and business local area networks and to managed services provided by network operators.

“To improve customer experiences across all managed services, we need to have a consistent way of defining object models and parameters to manage devices for services to be delivered right down to the end device consuming the content,” Dobrowski said. “In home specifications, we’ve been working with groups like 3GPP who have adopted and collaborated on our management specs, for example.

“Our focus on technology-agnostic solutions doesn’t change,” he added. “We do develop technology-specific requirements” such as those for ADSL, VDSL and GPON access, “but not to the exclusion of any other technologies. We’ll continue to address specifications with MPLS being a big part of that for the core network. We will be guided by the service and application requirements of carriers and end users.”

Among other ongoing efforts, the new BBF will continue the IP/MPLS Forum’s mobile backhaul certification pilot, a project that leverages MPLS to provide support for multi-service applications with hierarchal QoS over a Circuit Emulation Services transport architecture that supports TDM, ATM, IP and Ethernet backhaul. Vendors already certified in Phase 1 of the initiative include Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Huawei and Juniper Networks, and more vendor testing is in progress, Malis said.

“We also will continue Carrier Ethernet Network Infrastructure work,” he noted. “Technology is already developed in the IETF [Internet Engineering Task Force] for virtual private LAN services, but that’s not enough. We’re expanding on IETF work to add QoS, resilience requirements, the ability to monitor traffic, support stacked Ethernet tags and so on” with some of that work “just getting underway.”

The new BBF will continue liaisons with a broad portfolio of industry consortia and standards bodies, including the IETF, ITU, Metro Ethernet Forum, Optical Internetworking Form, MultiService Forum, DVB, ATIS, ETSI, IEC, UPnP, DLNA and Home Gateway Initiative (HGI).

According to Malis, the two organizations already were starting to work together on a number of projects. “We’re ending up with convergence in service providers and vendors,” he said, “so it makes sense to have convergence in standards as well.”