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mobile operators join forces to work on fixed broadband and 5g convergence strategy.

Vodafone and BT support fixed broadband and converged 5G project

The Broadband Forum has revealed that Deutsche Telekom, BT and Vodafone among others have given their support to a new scheme designed to develop an Open Broadband standard. The WWC Reference Implementation for 5G Residential Gateways (RG) will bring the benefits of 5G to fixed line broadband with a number of telecoms operators worldwide already woking on convergence schemes.

BT has been working towards convergence since it merged with EE, and 02 and Virgin Media are expected to follow suit in the near future. But the path ahead is not without its challenges as most aggregation and core networks are completely disparate. It helps to explain the delays in BT launching its Halo and associated products.

A tighter coupling

In its 2021 white paper on convergence, the Wireless Broadband Alliance outlined a path to a tighter coupling of telecoms technologies, calling it a win-win for all end users of cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

The report outlines a number of critical action areas for operators and industry bodies, breaking their suggestions down into five critical areas: WiFi and 5G convergence architecture, end to end quality of service (QoS) with differentiation within WLAN systems for 5G flows, additional support for WiFi only devices without SIM capability within the 5G system, policy enhancements and interworking across both technologies and multi-access functionality for Access Traffic Steering, Switching and Splitting (ATSSS).

According to Howard Watson, chief technology and information officer at BT Group, the dividing lines between the two services are beginning to blur, giving customers the ability to focus on what they use their connectivity for, not how it's delivered. He called on operators, infrastructure providers and device vendors to work closely on delivering new fully converged solutions.

Open source

The open source idea behind the proposed OB-5WWC is to provide a 5G stack solution capable of integration with frameworks including the OpenWRT/RDK-B. The integration of the 5G Quality of Service (QoS) model means that the 5G-RG network will also be capable of supporting 5G capabilities and signalling protocols, while connecting services.

With the right kind of support behind the convergence project, related products could be brought to market in a much shorter timeframe benefitting vendors, operators and end users.

David Woolley, Project Leader on the Broadband Forum's OB-5WWC inititative, said that it would help to fulfill the need for convergence that will ensure the full benefits of the 5G ecosystem are realised while fulfilling a fundamental need for high-quality connectivity. He added that the OB-5WWC project had already received huge support from the community of service providers and would now call on all interested parties across the industry, including manufacturers, integrators and vendors to share ideas and join the project.

The endgame will be to benefit consumers by developing seamless and cost-effective market solutions for 5G and fixed broadband convergence. While some customers may prefer not to be tied down to one supplier, the convergence of 6E, 5G and WiFi 6 has limitless potential for Industry 4.0, smart cities and residential connectivity.

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