Thursday, 4 March 2021

The Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G)

Back in Feb 2020, ETSI announced the launch of a new group dedicated to specifying the fifth generation of Fixed Network (ETSI ISG F5G). The press release said:

We are entering an exciting new era of communications, and fixed networks play an essential role in that evolution alongside and in cooperation with mobile networks. Building on previous generations of fixed networks, the 5th generation will address three main use cases, a full-fiber connection, enhanced fixed broadband and a guaranteed reliable experience.

For home scenarios, emerging services such as Cloud VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) video streaming or online gaming introduce the necessity for ultra-broadband, extremely low latency and zero packet loss. Business scenarios such as enterprise Cloudification, leased line, or POL (Passive Optical LAN) require high reliability and high security. Other industry sectors have specific requirements on the deployment of fiber infrastructures including environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature or electromagnetic interference.

The ETSI ISG F5G aims at studying the fixed-network evolution required to match and further enhance the benefits that 5G has brought to mobile networks and communications. It will define improvements with respect to previous solutions and the new characteristics of the fifth-generation fixed network. This opens up new opportunities by comprehensively applying fiber technology to various scenarios, turning the Fiber to the Home paradigm into Fiber to Everything Everywhere.

ISG F5G considers a wide range of technologies, and therefore seeks to actively cooperate with a number of relevant standardization groups as well as vertical industrial organizations. ISG F5G will address aspects relating to new ODN technologies (Optical Distribution Network), XG(S)-PON and Wi-Fi 6 enhancements, control plane and user plane separation, smart energy efficiency, end-to-end full-stack slicing, autonomous operation and management, synergy of Transport and Access Networks, and adaptation of the Transport Network, amongst others.

The five work items approved last week deal with:

  • F5G use cases: the use cases include services to consumers and enterprises and will be selected based on their impact in terms of new technical requirements identified.
  • Landscape of F5G technology and standards: this work will study technology requirements for F5G use cases, explore existing technologies, and perform the gap analysis.
  • Definition of fixed network generations: to evaluate the driving forces and the path of fixed network evolution, including transport, access and on-premises networks. It will also identify the principal characteristics demarcating different generations and define them.
  • Architecture of F5G: this will specify the end-to-end network architectures, features and related network devices/elements’ requirements for F5G, including on-premises, Access, IP and Transport Networks.
  • F5G quality of experience: to specify the end-to-end quality of experience (QoE) factors for new broadband services. It will analyze the general factors that impact service performance and identify the relevant QoE dimensions for each service.

Then in May, at Huawei Global Analyst Summit 2020 (#HAS2020), Huawei invited global optical industry leaders to discuss F5G Industry development and ecosystem construction, and launched the F5G global industry joint initiative to draw up a grand blueprint for the F5G era. The press conference video is as follows:

Then in September 2020, ETSI released a whitepaper, "The Fifth Generation Fixed Network: Bringing Fibre to Everywhere and Everything"

Now there are couple of standards available that provides more insights.

ETSI GR F5G 001 - Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G); F5G Generation Definition Release #1:

In the past, the lack of a clear fixed network generation definition has prevented a wider technology standards adoption and prevented the creation and use of global mass markets. The success of the mobile and cable networks deployments, supported by clear specifications related to particular technological generations, has shown how important this generation definition is.

The focus of the 5th generation fixed networks (F5G) specifications is on telecommunication networks which consist fully of optical fibre elements up to the connection serving locations (user, home, office, base station, etc.). That being said, the connection to some terminals can still be assisted with wireless technologies (for instance, Wi-Fi®).

The main assumption behind the present document foresees that, in the near future, all the fixed networks will adopt end-to-end fibre architectures: Fibre to Everywhere.

The present document addresses the history of fixed networks and summarizes their development paths and driving forces. The factors that influence the definition of fixed, cable and mobile network generations will be analysed. Based upon this, the business and technology characteristics of F5G will be considered.

This table comparing the different generations of fixed networks is interesting too

ETSI GR F5G 002 - Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G); F5G Use Cases Release #1:

The present document describes a first set of use cases to be enabled by the Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G). These use cases include services to consumers and enterprises as well as functionalities to optimize the management of the Fifth Generation Fixed Network. The use cases will be used as input to a gap analysis and a technology landscape study, aiming to extract technical requirements needed for their implementations. Fourteen use cases are selected based on their impact. The context and description of each use case are presented in the present document.

The use cases as described in the present document are driving the three dimensions of characteristics that are specified in the document on generation definitions [i.1], namely eFBB (enhanced Fixed BroadBand), FFC (Full-Fibre Connection), and GRE (Guaranteed Reliable Experience). Figure 2 shows that:

  • depending on the use case, one or more dimensions are particularly important, and
  • all dimensions of the F5G system architecture are needed to implement the use cases.

I will surely be adding more stuff as and when it is available.

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