Telefónica's delayed Open Broadband project on starting blocks

By  | 9 November 2022

Telefónica confirmed that the commercial launch of its long‑gestated Open Broadband project will take place in Brazil during 2023, around two years later than previously advertised.

In the publication of its results for the three months to 30 September 2022 (Q3 FY22), Telefónica said laboratory and field tests have “progressed well during 2022 and commercial rollout is expected for 2023 in Brazil”.

The fixed‑access network project involves the development of a new “open, scalable, and virtualised” fibre architecture with a view to preparing for the higher speeds and capabilities that XGS‑PON could bring. A commercial deployment in Brazil was originally expected to take place by the end of 2021.

Telefónica is working with Edgecore and Radisys on the XGS‑PON‑ready technology (Telefónicawatch, #156). In October, the telco said it will use Radisys’ Connect Open Broadband portfolio for its disaggregated broadband solution on a commercial network, supporting both consumer and enterprise customers.

Other details of the Group's longer-term project to increase fibre network speeds, “from 1Gbps to 50Gbps”, were also provided in the Q3 FY22 report, along with the fact that open access fixed customer premises equipment (CPE) reached 48.6 million, including 11.8 million Home Gateway Units (HGU), representing 95% of fibre‑to-the‑premises customers.

Telefónica continues to highlight progress in virtualising the application layer of CPE as part of migrating to a more open fibre infrastructure. This will enable it to work with third parties on delivery of services over the network, and support remote updates and maintenance.

Telefónica also pointed to the “massive deployment” of single‑agent architecture in more than four million HGUs in Spain, with tests in Brazil and Hispam during 2022.

Open goals

Open Broadband is one of a number of Group projects focused on openness and virtualisation, both for fixed and mobile networks. However, the delayed deployment of projects points to the inherent complexity of disaggregating hardware and software in network equipment and achieving openness targets.

On open RAN, another flagship project, Telefónica recently appeared to row back on adoption plans following a series of bold declarations in late‑2020 and early‑2021.

The Group now states that it expects between 30% and 50% of upgrades to feature open RAN between 2023 and 2025, indicating a considerable dilution of previous near‑term ambitions of 50% of upgrades between 2022 and 2025.

Telefónica is not alone in its exploration of fixed‑network disaggregation, although the likes of BT and Deutsche Telekom have been open about the challenge of implementing such change. At the recent NGMN Industry Conference, representatives from Deutsche Telekom discussed the difficulties that disaggregation introduces, particularly in network operations, skills, and integration, following its experience with the live O‑RAN Town deployment in Neubrandenburg, Germany.

DT also flagged in early‑2021 that its long‑gestated, software‑defined broadband delivery platform Access 4.0 had gone into operation in Germany. However, it remains unclear when the operator will roll out the platform across Telekom Deutschland's central offices in Germany. Danny Al‑Gaaf, Senior Cloud Technologist at DT, recently indicated that the platform is using products from Germany‑based open source software provider SUSE for central management.

BT Chief Technology Officer Howard Watson has also sounded a cautious note when it comes to RAN disaggregation. Speaking at the NGMN Industry Conference, the CTO warned that “we really do need to acknowledge the scale of the work that we need to do as operators”, also flagging security as a key challenge.

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