Service providers have the rare opportunity to transform both their networks and businesses by embracing next-generation access technologies that deliver the webscale data center economies and cloud agility 5G and gigabit societies need.

By updating their networks holistically, operators can bring powerful virtualization, scalability and open capabilities that cut time to deliver new services, reduce operational costs and form the foundation for future technology advances and platform economies, says Kurt Raaflaub, head of strategic solutions marketing at ADTRAN, in an interview. Service providers that don’t extend this philosophy throughout their entire network risk the status quo of proprietary systems, vendor lock-in and inflexibility in a world that demands agility, he says.

That reality doesn’t change, whether a network operator is moving to a next-generation technology such as 5G or small cells, or looking at or gigabit over copper, or moving to next-generation fiber-to-the-home technologies such as C-PON or NG-PON 2, Raaflaub says. The "battle cry" needs to be using these modern infrastructures, "otherwise you’re just going to basically paint yourself into a corner and be much, much less competitive than you could be," he adds.

And that’s equally true for European operators trying to execute on the Gigabit Society from the European Commission and North American operators facing intense competition from OTT and pay-TV video players as well.

Many carriers in both markets already use or plan to use CORD in their central office, a 2016 IHS Markit study found.

During Mobile World Congress Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) shared recent developments in its CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter) and software-defined access (SD-Access) initiatives. The vendor is combining expertise in NG-PON2 and Ethernet-based access and transport systems with open, standards-based approaches to empower service providers to leverage operators’ 5G densification deployments.

"They now have the opportunity to embrace a more open, programmable, scalable access network in order to achieve the network growth, performance and diversity demanded by end users and regulators alike," said Ronan Kelly, CTO EMEA and APAC for ADTRAN in a release. "In that context an SD-Access architecture provides the ideal foundation for scalable, sharable mobile access and x-haul, driving availability, flexibility and choice in 5G services, and is a pressing use case for next-generation fixed broadband technologies such as multi-wavelength NG-PON2."

Plugged in to CORD

As an early implementer, ADTRAN’s open CORD-based architecture was designed to simplify the process typically associated with unifying operator services over fiber, wireless, cable and copper. Rather than using multiple, siloed systems based on proprietary technologies, ADTRAN’s architecture allows operators to use a network platform for one open, seamless network, says Raaflaub. ADTRAN’s R-CORD (or residential CORD) platforms help participants in the company’s 25-plus customer trials to compete with cloud-based competitors using network programmability akin to that found in data centers, using a homogenous interface regardless of access technology.

"R-CORD is a next-generation broadband reference architecture. It supports residential, obviously, but also business and backhaul or XL services over a converged access architecture to do with all types of fiber technology. You can also have those next-generation access technologies," says Raaflaub. "We’re bringing data center economies and cloud agility to service providers. When you have these CORD architectures and then you have these very, very robust physical layer technologies like NG-PON2, and you put them together, it’s the first time in history [where] we have the ability to deliver a single, converged network for all services."

Previously, service providers needed ten or 20 networks to deliver one service; with CORD and open access technologies, they now can offer multiple services out of the same port, he adds.

SD-Access update

To reap the full rewards of 5G and its promises of speeds up to 100-times faster than 4G networks and low latency, service providers must deploy many radios closer to the network edge; align as an industry on transport-friendly Ethernet backhaul, and extend software-defined networks (SDN) and networks function virtualization (NFV) initiatives into their 5G mobile networks via SD-Access, according to ADTRAN.

By developing XGS-PON, 10G EPON and NG-PON2 SD-Access solutions based on CORD, ADTRAN allows Fixed Access Network Sharing (FANS) and access-sharing between operators and accelerates the implementation of 5G mobile networks, the vendor says. The alternative? Remaining "shackled to the default, siloed, proprietary approaches of old," says Erik Keith, principal analyst of Global Telecom Technology and Software at GlobalData, in a statement.

Adoption of SD-Access technologies like ADTRAN Mosaic gives service providers the basis for scalable, shareable mobile access and x-haul – and availability, flexibility and options in 5G services, Raaflaub says.

"Now the connection between the data center or the cloud edge, the subscriber edge, and these virtualized services on both ends, [are] one big cohesive system that gets the value to accelerate technology and onboard new services," he adds.


ADTRAN is a leading global provider of networking and communications equipment. Our products enable voice, data, video and Internet communications across a variety of network infrastructures. Our solutions are currently in use by service providers, private enterprises, government organizations and millions of individual users worldwide.