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Five-Star Criteria for Private Lines Helping Carriers Expand B2B Services

The criteria redefines the key indicators for enterprise private lines in five dimensions: high availability, large bandwidth, low latency and jitter, service agility, and online self-management. These guide carriers and device vendors through providing differentiated private line products and services.

By Zhao Wenyu, Leader of the Cloud & Private Line Workgroup at NGOF

Since its establishment in December 2017, the Next Generation Optical Transport Network Forum (NGOF) has been dedicated to promoting the development of the global optical network industry by building an open, cooperative platform. Premium private lines are a key topic that the NGOF has focused on since its establishment, and a dedicated cloud and private line workgroup has been set up. Based on an adequate survey on the actual service requirements of financial companies, Internet enterprises, and scientific research institutes, the workgroup officially released the High-quality Private Line for Cloud Era Technical White Paper. They proposed a unified five-star criteria system for premium private lines to provide guidance for upstream and downstream industry partners to build premium private line networks. China's top three carriers have fully recognized the value of premium private lines, and promoted the construction of premium private line networks in each province in China, driving the growth of B2B services. Premium private lines are here. 

Huawei

Unsatisfied Demand for High-End Private Lines

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), 85% of enterprise applications will be deployed in the cloud by 2025. Gartner reports that the cloud computing market is expected to hit US$143.5 billion by 2020. The ever-growing demand for enterprise cloudification drives the rapid growth of the global enterprise private line market. China's top three carriers have consistently achieved 10% or higher revenue growth in private lines for several consecutive years, while China Mobile achieved 32.5% growth in 2018. In addition to this, the proportion of government and enterprise services is becoming more and more important to the total revenue of carriers.

However, there is still a wide gap between the bandwidth of private lines for government and enterprise customers and that of home broadband and Internet private lines. Before 2008, the bandwidth ranged from 2 Mbit/s to 4 Mbit/s for all site-to-site private lines, Internet private lines, and home broadband. In 2018, the bandwidth of home broadband ranged from 100 Mbit/s to 500 Mbit/s, while for Internet private lines it ranged from 50 Mbit/s to 100 Mbit/s. In contrast, the bandwidth of site-to-site private lines remains 4 Mbit/s to 10 Mbit/s, equal to merely 4% of home broadband bandwidth. As a result, high-value enterprise customers are dissatisfied with this bandwidth, while also demanding low latency, high availability, and flexible service provisioning.

A survey of the requirements of government and enterprise customer undertaken by the NGOF shows that government customers place greater emphasis on security, whereas financial customers value security and latency. OTT and healthcare customers value bandwidth and latency, but bandwidth elasticity is critical to healthcare customers. All customers agree that provisioning time is important. In conclusion, private line service requirements can be boiled down to five dimensions: high availability, low latency, high bandwidth, bandwidth elasticity, and fast provisioning. Therefore, carriers need to consider these five dimensions as they strive to market differentiated products and services.

5 Starts Specification

Five-Star Criteria Driving Innovation of Premium Private Lines 

In response to this market demand, the NGOF industry alliance has proposed the five-star criteria, which consists of five indicators: guaranteed bandwidth, high availability, low latency and jitter, service agility, and online self-management. The criteria also defines five levels of premium private lines based on differentiated user experience. 

  • Guaranteed bandwidth: Enterprise private lines need to provide guaranteed bandwidth based on end-to-end physical network isolation, and encrypt data based on different levels.
  • High availability: Enterprise private lines need to deliver a link availability exceeding 99%. The link availability can vary from 99% to 99.99% based on different levels.
  • Low latency and jitter: The NGOF quantifies the latency and jitter based on different levels. It does this by using the E2E provisioning latency per 1000 km private line and the difference between the actual route latency and provisioning latency as the evaluation metrics.
  • Service agility: The NGOF quantifies the service provisioning time, which starts when an enterprise customer subscribes online to a private line service to the time when the carrier delivers the service to the customer. The service provisioning time can range from months to minutes, based on different levels.
  • Online self-management: Allows enterprise customers to manage private line KPIs in a visualized manner, and customize differentiated private line service policies on demand.

Based on the criteria and comprehensive comparison between various private line specifications, we find that packet enhanced OTN is the best technology for premium private lines. In the past two years, China's top three carriers have adhered to the NGOF's criteria and built large premium private line networks using OTN technology, accelerating the growth of their private line service revenue.

Great Achievements in OTN Premium Private Line Construction

Inspired by the five-star criteria, China's top three carriers have started large scale deployment of their premium private lines. In November 2018, China Mobile started to construct the world's largest OTN premium private line network, with a focus on international interconnections and high-value government and enterprise private networks. On the other hand, China Telecom has created the "FIRST" premium private line product portfolio. By building E2E all-optical networks covering the whole country, China Telecom improves the competitiveness of its premium private lines. China Unicom extends premium private line services from the financial field to governments and other industries, and builds differentiated private line services for different industries and markets. Until now, the provincial branches of China's top carriers have constructed more than 20 premium OTN private line networks. 

The NGOF is sharing the industry innovation and business practices in the Chinese market with optical network industry organizations in Europe and other regions to promote the prosperity of the global optical network industry. During ECOC 2019, the NGOF shared China's innovative practices in premium private line construction, hoping to help carriers in other countries. In December 2019, Thailand's CAT released the first OTN premium private line network in Thailand, serving large- and medium-sized enterprises in the public and private sectors across Thailand and laying a solid network foundation for Thailand's 2020 digital transformation. We hope that more operators can benefit from premium private lines in the future.

Wider Application of Premium Private Lines Facilitated by Small-Granularity OTN Technologies

In the future, OTN technologies will adapt to market requirements to provide high-quality connection services for industries in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. Currently, the bandwidth granularity of the OTN technology is large, and the smallest bandwidth granularity is 1.25G (ODU0). However, most services in the market require less than 100M. As a result, the current technical solutions are complex. By contrast, the emerging small-granularity OTN technology can provide smaller bandwidth granularities, offering greater flexibility and simplicity. 

A smaller-granularity OTN technology project has been initiated in China Communications Standards Association (CCSA), and the private line project in the NGOF is also exploring the possibility of applying OTN in the following scenarios:

  • Smaller-granularity and more flexible services: Flexible adjustment of service granularities from Mbit/s to Gbit/s, which is no longer limited by the traditional ODU0 granularity and supports almost all service granularities, such as SDH, Ethernet, packet switching, and OTN switching.
  • More economical resource utilization: Services similar to private lines can be provided for small- and medium-sized enterprises and even individuals. For example, flexible and small bandwidth can be adjusted losslessly when needed while reserving high-quality features of traditional OTN private lines. 
  • Lower latency: The data switching mechanism can be simplified and service processes can be minimized to reduce device latency for delay-sensitive scenarios, such as financial systems, autonomous driving, intelligent industrial manufacturing, and large-scale collaborative computing. 

The global optical network industry never ceases to innovate. We believe that more breakthroughs will be made in 2020 through the collaborative innovation of upstream and downstream partners in the industry, bringing premium private line service experience to more enterprise users.