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Your guide to network terminology

FTTH/FTTx/FTTP

Fibre to the home, fibre to the premises or fibre to the X. How close can you get your high-speed fibre network to the end user? These terms relate to that. 

Often combined with phrases like last mile delivery, discussions around FTTx tend to focus on what to do once you have got as close as you can with fibre. 

The answer usually involves small cell mobile nodes or legacy copper cables. More and more though, the conversation has become more about fibre to the premises (a block of flats or offices), then fibre in the home or office, to fibre to the desk.

Next-generation networks

A catch-all term for the networks of the future. With convergence between fixed-line and mobile, the technology mix needed to bring high-speed connectivity to all becomes more complex. 

Whereas before pure wireless, copper or fibre networks existed, next-generation networks are a hybrid of technologies, from copper based running DOCSIS, to passive fibre or next-generation passive optical networks (NG-PON) and small cell mobile connected to a pure fibre backhaul. 

These fast, hybrid networks will enable 5G, a next-generation network that will power smart cities, the Internet of Things, self-drive cars, as well as VR and AR 360 4k video.

Open Source / Open telco

Open source in telco (often called open telco) refers to the disagregation of networking hardware and software from propriertary systems to common, shared 'open source' software stacks that can be copied and modified under a developer licence.
As telcos gravitate towards cloud, network functions virtualisation (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN), open source solutions are becoming more important to drive down costs, encourage collaboration, reduce complexity, better agility and improve security.
Developments in open NFV and SDN include  OPNFV and OpenDaylight.

5G

Faster speeds. Lower latency. Increased availability. Improved reliability. Innovative new usecases. More cost-effective mobile networks. That’s the 5G promise.
In a world that’s always on, network operators need to be able to scale existing 4G networks while transitioning to 5G—and maintain profitability throughout.
5G is heralded as the technology that powers smart cities, IoT, autodrive cars, as well as VR and AR.
To make it work requires inviestment in technology such as NVF, SDN, Network Slicing and AI, as well as a core fibre network and small cell infrastructure.

NFV/SDN

Network Function Virtualisation and Software Defined Networks are technolgies associated with a move away from a proprietary hardware stack and allow a more flexible network vital for 5G and converged networks. Functions like routing, load balancing and firewalls are packaged as virtual machines with NFV. 

The aim is to simplify and speed up services. SDN is network architecture that is dynamic, manageable and adaptable. SDN allows network infrastructure to be  fully programmable. One protocol used in SDN is the OpenFlow.

Edge Computing and Multi-access Edge Computing

Edge computing is a system for optimising applications, to take some proportion of the computational power of that application away from the central node or core. In IoT, this means taking data applying analytics in the IoT device itself, rather than sending that data back to the core to analyse. In telco, the idea of Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) is a network architecture concept that enables cloud computing capabilities at the edge of a cellular network.

Fixed Wireless Access

Fixed wireless access (FWA) is the operation of wireless communication devices or systems used to connect two fixed locations (e.g., building to building or tower to building) with a radio or other wireless link, such as laser bridge. Usually, fixed wireless is part of awireless LAN infrastructure.

Legacy Networks

A legacy network is the generic name assigned to any old network, which is rarely used today and not part of the TCP/IP protocol suite. Legacy networks are mostly proprietary to individual vendors, and are in the midst of being replaced to enable speed and efficiency

G.Fast Technology

G.fast is a digital subscriber line (DSL) protocol standard for local loops shorter than 500 m, with performance targets between 0.1 and 1 Gbit/s, depending on loop length. G.fast is delivered via a street-side fibre-connected extension cabinet bolted to the serving copper-line cabinet also known as the primary connection point (PCP). G.fast leverages the advances in twisted-copper-line broadband technology to increase the spectrum used (bandwidth), noise mitigation and error correction mechanisms to deliver much faster speeds2; the trade-off being that this is only possible with much shorter copper-line lengths than VDSL2 or ADSL2+. 

PON/GPON

A passive optical network (PON) is a telecommunications technology used to provide fiber to the end consumer, both domestic and commercial. Passive optical networks are often referred to as the "last mile" between an ISP and customer.

The successor to APON/BPON is GPON, which has a variety of speed options ranging from 622 Mbps symmetrical (the same upstream/downstream capacity) to 2.5 Gbps downstream and 1.25 Gbps upstream.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. AI is increasingly being used in the broadband industry to deliver increased speed and efficiency to consumers and enterprises, and to improve network performance and increase customer satisfaction.

Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of Wi-Fi. It’ll still do the same basic thing — connect you to the internet — with additional technologies to make that happen more efficiently, speeding up connections in the process. Wi-Fi 6 will increase from 3.5 Gbps on Wi-Fi 5 to 9.6 Gps. 

Wi-Fi 6 accomplishes this through more efficient data encoding, resulting in higher throughput. Mainly, more data is packed into the same radio waves. The chips that encode and decode these signals keep getting more powerful and can handle the extra work.

Virtualization

In computing, virtualization refers to the act of creating a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, including virtual computer hardware platforms, storage devices, and computer network resources. Virtualization underpins the emerging NFV and SDN technologies in the telecommunications industry today.