Adtran Connect 2017: The Software-Defined Future of the Network


… took center stage. One thing that most folks seem to agree with: There’s plenty that remains unknown with 5G, beyond: “It’s coming.”

That might be especially true relative to fiber investments. Rob Howald, Comcast VP of network architecture, fielding a question following his presentation on “The Future of MSO/Cable Access,” said Comcast is thinking plenty about 5G even as it continues to push fiber deeper into its footprint. In other words: The two certainly aren’t mutually exclusive, but there will likely be impacts.

Earlier in the day, Verizon’s director of network planning, Vincent O’Byrne, who’d shared the company’s NG-PON2 road map en route to 10 gigabit speeds and beyond, fielded a more pointed question from the audience: Will 5G cannibalize the residential fiber market? O’Byrne pointed out there’s still much to be determined about 5G, especially around cost structure, not to mention when and where it will be deployed.

In his keynote, Hussain said that, today, wireless data generated via mobile devices – and increasingly other connected devices, aka IoT – pass an enormous amount of data through CenturyLink’s network, and fiber is key. That’s actually a big challenge for operators like CenturyLink (and a story for another day), but it points to the intersections between wireline and wireless connections that aren’t likely to wash away in the 5G era.

In other words: Don’t expect fiber to go away anytime soon. Definitely expect, on the other hand, to increasingly hear the word “software” in networking contexts going forward. Some pretty big names are betting on it.

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