Heavy Reading

Access-Independent Gateways: The Edge of Next-Generation Networks

A cursory glance at the edge of the network of many of the world's incumbent wireline and wireless carriers reveals a substantial hole in the communications industry's assumptions about convergence and the transition to an all-IP network. Although the core network is destined to converge around IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) or IMS-like architectures over time, and there is abundant evidence of convergence in user terminals, the edge of the IP network has tended to be characterized by a proliferation of single-access gateways (SAGs) for each different wireline or wireless access network.

As the volumes of IP traffic coming onto these different access networks – and the variety of different multimedia IP traffic types – increase, carriers have to add an increasing number and variety of session and policy management platforms to ensure that these IP services are initiated and maintained with the right level of predictable carrier-grade service quality that users expect.

The emerging complexity at the edge of the network represents a significant burden on carrier operational expense (opex). In some network topologies it could also represent an obstacle to carriers' ability to lower latency to the levels required for some real-time IP services, including those in fixed/mobile convergence service scenarios that require session handoff between different access networks.

Access-Independent Gateways: The Edge of Next-Generation Networks assesses and analyzes the potential for the optimization of networking functionality at the edge of the network, focusing specifically on the potential of what Heavy Reading calls access-independent gateways (AIGs) to serve as new points of opex reduction and new revenue generation at the edge. This report details the origins of the transition in development priorities from SAGs to AIGs on the part of leading equipment vendors, as well as the factors that are causing different vendors to approach the opportunity in different ways. It evaluates the design and performance requirements for AIG equipment and the positioning of the different vendors for wireline AIGs, wireless AIGs, and converged AIGs that can support multiple wireline and wireless access networks.


Access-Independent Gateways: The Edge of Next-Generation Networks looks at the drivers and inhibitors to adoption and deployment of this emerging new product type among different types of carriers. It assesses the case for six different deployment scenarios and assesses the viability of each, together with relevant examples of adoption that have already taken place. Based on these assessments, the report provides forecasts that project the rate at which AIGs will supplant SAGs in wireline and wireless carrier networks over the next three years.

The heart of the report is a detailed competitive analysis and ranking of AIG technology suppliers, providing the industry’s first-ever independent analysis of this emerging product sector. Suppliers are analyzed and rated in these critical categories:

Best Wireline AIG
Best Wireless AIG
Best AIG Platform Strategy
Best Currently Available Converged AIG

For a complete list of technology suppliers reviewed and analyzed, click here.

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First-generation full-fledged converged AIGs, capable of supporting both broadband wireline and wireline access networks, are already on the market from Cisco, Huawei, and Redback Networks. A number of wireline networks are already managing gateway functionality for enterprise and consumer broadband services from a single multiservice edge device enabled to support both provider edge routing to enterprises and the broadband remote access server (B-RAS) functionality for consumer DSL subscribers. And one or two wireless carriers are looking to deploy packet data serving node (PDSN) or gateway GPRS support node (GGSN) functionality on the same gateway device as their access service node (ASN) gateway, so that they can manage subscriber access for their cellular and WiMax subscribers from a single point.

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Combined B-RAS and provider edge routers might be defined exclusively as "multiservice edge" or "Ethernet service edge" devices within the confines of wireline networking circles, but in the context of the future evolution of the network edge, multiservice edge devices and their equivalent cellular/WiMax/WiFi combinations can also be seen as first-generation AIG products. This trend in access gateway product development will ultimately culminate in common gateway platforms that can connect and route sessions from either enterprise or consumer customers, irrespective of whether they are using 3G or 4G cellular devices on the move, PCs or TVs in their homes, or enterprise PBXs in their offices.

Report Scope and Structure

Access-Independent Gateways: The Edge of Next-Generation Networks is structured as follows:

Section I is an introduction to the report, with complete report key findings.

Section II examines the edge of the IP network. It details the proliferation in different types of gateway and session and policy management platforms in the access network, particularly in the case of incumbent carriers that support multiple wireline and wireless access networks. It also describes the trend toward distribution of intelligence away from the core of the network to the edge in both wireline and wireless networks.

Section III profiles the rise of the AIG as a product type, defining both the basic mandatory and optional characteristics of an AIG. This section explains the base technology behind these new products, including the latest generation of multi-core processors and new commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based hardware designs, such as the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA). The impetus toward access independence in gateway design by standards bodies is also explained. This section also provides examples of products already on the market that meet Heavy Reading's definition of a wireline AIG, wireless AIG, or a converged AIG.

Section IV sets out the case for carriers deploying AIGs, detailing the potential in terms of opex and capital expenditure (capex) reductions, as well as the potential impact on lowering network latency and generating new revenue streams. We also explore the potential of AIGs to provide greater flexibility in network design, in an age when trends in new Internet applications and the way they are consumed are subject to dramatic changes and very short lifecycles.

Section V considers various commercial, technological, and organizational factors that are likely to cause carriers to postpone the introduction of AIGs, limit the amount of capability that is loaded into them, or reject their value proposition altogether.

Section VI provides a number of deployment models for AIGs, together with associated real-world examples depicting how AIGs are likely to feature in the upcoming consolidation of networking equipment at the edge of the networks.

Section VII offers Heavy Reading's forecasts for the rate at which AIGs will start to feature in vendor shipments and carrier deployments, as well as the rate at which carriers will begin to support more than one access network from the same access gateway node.

Section VIII ranks the network equipment vendors featured in this report, based on which companies have the "best presence in multiple discrete wireline and wireless SAGs," "best available converged AIG," "best wireless AIG," "best wireline AIG," and "best AIG platform strategy."

Section IX profiles 12 major equipment vendors and details their positioning in the AIG product space. Each company's strategy for the converged AIG space is highlighted, together with insight into what platform strategy will underpin it. Each company's position in the discrete SAG market is also considered, as a means of gauging its installed base of customers and prospects of taking that existing customer base forward.

Access-Independent Gateways: The Edge of Next-Generation Networks is essential reading for a wide range of industry participants, including the following:

Technology suppliers: How will the shift from SAGs to AIGs affect your business? Where are the new opportunities for market growth? Are your products and marketing messages in line with customer plans and expectations? Are there significant gaps in your product lines that need to be addressed to meet future demand?
Network operators: How do your plans for edge technology deployment compare with those of your competitors? Do your technology choices give you a clear competitive advantage in terms of cost and performance, or are there better alternatives? Which technology suppliers are best positioned to deliver the solutions you need for your converged service plans?
Investors: Which technologies are emerging as the winning solutions for next-gen network gateways, and which companies are the leading providers of those solutions? How will shifts in deployment patterns for gateways affect the telecom sector in the coming months and years?

Access-Independent Gateways: The Edge of Next-Generation Networks is published in PDF format.

PRICE: $3,995
Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
Donegan has 16 years' experience as a telecom market journalist, analyst, and strategist. His in-depth knowledge of wireless technology...
Click here for a full list of included vendors.
54 pages of analysis covering the transition from single-access gateways (SAGs) to access-independent gateways (AIGs), including detailed analyses of technology and business factors that will affect deployment plans for wireline and wireless operators
In-depth product and strategy analyses for 12 leading next-gen gateway suppliers, including the industry's first-ever independent ratings for AIG initiatives and market leadership
Heavy Reading's three-year market share forecast covering the accelerating transition from SAGs to AIGs
Business- and technology-case analyses addressing the key deployment and opex issues facing network operators regarding next-gen gateways
PRICE: $3,995
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