Broadband Forum unveils technical spec for MPLS in mobile backhaul

The Broadband Forum recently issued its "Technical Specification for MPLS in Mobile Backhaul Networks," a Technical Report that defines global requirements for the use of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) in mobile backhaul networks.

The Broadband Forum recently issued its "Technical Specification for MPLS in Mobile Backhaul Networks," a Technical Report that defines global requirements for the use of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) in mobile backhaul networks.

The industry group says the document, also known as TR-221, will speed deployments and lower costs as operators move from legacy TDM-based mobile systems to the newer packet-based 4G/LTE networks. Perhaps more significantly, they also claim it is "a critical part of establishing multi-vendor interoperability in converged MPLS-based backhaul networks."

The background to the technical document will sound familiar: The mobile industry is gearing up for explosive growth in IP traffic driven by new and enhanced mobile devices, from tablets and smartphones to multifunction gaming consoles. Mobile broadband traffic is growing exponentially and is expected to reach around 81 exabytes (1018 bytes) per month by 2015, according to the latest forecast from Cisco. Operators are responding to increased bandwidth demands by rolling out mobile networks based on next-generation 4G/LTE.

Each mobile generation has a different underlying technology: 2.5G is based on TDM, 3G is based on ATM, and the industry is moving to packet-based networking for 4G/LTE. "MPLS provides the single layer of glue that allows us to bring all these technologies together," explained Sultan Dawood, member of the Broadband Forum board of directors and senior marketing manager at Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO).

MPLS itself is a standard technology, of course, and has been widely deployed in carrier networks. But there are certain aspects of mobile backhaul that MPLS does not address, including timing and jitter, which is of crucial importance to voice traffic. While 2.5G and 3G networks based on synchronous networking have easy access to precise timing information, that’s not the case for 4G/LTE.

A variety of timing options for 4G/LTE are currently on the table, with the consequent risk of industry fragmentation as different vendors implement different options (see "Timing is Everything" from the September/October 2011 issue of Lightwave). That’s something the Broadband Forum hopes to nip in the bud. TR-221 also defines the global requirements of MPLS technology in mobile backhaul networks in respect of encapsulation, signaling and routing, QoS, OAM, resiliency, and security.

"Adherence to these requirements will create global standards for MPLS-oriented equipment, establishing more network interoperability, speeding deployments, and lowering the overall costs of the backhaul network, " the Broadband Forum claims.

"TR-221 is a significant step forward for the industry," said Ihab Tarazi, vice president of global IP and transport planning and technology for Verizon. "In the face of growing demand for bandwidth and quality of service from our users, we have been a keen participant in the development of the Broadband Forum’s new technical specifications. We hope to closely engage with members and partners regarding TR-221 to achieve a scalable, easy-to-manage and cost-effective mobile backhaul architecture that delivers services rapidly, economically and with quality to our mobile customers."





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