What trends will be impacting the broadband market in 2024? Ciena’s Vinicius Santos gives his predictions for 2024 and how network service providers can prepare to meet their business goals.

In 2023, the broadband market was characterized by rapid network expansion and evolution driven by massive public and private funding initiatives worldwide. This has taken place from rural areas to metropolitan city centers, where network coverage was expanded and improved to serve new communities. Worldwide public funding expanded broadband network coverage in under-served and unserved communities with the goal of bridging the Digital Divide.

These trends will, of course, continue into 2024, but we will also see a significant acceleration of network evolution and optimization to meet the performance requirements of new and emerging applications and use cases. In this blog, we look at three key broadband trends for 2024 and examine the key technologies and architectural approaches that will help providers meet their technology and business goals in the coming year.

1. New and emerging applications and use cases demand much faster network performance

The average consumption of bandwidth in the US is currently around 20mb/s at peak times, driven mostly by video streaming applications. While the continuous growth in adoption and quality of the video content will continue to drive more bandwidth requirements, a new wave of applications and services will demand much higher network performance, which translates into higher availability and bandwidth, combined with much lower latency.

To overcome this challenge, network operators are moving resources and processing power closer to the network edge, where content is created and consumed by end-users, both humans and machines. This is all about leveraging edge cloud, edge caching, and next generation IP to deliver the service experiences subscribers now expect, which require networks to be redesigned and optimized to support this new market reality.

Key app and end-user trends for 2024

  • Symmetrical broadband connectivity for remote, home, and hybrid working and content creation and distribution. Until recently, broadband network performance was measured in terms of download speed since most users were only content consumers. However, with millions of people worldwide working from home, using collaborative tools, and creating content, upload speed is also crucially important. As a result, we will continue to see new networking initiatives in 2024 that are aimed at reducing latency, increasing overall network performance, and – most importantly – at providing symmetry for download and upload speeds to remain competitive.
  • Connectivity packages with built-in endpoint security. As more rural and remote areas and communities are connected with faster broadband, the industry will experience a corresponding increase in security risks because many people will be banking, buying, and socializing online for the first time, making them more susceptible to scams and other security risks when compared to seasoned internet users.

    Rather than expecting new users to buy, install, and maintain anti-virus software on their endpoints, we will likely see more service providers offering security as a seamless, over-the-top (OTT) service to their customers in 2024. This is advantageous for customers, who will be able to benefit from transparent and up-to-date security services. This also benefits service providers, who can increase their revenues per subscriber and, ultimately, the bottom line.
2. Networks are evolving rapidly to meet new subscriber demands

The ability to meet subscriber’s increasing demands in 2024 depends upon the rapid evolution of network architectures to support more demanding application and service performance requirements. In particular, edge computing, edge caching, and faster connectivity solutions will be required to deliver the scalable, low-latency services residential subscribers now want and need.

Key network evolution trends for 2024

  • IP/Optical Convergence and User Plane disaggregation. Due to the demands of real-time apps and services, centralizing network intelligence in the core and ramping up Middle Mile and aggregation capacity is becoming unsustainable commercially. Additionally, this approach no longer guarantees the levels of performance and QoS that subscribers demand.

    To overcome these challenges, many operators will be moving the IP intelligence to the network edge, converging optical and IP infrastructure, and integrating Optical Line Terminals (OLTs) into IP routers. By collapsing these layers into a single device and bringing IP closer to the access network, operators will be able to shrink their network footprints and reduce energy requirements and costs significantly in the process.

    This approach also makes it possible to adopt a disaggregated and virtualized Broadband Network Gateway (vBNG) model, which allows the network User Plane to be deployed at the network edge and the creation of local breakouts. With local breakouts that simplify the adoption of edge cloud and caching, bandwidth requirements in the Middle Mile and aggregation network are reduced, and cloud app performance can be greatly improved.

    In these ways, convergence and disaggregation will continue to simplify operations, optimize the utilization of network resources, and reduce overall network costs in 2024. This approach will also help to deliver the required QoE (Quality of Experience) for real-time applications such as AR/VR entertainment, symmetry for upload and download speeds, and a host of other benefits.
  • Automation for multi-layer network management and operations. The growing trend towards convergence and disaggregation will drive new demand in 2024 for domain controllers that can span multiple network layers for more automation, better planning, and increased overall network efficiency. These kinds of tools will also help to ensure that latency-sensitive apps and services meet strict performance SLAs and support excellent end-customer experiences.

    The industry’s most advanced domain controllers now offer software-defined networking (SDN) capabilities with control for multi-layer infrastructure and network services. They also provide a single pane of glass view of the entire network, including broadband, optical, IP, and Ethernet infrastructure – increasing operational simplicity, enabling automated troubleshooting, and reducing software and training costs.
3. Network optimization for economic and environmental sustainability

For all broadband providers, the key to accessing private and public funding for network expansion is to connect homes quickly and at a low cost. Additionally, network infrastructure must be highly efficient and able to scale incrementally to avoid costly overprovisioning and to ensure that revenues stay aligned with investments.

As well as ensuring economic sustainability, however, many operators are now also required to report on their carbon emissions (including Scope 3 emissions from upstream and downstream supply chains and partners). To meet their carbon reduction targets, service providers need infrastructure that is highly efficient in terms of space requirements and energy consumption.

Key economic and environmental sustainability trends for 2024.

  • Networks that allow operators to start small and grow with subscriber needs. In 2024, operators will be deploying modular infrastructure that allows incremental scaling to protect economic sustainability. The leading solutions of this kind allow operators to start with a single XGS-PON pluggable in an optical-capable router and grow over time to offer as many XGS-PON ports as they need. Solutions can be potentially scaled by combining host and top-of-rack routers into an ‘Aggregate Node’ for very large-scale deployments.
  • Reduced carbon emissions based on the efficiencies of converged infrastructure. Many operators will be looking to further converge their IP and Optical networks in 2024 to minimize their environmental footprint. This is achieved by replacing switches and routers with a single, optical capable router and coherent pluggable optics – thereby delivering major space and power savings across the network footprint.

    Another way to increase sustainability is by deploying multi-layer domain controllers, which enable operators to design and manage networks sustainably from the outset. This kind of technology also provides the features needed to automate ongoing network operations and troubleshooting, helping to reduce site visits and associated emissions.

    Ciena’s Broadband Solution provides the purpose-built coherent capable routers, coherent pluggables, XGS-PON pluggable, vBNG, and multi-layer management and automation capabilities operators need to maintain pace with their customers’ needs in 2024 and well into the future. Our solutions deliver power efficiency improvements of up to 70% with a 75% improvement in footprint compared to previous-generation products.
Wishing you a fantastic 2024

Armed with these predictions and insights, you should be set for a great year. As your network coverage expands and improves, having a partner who can help with a strong, well-planned roadmap will get you there in a much shorter timeframe. Ciena can help ensure more bandwidth, faster transmission speeds, and more environmental and economic sustainability. You can contact the team to set up a meeting or get a personalized assessment of your Middle Mile networking needs and goals with Ciena’s Middle Mile Capacity Forecast calculator (and receive a full report based on your inputs).