Telco Network Virtualization Projects & Score Card - Tech | 5G, SDN/NFV & Edge Compute


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Telco Network Virtualization Projects & Score Card

When the SDN/NFV wave started in 2012, there were a lot of promises about new revenue opportunities, operational efficiency improvements and programmability. Let us take a look at the progress made by different Service Providers in virtualizing their network. 

(Also read: SDN Enabled Switches)
  1. AT&T Project Domain 2.0 is AT&T's virtualization project. AT&T rolled out a Domain 2.0 white paper in 2013, outlining their vision and approach to virtualize their network. Towards the end of 2014, John Donavan, the then Sr. Executive VP of Technology & Operations, said by 2020 they'll virtualize 75% of their network. Since then, AT&T has been sharing regular progress updates every year - against their virtualization targets. 
    • Verizon - Verizon hasn't been as vocal as AT&T on their virtualization goals. They published their reference architecture for SDN/NFV, in 2016. However, Verizon is the first to launch SD-WAN managed services to customers, way back in 2015. Verizon is building its own openstack based cloud platform called Verizon Cloud Platform (VCP) to host its virtual network services. In 2017, the company shared their plans of building 40 telco cloud datacenters, based on Verizon Cloud Platform stack. Verizon launched software based Virtual Network Services (VNS) bundles for enterprise customers which run on Universal CPE platform.  Verizon claimed in 2017, that Virtualization played a vital role in their 5G Tests and 5G is built ground up based on network virtualization. Nokia acknowledged in 2018 that it is collaborating with Verizon to build a Virtualized RAN (vRAN 2.0) architecture, for enabling 5G and IOT services.  
    • Vodafone - Project Ocean is Vodafone's network virtualization project. Vodafone announced their plans in 2016, claiming that their focus is to adopt SDN in IP and Optical network automation and resource optimization. Vodafone picked Nokia Nuage Virtualized Services Platform (VSP) and Mirantis Openstack to build their virtualization infrastructure. Early this year, Fran Heeran, who heads Vodafone's virtualization efforts, said their focus is virtualizing VoLTE and Evolved Packed Core (EPC) functions. He also said that their 5G network will leverage this infrastructure.
    • Telefonica - Project UNICA is Telefonica's network virtualization project. Telefonica announced Project UNICA in 2015, with a goal of virtualizing select network functions such as AAA, IMS, EPC, HSS and HLR. Telefonica also shared their network virtualization strategy in 2017, outlining the challenges that they are facing. Telefonica's virtualization infrastructure is based on Openstack, HP OpenNFV, Ericsson and NetScout. Telefonica is also actively driving Open Source MANO (OSM) community - though they are unhappy with the production readiness of OSM
    • Deutsche Telekom - Project PAN-Net isn't necessarily DT's virtualization project. However, DT sees an opportunity to connect multi-vendor networks together and offer cloud based virtualized network services through Project PAN-Net. PAN-Net aims at connecting the cross European service providers, to provide cloud based services. DT also launched a Zero Touch Network Services Management (NSM) project, by working with a number of network equipment vendors. So far, DT has launched a Virtualized Set Top Box (STB) solution, a Cloud VPN solution. In 2017, it appeared that PAN-Net has really not taken off, as per DT's expectations, as there are a lot of limitations in technology and industry support. But, Jean-Claude Geha, SVP in DT's international technology and services delivery operation said PAN-Net infrastructure is closer to completion and has produced a lot of virtualized applications.  DT is yet to make a decision on RAN virtualization, though it is planning for 5G. 
    As you can see, Network Virtualization still has a long way to go. Service Providers are still somewhere in the middle of their virtualization journey. Network Virtualization is quite complicated when compared to the cloud based services offered by the FANG companies. Simple functions like loadbalancers and firewalls are easy to virtualize, when compared to complex functions like EPC or vRAN. Hence, Service Providers may go well past 2020 to have a true 100% virtualized network. 

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