Italians clearly aren’t that suspicious of Huawei

Despite governments around the world turning against Chinese vendors, Telecom Italia has agreed a new partnership with Huawei based on Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) technology.

As part of a strategy aimed at evolving TIM’s network solutions for business customers, Huawei’s SD-WAN technology will be incorporated to create a new TIM service model which will allow customers companies to manage their networks through a single console.

“Today, more than ever, companies need networks that can adapt to different business needs over time, in particular to enable Cloud and VoIP services,” said Luigi Zabatta, Head of Fixed Offer for TIM Chief Business & Top Clients Office. “Thanks to the most advanced technologies available, these networks can be managed both jointly and by customers themselves through simple tools.

“The partnership with Huawei allows us to expand our value proposition for companies and to enrich our offer through the adoption of a technological model that is increasingly and rapidly emerging in the ICT industry.”

The partnership is a major win for Huawei considering the pressure the firm must be feeling over suspicions being peaked around the world. Just as more countries are clamping down on the ability for Huawei to do business, TIM has offered a windfall.

Aside from the on-going Chinese witch hunt over in the US, the Australians have banned Huawei from participating in the 5G bonanza and Korean telcos have left the vendor off preferred supplier lists. Just to add more misery, the UK is seemingly joining in on the trends.

In recent weeks, a letter was sent out from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the National Cyber Security Centre, warning telcos of potential impacts to the 5G supply chain from the Future Telecom Infrastructure Review. China was not mentioned specifically, and neither was Huawei, but sceptical individuals might suggest China would be most squeezed by a security and resilience review.

The rest of the world might be tip-toeing around the big question of China, but this partnership suggests TIM doesn’t have the same reservations.

Nokia launches some actual applications for SDN

All the hype surrounding software-defined networking is finally starting to yield some tangible results in the form of three apps from Nokia.

Deciding to kill two buzzwords with one stone, Nokia is claiming its new WaveSuite open applications will jump-start optical network digital transformation. It consists of three apps: Service Enablement, Node Automation and Network Insight. The point of these apps is apparently to offer businesses a new degree of access to networks that is expected to yield novel commercial opportunities.

To help us get our heads around this new piece of networking arcana we spoke to Kyle Hollasch, Director of Marketing for Optical Networking at Nokia. He was most keen to focus on the service enablement app, which he said is “the first software that tackles the issue of resell hierarchy.”

Specifically we’re talking about the reselling of fixed line capacity. This app is designed to massively speed up the capacity reselling process, with the aim of turning it into a billable service. The slide below visualises the concept, in which we have the actual network owner at the base and then several levels of capacity reselling, allowing greater degrees of specialisation and use-case specific solutions.

Nokia WaveSuite slide 1

The node automation app allows network nodes to be controlled via an app on a smartphone, thanks to the magic of SDN. In fact this would appear to be the epitome of SDN as it’s only made possible by that technology. The slide below shows how is it is, at least in theory, possible to interact with a network element via a smartphone, which also opens up the ability to use other smartphone tools such as the GPS and camera.

Nokia WaveSuite slide 2

The network insight app seems to do what is says on the tin, so there doesn’t seem to be the need for further explanation at this stage. “These innovations are the result of years of working closely with our customers to address all aspects of optical networking with open applications enhancing not just operations, but opening up new services and business models,” said Sam Bucci, Head of Optical Networks for Nokia.

As a milestone in the process of virtualizing networks and all the great stuff that’s supposed to come with that, the launch of actual SDN apps seems significant. Whether or not the market agrees and makes tangible business use of these is another matter, however, and only time will tell if good PowerPoint translates into business reality.

Maximizing Value from Digitalization and Virtualization

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece the MVNOs Series team explores two of the key terms used to describe the next phase of the digital journey: digitalization and virtualization.

We are living through an age of digital transformation. Since the development of the first digital computers in the middle of last century, the march of the byte – the basic unit of digital information – has been unstoppable, infiltrating virtually every aspect of human activity.

It is tempting to look around and see our lives as fully digitized, what with the prevalence of computers and laptops at work and in the home, smartphones and other mobile devices, the internet and the Cloud, and the perceptible shift of activities that once took place exclusively in the physical world into the virtual.

But all the signs are that we have perhaps only just reached the end of the beginning of the digital journey. The potential transformational impact of emerging technologies – the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data analytics, virtualized networks – could dwarf anything that has gone before. And the mobile industry has a central stake in all of them.

According to joint analysis from the World Economic Forum and Accenture, if the right opportunities are grasped in the right ways, the combined value-add of digital transformation to industry and society over the next 10 years stands at $100 trillion. Such is its critical importance as enabler and carrier of digital progress, providing the “access, interconnectivity and applications” on which it is built, telecoms stands to benefit to the tune of $2 trillion in additional value.

Put simply, connectivity is a vital ingredient in the joined-up digital world we are emerging into. Thanks to its ubiquity and scale, no technology is better placed to deliver than mobile.

Understanding Digitalization: Transforming Operations and Business Models

Defining the meaning of the term digitalization attracts some debate, a reflection of the fact that it is a relatively new concept where consensus and shared understanding is still emerging. Some of this controversy centres on whether the term should describe the use of digital technology to change/upgrade specific business operations or the creation of entirely new business models, and how it therefore relates to the concept of digital transformation.

Behind all the semantic wrangling, it is important to acknowledge that digital technology is having a significant impact on the mobile industry at both an operational and strategic level. Under pressure to keep up with consumer demand, to not be left behind in the digital arms race and to arrest the slide in declining revenues from traditional voice services, operators view digitalization as both a means of protecting margins by cutting costs and of creating new revenue streams with innovative services geared for new markets.

As well as these competitive pressures towards internal transformation, the mobile industry also has a special relationship with digitalization in the wider economy. As connectivity is widely accepted as an essential ingredient in delivering smart, integrated, hyper-networked digital systems, mobile has been described as the glue which can hold digitalized operations and services across all sectors together. The mobile industry therefore controls a resource that is critical to the entire concept of digitalization – a key part of the digitalization experience for mobile operators is therefore how they can cash in on that value.

Digitalization of mobile

Another factor which muddies the waters when it comes to getting to grips with what digitalization means for mobile is the fact that, across many industries, digital transformation is often viewed as synonymous with cloud migration. If that were the case, then large swathes of the mobile industry, particularly MVNOs that operate as online-only, cloud-based businesses, meet the criteria for having already undergone digital transformation.

The Cloud is undoubtedly an important part of digitalization. Online-only MVNOs gain certain benefits from being based in the Cloud, such as lower overheads from having neither network infrastructure nor physical stores to burden them, plus the agility to get close to niche markets and respond rapidly to shifting demands. But should we define an online MVNO which is simply selling voice and data packages from a digital store – in other words, operating the same business model but via a different channel – as fully digitalized? Does that model maximise the full potential digitalization offers to mobile operators in terms of value?

When asking what digitalization can achieve for mobile, industry insiders frequently refer to companies like AirBnB, Uber and Netflix to provide a yardstick. More than just adopting a cloud-based operational model, these are companies which have used digitalization as a defining strategic principle and have been so successful they have transformed entire sectors.

From MVNOs’ perspective, the lesson that these digital start-ups have managed to shake enterprise-sized incumbents out of their positions in the market should also no be lost.

For mobile operators, then, the Cloud represents an important first step on their digital journey, providing a platform for further change in terms of cost reduction, flexibility, technology adoption and service innovation. But if we were to write a recipe for ‘full’ digitalization for a mobile operator, a process strategically geared towards maximising the benefits, there would be plenty of other ingredients to add to the mix. Here are the staples:

Strategies built around consumer demand

The reason why Cloud migration alone – old models in a new channel – does not amount to ‘full’ digital transformation is that the Cloud offers the freedom and the technology to do so much more. Mobile operators are now able to reshape services and customer experiences to deliver exactly what the customer wants, which logically should therefore be the centrepiece of strategy. In an industry where both customer acquisition costs and churn are high, giving a reason for loyalty through improved customer experiences carries a high value.

Gary Bunney, CEO of BSS and analytics service specialist MDS Global, says that the modern digital consumer, given so much choice and power in all other areas of retail and commerce, is no longer so inclined to accept fixed, off-the-shelf mobile packages. “We believe customers are demanding more control to create the plans they need,” he said. “And they want this control across a range of different networks, services and applications. With this control comes the ability to action. To change, amend, add or terminate without contractual restriction.”

Applications and platforms

The key to delivering on customer demand is software. Bunney talks about enabling customer control via a “self-service application”. Amol Phadke, Accenture’s MD of Global Network Strategy and Consulting, likewise describes the most innovative, disruptive digital MVNOs adopting a ‘software-driven operating model’ that is “dependent on automation, analytics and AI.

Software plays a key role in driving flexibility and value in mobile services by decoupling services from physical infrastructure. Moreover, as the sophistication of software increases, the cost of both development and delivery through the Cloud decreases, offering businesses and consumers alike more for less.

Data

Of the three specific technologies Phadke names, automation and AI speak of the customer empowerment and ‘self-service’ control Bunney recommends, but also of efficient, fast convenient services. Analytics, meanwhile, gives digitalized MVNOs the opportunity to fully personalize service based on all the data that becomes available via applications and platforms. Jaco Fourie, Head of Product Management at BSS specialist Qvantel, says: “Digital solutions allow for more rapid shifting of data gathering tools. This enables more data to be collected and analysed … and used to personalize the customer journeys in digital touchpoints automatically for superior customer experiences.”

Bespoke services

Fourie goes on to argue that analytics “paves the way for rapid and real-time offers and deals that can be tailored and modulated to match the trends and data that is being gathered on them.” The marriage of software and data in a Cloud environment allows mobile operators to create dynamic customer experiences that adapt to changing demands. It also allows them to throw off the shackles of voice and pure data packages and innovate with new potential revenue streams from new services.

Federico Homberg, Head of Mobile Wholesale Business Development at Deutsche Telekom Germany, told us that he sees an increasing trend in virtual operators moving away from “branded reselling” to a “full MVNO” model. “With a full MVNO you have no constraints when it comes to building your own products,” he said. This alludes to another significant trend in digital transformation for mobile players, the move towards DevOps operations, where programming and development skills are highly sought after to enable operators to build their own bespoke software and platforms.

As well as looking at the impact on the mobile industry, the report Maximizing Value from Digitalisation and Virtualization opens the discussion up to look at the broader role of mobile as digitalization continues apace across industries and in consumer lifestyles. It assesses what kind of services mobile players, and MVNOs in particular, are able to offer to support the increasingly digitised demands of both B2B and B2C markets, looking at areas such as IoT provision and Over-the-Top (OTT) value-added services as routes into brand new revenue streams.

Its analysis also focuses on the potential for mobile companies to transform service levels as well as service types, redefining customer and end-user experiences in innovative, dynamic ways which tie in with the expectations of increasingly digitised audiences. Finally, the research evaluates the risks and rewards of all of this, the challenges MVNOs face in embracing what amounts to significant technological, operational and cultural change, and what they can do to maximise the benefit.

This in-depth report also offers analysis on mobile as digital enabler, the new horizons in customer experience and service personalization & differentiation. Download the full report and discover how you can make the most of this opportunity.

Virtualization and the deployment and operation of 5G networks

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece John English, Director of Marketing, Service Providers Solutions at Netscout offers a quick overview of the need for virtualization with 5G.

While 5G undoubtedly holds enormous potential, meeting its demands for increased speed, performance, scalability, and flexible service deployment is likely to result in untenable complexity and OpEx for service operators.

The only truly affordable and practical way to operate a 5G network is to virtualise and automate, change network design, and increasingly manage the network and services from the edge. The application of virtualisation technologies such as NFV and SDN to 5G networks is therefore essential if 5G is to be deployed at a reasonable cost.

Many service providers are already adopting NFV and SDN as a means of boosting efficiencies, launching services faster, and supporting a wider range of applications. Indeed, McKinsey has estimated that the newest technologies in NFV and SDN would let operators lower their capital expenditures by up to 40%, and their network operating expenses by a similar amount.

Are any deployments under way?

Yes. Major service providers in the US, Europe, and South Korea, for example, are well advanced in their testing and initial network deployments. Verizon, AT&T, and Korea Telecom are all utilising the 1Gbps capability of 5G to provide services such as fixed mobile broadband. In addition to enabling valuable enterprise applications, this supports their SD-WAN deployments which, due to their ability to flexibly instantiate new services, are increasingly being seen by service providers as a way of monetising 5G, even at this early stage.

Is that the full extent of it?

Right now, both virtualisation and 5G are being deployed on a crawl, walk, and run basis. We’re still very much in the crawl phase, with most service providers tentatively deploying both technologies in contained parts of their networks and businesses so that they can understand how they work, learn how to manage them and understand how to deploy them most effectively.

With a myriad of new use cases and technologies, fragmented standards around how VNFs are introduced and orchestrated in the network, 5G is filled with unknowns. The relative immaturity of both 5G and virtualisation is therefore currently serving as a barrier to full-scale adoption.

How can we overcome this barrier?

5G and virtualisation each rely on a series of other technologies for successful deployment. Both require tools that enable intelligent visibility into the network in order to generate smart data with clear, actionable insights that will feed automated systems, manage performance, and control automation. Power is nothing without control, after all, and accurate control is fundamental to the management of a virtualised network.

Fortunately, these tools exist in the form of virtualised software designed to gather data, analyse it, and present it in a way that it can be actioned by a service provider’s other systems. Critically, the days of using expensive hardware probes to reactively report on network performance are over. They may still be applicable in trial phases during which a new network is established, but only software-based network assurance will be capable of scaling up to handle the volume of data involved as the scale and scope of a 5G deployment heads towards the running phase.

What will happen when 5G is up and running?

The exact nature of the services of the future is still unclear. Despite all the talk about instantaneously downloading 4K video, or enabling connected cars and supporting a plethora of new devices and services with the Internet of Things, the killer apps for 5G are yet to emerge.

What is apparent, though, is that there are universal requirements that will remain the same regardless of what the future holds. The effective running of services and applications on 5G will rely on visibility into the network, and gaining insights that will enable proactive, as opposed to reactive, responses to any network issues.

 

JGE headshot (002)John is Director of Marketing, Service Providers Solutions at Netscout, focusing on NFV/SDN, IoT/DX, Big Data Analytics and 5G. Before joining Netscout John held product management and marketing positions at Empirix and Tekelec. John has over 25 years of telecom experience covering 4G/3G/2G mobile, cable and fixed line technologies.

CityFibre taunts rivals with 10 Gbps speeds claim

CityFibre has announced a partnership with Calix to deliver, what it claims, would be the world’s only Software Defined Access (SDA) operating system across, delivering mouth-watering speeds across its fibre network.

With Calix’s AXOS platform, CityFibre is confident it will be able to claim to be the UK’s only advanced-intelligence, wholesale infrastructure company. With a Software Defined Networking (SDN) ecosystem, delivering new levels of programmability, network intelligence and automation, CityFibre claims it will be similar to owning the network, but without the upfront capital risk.

“In Calix we have found a like-minded ally, an innovator that is pushing the boundaries of what is possible when intelligent software meets fibre-only infrastructure,” said CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch.

“Our partnership enables us to unleash the full power and potential of our fibre networks, creating the nation’s fastest, smartest and most accessible, digital communications platform. The ability to scale services up to 100 gigabits per second, while driving customer experience to new levels, highlights the inadequacies of connections that are passed off as fibre today. It also shows that not all full fibre networks are equal and that, as an alternative network builder, CityFibre’s commitment to the UK’s digital future goes far beyond simply putting fibre in the ground.”

And while this might seem like a very sensible announcement for the often combative CityFibre, it has stoked the fire. Through the integration of the Calix platform, CityFibre believes it will be capable of delivering parallel 10 Gbps connections to every home and business, with further potential for speeds of up to 100 Gbps.

“The Calix and CityFibre visions of a software defined access future are perfectly aligned,” said Michael Weening, Calix EVP of field operations. “CityFibre built its network from the beginning to take advantage of all that a fibre infrastructure can enable, while we built AXOS with the intelligence to take that foundation to the next level.

“With AXOS, CityFibre can more rapidly deliver new products, services and features to the market, further distancing itself from legacy competitive offerings that fail to enable true market differentiation. As we continue to innovate on the AXOS platform, the continued speed, agility and efficiencies we enable will allow CityFibre and its partners to change the UK’s broadband market forever.”

Ericsson upgrades Radio System, partners with Juniper on backhaul and buys CENX

Ahead of MWC Americas Ericsson has embarked on a frenzy of announcements around its core product offering.

The headline news is a significant upgrade to the Ericsson Radio System, its signature RAN product suite that has been a major part of its apparent recovery. Specifically Ericsson is launching something called the RAN Compute portfolio, which consists of a couple of baseband processors and a couple of radio processing units designed to be positioned wherever in the network you want your processing to be done. In other words this is a mobile edge computing play.

The other big thing in new, improved ERS is some new software called Ericsson Spectrum Sharing. This is designed to help with dynamic support of both 4G and 5G on the same spectrum, so long as you’re using ERS shipped since 2015, and can be installed remotely. While some of 5G will take place on higher frequencies, the stuff currently being used by 4G has the best propagation characteristics and will therefore remain valuable. This is the kind of 5G software upgrade Ericsson has been promoting as a key feature of ERS from the start.

“The hardware and software that we are launching today continues to address the flexibility needed for the next-generation networks,” said Ericsson EVP of Networks Fredrik Jejdling. “They offer our customers an expanded and adaptable 5G platform, making it easier for them to deploy 5G.”

We had a chat with Nishant Batra, Head of Product Area Networks at Ericsson, ahead of the announcement and he stressed this is all about ramping ERS’s 5G capability. Initially the propaganda was all about it being 5G upgradable, then about being ready for the 5G launch. Now the narrative revolves around this kit being positioned for the mass deployment of 5G.

Ericsson wants the world to see a picture of growing positive momentum and trying to be the perceived leader in 5G kit is a key part of that. “The momentum has never been better and we want to keep accelerating,” said Batra.

All this RAN shininess isn’t much good without some top-notch backhaul, however, and nobody is claiming that as an Ericsson strength. 5G is set to massively increase the volume of data passing across networks so, which being sure to big-up its own Router 6000 backhaul product and microwave tech, Ericsson has announced the extension of its partnership with Juniper to augment its transport efforts, as well as a new partnership with ECI on the optical side. So much for the big Ericsson Cisco partnership eh?

“Our radio expertise and knowledge in network architecture, end-user applications and standardization work put us in an excellent position to understand the requirements 5G places on transport,” said Jejdling. “By combining our leading transport portfolio with best-in-class partners, we will boost our transport offering and create the critical building blocks of next-generation transport networks that benefit our customers.”

“Commercial 5G is expected to represent close to a quarter of all global network traffic in the next five years,” said Manoj Leelanivas, Chief Product Officer at Juniper Networks. “With both companies bringing together industry-leading network technology, Juniper and Ericsson will be able to more effectively capitalize on the immense global market opportunity in front of us and help our customers simplify their journey to fully operational 5G networks.”

In other Ericsson news it has indulged in a rare bit of M&A via the acquisition of US service assurance vendor CENX. This move is designed to augment Ericsson’s OSS and managed services offerings and CENX is all about cloud-native automation, so its technology and 185 staff should be especially helpful in the area of virtualization. They haven’t said what it cost.

“Dynamic orchestration is crucial in 5G-ready virtualized networks,” said Mats Karlsson, Head of Solution Area OSS at Ericsson. “By bringing CENX into Ericsson, we can continue to build upon the strong competitive advantage we have started as partners. I look forward to meeting and welcoming our new colleagues into Ericsson.”

“Ericsson has been a great partner and for us to take the step to fully join Ericsson gives us the best possible worldwide platform to realize CENX’s ultimate goal – autonomous networking for all,” said Ed Kennedy CEO of CENX. “Our closed-loop service assurance automation capability complements Ericsson’s existing portfolio very well.”

Lastly Ericsson has announced a new partnership with US operator Sprint to build a new virtualized core and operating system dedicated just to IoT. Network slicing will be a major feature of the 5G era and IoT has network requirements quite distinct from other usage models, so it makes sense to not just apportion a piece of the network to it, but customise all the other tech too.

“We are combining our IoT strategy with Ericsson’s expertise to build a platform primed for the most demanding applications like artificial intelligence, edge computing, robotics, autonomous vehicles and more with ultra-low-latency, the highest availability and an unmatched level of security at the chip level,” said Ivo Rook, SVP of IoT for Sprint. “This is a network built for software and it’s ready for 5G. Our IoT platform is for those companies, large and small, that are creating the immediate economy.”

“Sprint will be one of the first to market with a distributed core network and operating system built especially for IoT and powered by Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator platform,” said Asa Tamsons, Head of Business Area Technology & Emerging Business at Ericsson. “Our goal is to make it easy for Sprint and their customers to access and use connected intelligence, enabling instant and actionable insights for a better customer experience and maximum value.”

That Ericsson is making so many announcements ahead of MWC Americas would appear to be a major endorsement of the event and of the GSMA’s regional expansion of the MWC brand. The timing might also have been influenced by the staging of Huawei’s Operations Transformation Forum event and even IFA, and it’s clear there is room in the telecoms calendar for big Autumn trade fests.

Operator virtualization strategies in Asia

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Anuradha Udunuwara, Senior Engineer at Sri Lanka Telecom, gives us his perspective on how operators can best approach the move to virtualization.

Virtualization in telecommunication, whether it is network virtualization or network function vitalization this has been a long-discussed topic. Related topics such as network softwarization, includes Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and cloud. Although virtualization and cloud concepts have proven itself within the IT world and Data Centers (DCs), adoption of these concepts in the telco space are slower than expected.

Different operators/service providers, adopt different strategies in transforming their businesses to becoming a Digital Service Provider (DSP) from the current Communications Service Provider. Even though the set of tools (SDN, NFV, and Cloud) enable virtualization, automation, and DevOps are the same, the usage and the rate of adoption varies from operator to operator dependent on the environment.

Large operators make announcements occasionally about the progress of their transformations, other smaller operators – especially the ones in developing and emerging economies/markets are lagging. However, the situation for enterprises in adopting softwarization strategies seems to be exceeding that of service providers. This article in early 2017 by Telecom Asia reveals;

“While some in the telecoms industry has been resistant to the notion that enterprise clients are seeking to pursue this virtual option, our research on the enterprise market suggests otherwise and 2017 and beyond is shaping up to be a big boom period for adoption. Nearly all respondents (95%) believe that network services will be virtualized and in fact, 33% are already using such solutions.”

In November 2017, Huawei and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) built a 100G SDN Campus Network. There are several other enterprises that are either deploying in Thailand or deployed Software Defined-Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solutions themselves.

The rate of innovation from the Standard Developing Organizations (SDOs) and Open Source communities are aggressive, and we see a lot of collaborative efforts put in place to bring about innovative new tools and platforms. Some of these new things include new Open Networking Foundation (ONF), MEF Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO), Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), Broadband Forum CloudCO, Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) Virtual Central Office (CO) and Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD).

Now we start to see the customers adopt softwarization and digitalization faster, the SDOs and open community are coming out with different tools and platforms, whereas the operators are slow in adopting these new technologies.

When we look at Asia, it is Earth’s largest and most populous continent this region consists of both developing and developed economies. With developed economies such as Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia.

On the other hand, countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, are considered developing economies the development of telecommunications in these countries differs due to various reasons – socio-economic, political, regulatory, geographical etc.

In July 2017, SK Telecom announced that it commercialized T-MANO, a Network Functions Virtualization Management and Orchestration (NFV MANO) platform that performs integrated management and orchestration of virtualized network equipment and software. This is quite different from the collaborative approaches the other operators are following together with vendors in open fora.

ABI Research forecasts the NFV market in the Asia Pacific (APAC) will grow to USD 9.24 billion in 2022. Japan is forecasted to be the largest single market within APAC, constituting 25.7% of the total revenue. This is followed by South Korea and China, at 22.7% and 14.6% respectively. The report highlights that;

“Japan leads in the region, not only because of the desire to design resilient and reliable networks in preparation for future disaster threats but also to prepare for the 2020 Summer Olympics,” said Lian Jye Su, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “South Korea and China are actively preparing for 5G, which requires both Cloud Radio Access Networks (C-RAN) and Cloud Core Networks. At the same time, the rest of the regions are actively catching up. Tier Two telcos, like Banglalink and Ncell, are currently deploying virtual subscriber data management platforms.”

According to the report by Frost & Sullivan, the market for virtualization in India is still nascent. Even though this is generally the situation for Telco’s in India. In early September 2017, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) in India signed a Memorandum of Understanding with U.S. and German-based Coriant to chart the path to 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) in the country. In a statement, Coriant said it will help BSNL to lay the foundation for innovation in network architectures and services leveraging 5G, IoT, SDN/NFV and Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) technologies.

Last year, Telenor Pakistan announced development of its own cloud network in which the company successfully tested the first 3G voice call and LTE data call. The next few months, the company will continue building on this platform and virtualize all the network functions that currently exist on proprietary hardware.

In conclusion, it can be said that the telco virtualization adaptation situation in Asia has huge variations within the region due to the mix of different economies and the socio-economic situation. However, developed countries seem to be improving and 2018 and beyond is going to be an interesting time.

 

Anuradha Udunuwara, Senior Engineer at Sri Lanka Telecom an industry expert in Telecom and Technology will be speaking the Network Virtualization & SDN. Find out more about the event here.

Network slicing can unlock $66 billion of industry opportunities – ABI

Analyst firm ABI research has had a bit of a spreadsheet frenzy and come to the conclusion that network slicing can create $66 billion of fresh commercial opportunities for telcos.

Just to remind you, network slicing involves prioritising portions of the network to more specific applications, such as high bandwidth, low latency or massive, low-power IoT. Ideally this can be done dynamically via all the virtualised cleverness we’ve been banging on about for so long and will enable MNOs to offer more bespoke services to various industries.

Unlocking all these new ‘verticals’ has the potential to massively increase the total available market to telcos, so long as they can both utilise network slicing to create useful communications services and work out out to both tailor them for and sell into these lovely new markets.

“Telcos (aka Mobile Service Providers or MSPs) are increasingly seeking to create services that are more differentiated and tap into the growth engine of the future, intrinsically linked to a superior experience for end consumers, and operational simplicity for enterprises and end verticals,” said Don Alusha of ABI Research.

“Network slicing revenues will eventually be on an upward trajectory, driven by digital, cloud, and security requirements of multiple industry verticals, particularly for the trio of manufacturing, logistics, and automotive. Realizing the full revenue potential is dependent on essential slicing infrastructure from vendors, and pertinent applications delivered by MSPs.”

Alush thinks BT and Swisscom are ahead of the game when it comes to this sort of thing and are showing the way for others. “This is encouraging and lays the foundation for widespread commercial deployments even before 5G diffusion. There are specific vendors in the market who are addressing end-to-end slicing scenarios that pull together a number of technologies, Nokia and Ericsson chief among them.”

“MSPs and vendors are pursuing different models of collaboration with vertical markets and growth for each market will be driven by premium services, revenue potential and ability to address existing challenges in the short and medium term. Vendors should aim to eliminate complexity through automation and ‘deep’ orchestration, a feat that calls for close collaboration with standard bodies to standardize and achieve alignment apt for commercial deployments and ecosystem integration.”

All good advice, but easier said than done.

Exploring the benefits of digitalisation

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece freelance Technology Journalist Kate O’Flaherty looks at how digital services based on virtualized networks are set to benefit mobile operators and MVNOs.

At a time of fierce competition coupled with declining revenues, mobile operators and MVNOs are digitising their businesses to boost efficiency and offer better services to customers. According to a World Economic Forum and Accenture report, digital transformation in the telecoms sector has the potential to unlock more than $2 trillion in value over the next decade.

Fuelled by network functions virtualisation (NFV), this transformation is already starting to happen. Efficient use of the network in combination with analytics allows services to be offered dynamically to customers. At the same time, it is forcing a change in business models, with areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT) starting to emerge as new battle grounds.

It is resulting in multiple opportunities to innovate, but there are challenges as operators and MVNOs digitise their businesses. For example, cyber security is a concern as networks are virtualised, because it widens the surface for attack. There can also be technical barriers when implementing networks, while new ways of working such as DevOps require cultural change inside the business.

But experts point to multiple benefits for mobile operators and MVNOs, if they get their digitalisation strategies right. Indeed, NFV is already enabling agility when provisioning services, says Gabriele Di Piazza, VP Products and Solutions, Telco NFV Group, VMware, citing the example of software defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). “It took weeks in the past, and now you can provision on a screen in a few minutes.”

It is with this in mind that the move to virtualised networks is accelerating, with many of the big operators already pushing ahead in their trials and deployments. Carriers are now trying to work out how they will monetise soon-to-launch 5G – which is based on these virtualised networks.

According to Ian Hughes, Analyst at 451 Research: “Mobile operators are upgrading their infrastructure in preparation for 5G. They now need to work out how to partner to take advantage of the benefits.”

It’s a challenge for large operators, but in the meantime, nimble MVNOs could use cloud infrastructure to launch new services, says Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO at Core Network Dynamics. He points out: “With no expensive legacy infrastructure weighing them down, MVNOs are well-positioned to leapfrog mobile operators and jump straight to the public cloud to run their core networks and other network components.”

This also opens the door to other markets, he says. “By controlling critical elements such as the evolved packet core (EPC) themselves – including user authentication and handling data traffic – MVNOs can differentiate and gain a first mover advantage in new, fast-growth markets such as IoT and private LTE.”

Secure networks

The move to virtualisation also brings with it the ability to better control networks. Although the shift away from physical networks raises concerns about hacking, NFV provides the ability to move security functions such as encryption or firewalls from purpose-built hardware onto virtual servers. “This means greater control, agility and connectivity across the network, keeping costs down,” says Conrad Mallon, Chief Network Architect, SSE Enterprise Telecoms.

Virtualisation creates new ways of thinking about security, Pierre Bichon, Consulting Engineer EMEA at Juniper Networks says. “Securing the network with physical appliances is very efficient but relatively static and you need to decide where you apply security. Virtualised networks allow you to do it from anywhere.”

This could become especially important in IoT, he says, pointing out that large fleets of devices that must exist in the field for years are currently very difficult to secure. “Today, IoT is creating the need for a new way to address security,” he explains. “It comes from systems that do not have the processing power to have a firewall or virtual firewall, so the idea is to implement security in the network, as close as possible to the devices.”

There are also multiple opportunities beyond security. At a time when customer churn is high, artificial intelligence (AI) is having a major impact by allowing providers to optimise virtualised networks and provision services more effectively.

AI is also being used more broadly in customer services. Outside NFV, this is seeing the implementation of real-time chat and voice bots to automate and augment traditional agent-to-customer interactions, says Omar Javaid, Chief Product Officer, Vonage.

Solutions such as these can be use by MVNOs and operators to increase efficiency and improve customer service. And several mobile operators have launched their own offerings, such as Vodafone’s TOBi and Telefonica’s Aura. But Javaid says it’s important to ensure bots are seamlessly integrated across all channels.

Barriers to digitalisation

The benefits of digitalisation are clear, but there are still challenges to be overcome before the area can be fully utilised by the telecoms industry. Mallon thinks several barriers are slowing down operator progress: “Slow design processes make transformation projects a faraway reality, and rigid legacy IT systems often make updates or overhauls complicated.”

Meanwhile, at a technology level, says Phadke: “These new technologies are often based on an open source philosophy and utilise collaborative development. This creates interoperability challenges.”

At the same time, the new operating model is “very different from what we see today”, says Phadke. “As it’s software driven, it’s dependent on automation, analytics and AI.”

Cultures are having to change too.  “How do you bring organisations together to create a DevOps-type business model?” asks Phadke. “We are starting to see a merge of design, engineering and IT and this is a challenge.”

But organisations are starting to accept this. “There is recognition that you need an operational and people mind set change” says Di Piazza. “Now, you are blending the world of IT and networks –  and combining skills over three decades based on how you provision, launch, sell and market technology.”

There is no doubt the move to virtualised networks and digital services is one of the biggest changes the telecoms industry has seen. But once the issues are ironed out, operators and MVNOs using their networks can take advantage of a whole range of dynamic services.

And this moment could even come sooner for MVNOs than for the operator giants. Because they can launch solutions based on cloud infrastructure, MVNOs can be among the first to offer their own disruptive digital services.

 

Meet with the key MVNO leaders from around the world at the MVNOs Series events – including the MVNOs Asia and MVNOs North America.