& cplSiteName &

The Rise of Virtual EPC

Gabriel Brown
3/26/2014
50%
50%

Any customer of Heavy Reading research services will know that network functions virtualization (NFV) is now one the most critical initiatives in telecom networking. The technology applies to virtually all parts of telco network and the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), in particular, has emerged as one of the more tangible examples of how NFV can be useful -- even transformative -- in carrier networks.

Virtual EPC was an emergent theme at the 2013 Mobile World Congress, with Cisco, NEC, and Intel showing demos, and at the 2014 event it was one of the biggest networking stories at the show. AT&T's announcement that it would work with virtual EPC startup Affirmed Networks epitomized this. (See AT&T's Cloud Future Takes Shape.)

There are, I think, two primary reasons for this interest in virtual EPC: (1) because EPC is a substantial enough application that it would present meaningful progress for an NFV initiative; and (2) because the nature of the application lends itself to virtualization, making virtual EPC "doable" as well as meaningful.

In my new Heavy Reading report, "The Rise of Virtual EPC: A Mobile Packet Core Forecast & Analysis," I examine these drivers in more detail.

We know from our mobile operator research that demand for virtualized mobile core is real. There is enthusiasm from mobile network operators for a software-centric core network that is programmable and can be more easily customized and optimized for end-user needs. In principle, they say, the model is very attractive.

Equally, it is clear that there will be a long period of development of virtual EPC, for reasons of technical maturity and operator investment cycles. In practice this means adoption will be piecemeal and initially focused on less-critical, smaller-scale use cases.

In the first instance, virtual EPC will tend to be deployed in parallel to the main production EPC and will focus on machine-to-machine (M2M) and customized enterprise services. These types of services can have specific traffic profiles that might benefit from a particular EPC configuration (and specifically, a virtual P-GW configuration), and they provide an opportunity for operators to experiment with a virtual core without putting mass-market services at risk.

There is also a substantial near- to medium-term opportunity for virtualization in what is sometimes called the SGi-LAN – the services complex between the 3GPP-defined mobile core and external networks. These functions, such as DPI, Web proxy, video optimization, content and charging gateways, and firewalls, can be virtualized and mapped to software-configured service chains to create a more efficient and programmable value-added services domain. Startup ConteXtream is one of the pioneers of this concept.

Over time, there's potential for both approaches to evolve and, eventually, to transform the mobile core. For example, it will be possible to combine SGi and EPC functions into bespoke, software-configured service chains. And virtualized P-GWs, initially targeted at early adopter enterprises, will scale to more customer types and be used to add capacity to (and in time start to replace) the "classic EPC" as the technology matures.

In terms of vendor positioning, all of them now endorse the idea of virtual EPC, and over the past 12 months, spurred on by operators, most have come to embrace the opportunity wholeheartedly.

I'll write more about this in a follow-up column, but for more detail, the full report covers the following vendors: Affirmed Networks Inc., Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems Inc., Connectem Inc., Ericsson AB, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Mavenir Systems Inc., NEC Corp., Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN), Samsung Group, and ZTE Corp.

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Gabriel Brown
50%
50%
Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/27/2014 | 4:55:46 AM
Re: Early win
"Virtual EPC is an opportunity to demonstrate an early win and accelerate deployment of NFV"

^ That's a view that companies working to develop the NFV eco-system present (e.g. Intel). EPC is a substantial and important enough of an application to be meaningful. More so than, say, CG-NAT or a TAS.

The benefits to mobile operators at this stage are less clear cut. There is interest in EPC -- more than kicking the tyres -- but for the most part it's experimental or small-scale. That's why the nearer-term market opportunity is in parallel (overlay) deployments for, say, M2M or for other small-scale uses.

There is interest from greenfield operators as well -- e.g. NEC's claims its deployment in Myanmar is the first commercial vEPC. Osnova Telecom in Russia was also named in Cisco's vEPC press release.

One challenge for virtual EPC is that existing platforms are good at what they do.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/26/2014 | 2:48:29 PM
Early win
Virtual EPC is an opportunity to demonstrate an early win and accelerate deployment of NFV. Operators looking to find benefits to NFV can look to successful virtual EPC deployments for an example.
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Cable operators have some key hurdles to overcome if they wish to fill the growing mobility needs of small and large businesses alike.
With more and more businesses seeking mobility solutions, cable operators have the chance to carve out an even larger share of the commercial market.
Cable is going big with data analytics, digging into its big data stores, with the hope of garnering information, simplifying operations and improving services and customer care.
A new Heavy Reading report examines why NFV, SDN and cloud are so important to CSPs, and explores their impact on data center infrastructure.
In this first part of a new sponsored blog series, AT&T's Bill Smith explains how AT&T hopes to complement its GPON-powered GigaPower rollout with additional technologies, such as G.fast.
From The Founder
Download our complete guide to de-risking NFV deployment in 2016, including:
  • An eight-step strategy to deploying NFV safely, based on input from the companies that have already started virtualizing their production networks.
  • Interviews with leading executives at Colt, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Cisco, Nokia, ZTE, Ericsson and Heavy Reading.
  • Flash Poll
    Live Streaming Video
    Prepping for the Future: Upskill U Explained
    During this short kick-off video, Doug Webster, Vice President of Service Provider Marketing, Cisco, and Light Reading’s CEO & Founder Steve Saunders give an overview of Upskill U.
    LRTV Interviews
    AT&T Expert on the Key Pillars of UC

    4|29|16   |   03:58   |   (0) comments


    Vishy Gopalakrishnan, AVP of product marketing at AT&T, talks about the three developments that are making unified communications and collaboration secure and reliable for enterprise users.
    LRTV Documentaries
    LRTV Report: Mobile Core Innovation

    4|28|16   |   25:32   |   (0) comments


    Hear from multiple industry experts from Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom, Heavy Reading, Huawei, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, NEC and many more about developments in the mobile core as operators virtualize their IMS and evolved packet core systems and prepare for a 5G world.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    NFV World Congress Highlight

    4|26|16   |     |   (0) comments


    The highlight of the NFV World Congress contains exciting telecom news. Join us for an inside look at Huawei's ICT 2020 plan and its latest collaboration with industry leaders.
    LRTV Interviews
    Unified Comms Finds Its Voice

    4|25|16   |   03:44   |   (0) comments


    Peter Quinlan, VP of UCC Product Management at Tata Communications, talks about the evolution of the unified communications and collaboration services sector and how voice is now a big part of current developments.
    LRTV Documentaries
    So... What Do We Do Now?

    4|25|16   |   03:24   |   (0) comments


    After a long hiatus, Max Dingman, the CEO of a GeeGhiz, returns for a motivational board room pep talk.
    LRTV Documentaries
    NAB 2016 Highlights

    4|21|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Light Reading's Cable/Video Practice Leader Alan Breznick climbs down from the slots to tell us about the latest news in broadcast technology at NAB 2016 in Las Vegas.
    Between the CEOs
    CEO Chat: Deepfield's Craig Labovitz

    4|21|16   |     |   (0) comments


    In this latest installment of the CEO Chat series, Craig Labovitz, co-founder and CEO of Deepfield, sits down with Light Reading's Steve Saunders in Light Reading's New York City office to discuss how Deepfield fits in with the big data trend and more.
    Shades of Ray
    Leading Lights 2016: Shortlists Announced

    4|20|16   |   0:53   |   (0) comments


    The judging is over and the Leading Lights 2016 shortlists have been published -- you can see who made the cut by clicking on this link.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Introducing MulteFire – Qualcomm at MWC 2016

    4|18|16   |   3.29   |   (0) comments


    MulteFire is the latest option for using LTE in unlicensed spectrum. As oppose to its close 'siblings', LAA and LTE-U, MulteFire operates solely in unlicensed spectrum, which enables it to offer the best of two worlds – LTE-like performance with WiFi-like deployment simplicity. In this interview, Sanjeev Athalye, Sr. Director, Product Management at Qualcomm ...
    Between the CEOs
    CEO Chat: Grant Van Rooyen of Cologix

    4|18|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Grant van Rooyen, president and CEO of Cologix, sits down with Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, in the vendor's New Jersey facility to offer an inside look at the company's success story and discuss the importance of security in the telecom industry.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    ONS 2016 – Demonstration of Huawei's NetMatrix Multi-Vendor SDN Orchestrator

    4|15|16   |     |   (0) comments


    This demonstration shows how Huawei's NetMatrix SDN Orchestrator (SDN-O) addresses an operator's core service agility needs for services spanning multi-domain, multivendor networks: it includes a demonstration of:
    - Rapid New Service Design: using YANG to model a complex example of multi-domain, multivendor L3VPN network connectivity service that ...
    LRTV Custom TV
    AT&T Wants to Own North Carolina

    4|15|16   |     |   (1) comment


    Venessa Harrison, president of North Carolina for AT&T, tells how the company will expand its GigaPower service beyond the seven N.C. cities it already serves.

  • This blog, sponsored by AT&T, is the second part of a ten-part series examining next-generation broadband technologies titled "Behind the Speeds."
  • Upcoming Live Events
    May 23, 2016, Austin, TX
    May 23, 2016, Austin Convention Center
    May 24-25, 2016, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
    December 6-8, 2016,
    June 16-18, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Infographics
    A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
    Hot Topics
    Ultra-Broadband Summit, Hong Kong
    Iain Morris, News Editor, 4/27/2016
    WiCipedia: Woman Cards & Bitch Switches
    Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 4/29/2016
    FCC Poised to Re-Regulate Wholesale Access
    Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 4/28/2016
    Amazon AWS Reports $2.6B Quarterly Revenue, Up a Colossal 64%
    Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 4/28/2016
    GoT Fans Curse HBO (Not Right) Now
    Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/25/2016
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed
    BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
    In this latest installment of the CEO Chat series, Craig Labovitz, co-founder and CEO of Deepfield, sits down with Light Reading's Steve Saunders in Light Reading's New York City office to discuss how Deepfield fits in with the big data trend and more.
    Grant van Rooyen, president and CEO of Cologix, sits down with Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, in the vendor's New Jersey facility to offer an inside look at the company's success story and discuss the importance of security in the telecom industry.
    Animals with Phones
    Live Digital Audio

    Of all the tech companies in the Valley, Intel has made the most aggressive commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workplace culture. It's doing so by taking concrete, measurable steps, making a large financial investment and through a commitment to complete transparency about its progress. In this radio show, WiC Director Sarah Thomas will be joined by Shlomit Weiss, Intel's Vice President, Data Center Group, and General Manager of Networking Engineering, who will share with us why Intel is tackling this huge challenge, how and to what effect. She will also discuss her unique experiences leading development of Client SOC development in the past and today leading development of all of the chipmaker's silicon hardware for networking IPs and discrete devices and managing a team of 600 engineers across Israel, Europe and the US.