& cplSiteName &

Telefónica Unveils Aggressive NFV Plans

Ray Le Maistre

Telefónica is set to become one of the global leaders of the telco cloud movement with the aggressive introduction of network functions virtualization (NFV) into its international operations, starting this year, the carrier's CTO has revealed.

During a closed-door presentation delivered to just a handful of telecoms industry editors at the Spanish operator's headquarters in Madrid, Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF)'s global CTO Enrique Blanco outlined a timetable for the virtualization of much of the carrier's new network functionality and explained his reasons for being in the vanguard of a game-changing network transformation.

The operator is calling its initiative UNICA (a name it has used previously for API development work) and will begin as soon as June 2014, the CTO said.

Driving force in NFV
That Telefónica is making an early move towards functions virtualization will not come as a big surprise to those in the industry, but the pace at which it plans to introduce multiple virtual functions across its international infrastructure might raise some eyebrows, especially as the industry is still at the early proof-of-concept stage for the testing and trial of NFV. (See MWC Offers Peek at NFV Projects and NFV Group Kickstarts Proof-of-Concept Work.)

The Spanish carrier, one of the biggest and most influential network operators in the world, has long been at the forefront of the industry's NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) developments, as a founding member of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specification Group (ISG) and through its software-defined networking (SDN) work with technology partners such as NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701). (See 6 Degrees of Separation: SPs Define 'Open', NEC, Telefónica Team on SDN and Carriers Peer Into Virtual World.)

Now, though, it has decided it should wait no longer to begin a revolutionary revamp of its network, and will phase in virtualized functions starting in the middle of this year.

”We have been working with the vendors to try to find ways to make the networks more efficient,” and using the current technology strategies and implementations, “we can achieve maybe 10-15%, but that’s not enough. We have 25-30% traffic growth year-on-year,” he noted, adding that a large proportion of the traffic on Telefónica’s fixed networks comes from wireless devices via WiFi connections.

”So now we are looking at how we can virtualize the network to reach new levels of efficiency… we are looking at how SDN and NFV can be implemented in a large telco. This is a job for networks and IT,” he stressed, noting this was no longer just the domain of the telco's networking unit.

Pressing Ahead With NFV
Telefonica CTO Enrique Blanco: 'If we wait, nothing will happen.'
Telefónica CTO Enrique Blanco: "If we wait, nothing will happen."

Building from the datacenter
The core underlying platform for what Telefónica is trying to achieve is its datacenter facilities. “We started virtualizing datacenter capacity in 2011 and this year up to 40% of our datacenter capacity will be virtualized -- maybe 80% in 2015 -- and we’re looking to utilize this in our networks strategy,” stated the CTO. “If we wait, nothing will happen,” he added, prophetically.

On top of that, Telefónica will start to introduce virtualized functions, element by element, believing it can have about 30% of its new platforms in a virtualized format by 2016.

Critical to this process is openness a buy-in from vendors. “This has to be as multivendor approach. We have to avoid vendor lock-in, so working with multiple suppliers with an open approach is vital. Some of the vendors might not be happy because it is cannibalizing [their traditional business], but we are working with them on that.”

Vendor partners
The list of vendor partners is varied and interesting. Telefónica is working with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and NEC on proof of concept trials in Spain, Mexico, and the US respectively, while BroadSoft Inc. , Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) (HP) and Nokia Networks are also close partners.

Other suppliers also working with the Spanish carrier include Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR)

No hypervisor suppliers were named though, and Blanco is keeping those details close to his chest currently, saying only that Telefónica is working with a number of different providers and options and that he didn't intend to throw away his NFV capex savings on investments in highly-priced hypervisor platforms. (The inference being that those with high price tags need to rethink if they want in...)

Among the network elements to be virtualized initially are customer premises equipment (CPE) -- “very simple to say, very difficult to do,” says Blanco. CPE virtualization -- whereby “all the services currently defined in the CPE will be defined in the network" -- is currently being trialled in Brazil with a view to introducing commercial deployments in the fourth quarter of this year.

Other elements set for the first phase are the evolved packet core (EPC) and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), which is due to be the first implementation.

Also in phase one of UNICA are virtual deep packet inspection (DPI) elements, set-top boxes (STBs) and DNS (domain name system) servers.

Then in the next few years (2015-16), Telefónica will seek to introduce virtualized policy control resource function (PCRF), Broadband Remote Access Server (B-RAS), service delivery platform (SDP) functions, real-time analytics platforms and SDN orchestrator.

The operator is also already working on virtualizing its radio access network (RAN) capabilities in a “cloud RAN” field trial in Spain, but Blanco notes this is some way off becoming a reality and has not yet been added to the actual roadmap. “Our initial focus is on the IT and signalling platforms,” he noted.

The end result of functions virtualization should be greater efficiencies: The CTO believes Telefónica can reduce its operating expenditures by up to 30% through NFV and have shared resources internationally so that not every market needs to have its own full set of network elements.

In addition, NFV should make it quicker and easier to introduce and replicate new services and upgrade the network, using the “datacenter-as-a-service model,” and deliver an improved customer experience (due to quicker service provisioning and fewer network faults).

For example, Blanco notes that with a traditional IMS, the capabilities are provided by a single vendor with specific hardware and software. “Just adding capacity can take four months,” he notes. With UNICA, he sees upgrades being possible “in hours, possibly even minutes, instead of months. “The key to this is flexibility -- this is a different way to think, with services not being tied to physical elements.”

It also makes it easier to introduce new vendors and replace those that aren’t meeting requirements, as a swap-out will involve only a software and not a hardware replacement process.

Cultural challenge
This will be a massive step for Telefónica, involving upheaval in the way it runs its network, delivers services and deals with suppliers. So is everyone on board with the UNICA strategy?

”We need to get the trust of all the people in Telefónica in all the different countries -- we need to set SLAs and then show we can achieve them. We need to deliver the quality that the people in every country need to run their businesses. We have to deliver to five nines. If we can’t do that then we are in trouble,” said Blanco. “All the technology people know it is going to happen, but it will take time. You can’t be against it… it is a change of culture and management.”

His colleague Cayetano Carbajo, director of planning and technology for transport, core, platforms and mobile devices at Telefónica, added: “The organizational and cultural change is harder than the technological change.”

And given that the technological change is going to be a very challenging process, Blanco and Carbajo have a massive task on their hands to introduce such a revolutionary change to a Tier 1 telco.

But the process has already begun, and the Telefónica team is using demos at the Mobile World Congress event to help convince the world (including its own staff) that the virtualization of telecom network functions is the way forward and that this radical process needs to start right now.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Blogger
2/24/2014 | 9:06:47 AM
What will the reaction be?
Telefonica believes it has to act now - that the current economic crush combined with the development of its cloud platforms and opportunities for introducing virtual elements has created a perfect storm, wanted or not.

But every carrier is different, both in terms of its circumstances and its willingness to be relativelt radical. Will others follow? Or will they watch, and wait...

Blanco's entusiasm for the opportunities is contagious, but that doesn't mean it's spread elsewhere. The plan is aggressive but also cautious - Telefonica isn't rip and replacing, but the introducing some virtual elements as it adds new platforms.

That's still leaps and bounds ahead of its peers, particularly in terms of the breadth of the plans. The management of the new elemets looks to be the big challenge.

This is one of the biggest developments in telecom in a very long time and however it progresses and evolves, it's going to be fascinating to watch. 
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
Friday, November 18, 1:00PM EST
SDN & Open Source
Christopher W. Rice, Senior Vice President of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design
Wednesday, November 30, 1:00PM EST
SDN & the Software Defined Data Center
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
OneAccess NFV Solutions

10|26|16   |   5:30   |   (0) comments

Antoine Clerget, CTO of OneAccess, discusses how his company has expanded its product line from enterprise-class routers to include a universal virtualized CPE as well as a suite of VNFs to help telco customers evolve to an NFV future.
LRTV Custom TV
The Journey Toward Carrier-Grade WiFi

10|26|16   |   3:39   |   (0) comments

In this Light Reading interview, Dave Sperling, CTO at Smith Micro Software and active participant of the WBA's policy working group, discusses the need for carrier-grade WiFi. Technical and business challenges slowing the fulfillment of this goal are addressed, as well as management strategies that will enable communication service providers to optimize end user ...
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE BBWF Highlights

10|26|16   |     |   (0) comments

At BBWF 2016, ZTE showed a broad range of innovative technologies that are kick-starting an ultrafast broadband journey.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Attacks Have Major Internet Sites on the Ropes
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/21/2016
Trump: Dump AT&T/TW & Comcast/NBC
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/24/2016
Google Fiber Hits Pause Button, Scales Back
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/26/2016
T-Mobile: AT&T & TW Means Ma Bell Not Focused on Mobile
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/24/2016
Layer3 TV Comes to Town, Hints at Future
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 10/21/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
'Oh, Were You Looking for This?' Click Here
'I was just playing some games...'
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.