& cplSiteName &

5G Pushes Carriers Toward Cloud-Native NFV

Ian Maclean
9/14/2017
50%
50%

The promise of 5G is ultra-reliable, low-latency communications with speeds that we've never seen before in a mobile network. But today's mobile networks are not set up in a way that can handle 5G requirements without needing extensive and expensive over-engineering.

Mobile networks now are built in the mold of the traditional telephone network, with radios covering the last mile. To make 5G possible, they'll need to borrow principles of the more scalable, flexible networks that deliver cloud-based services from companies like Netflix and Google.

Tomorrow's networks require more than RAN upgrades; they require a new kind of core network to deliver on the service, scale, security and quality-of-experience demands. These demands will present challenges for network operators because they will require virtualized network functions that can allow the network services they support to cost effectively scale to billions of devices.

Two key technology developments will unlock the potential of 5G networks for today's network operators: cloud-native network functions virtualization (NFV) and mobile edge computing (MEC).

Cloud-native NFV is more than just moving functions to less expensive hardware. The practice takes advantage of the cloud's key advantages: It is an entirely new kind of distributed computing environment, one that is scalable, resilient and fault-tolerant in a way that doesn't require the one-to-one redundancy that is common in traditional telecom networks. As such, only cloud-native virtualized network functions (VNFs) can absorb the impact of failures -- at any level of the technology stack -- through modest amounts of surplus capacity combined with automated self-healing capabilities.

With the right technology in place, the 5G network will self-heal and scale smoothly to meet almost any spike in demand or consumption, all while remaining profitable to manage and maintain, thanks to the shift from custom-built to commercial off-the-shelf. But there's one more ingredient that 5G networks need in their foundation; it's the core capability located at the network's edge.

The low latency expected in 5G networks also brings up the need to move core IT capabilities closer to the edge of the network. MEC addresses this (once your PGW functionality moves from EPC to the edge) by offering an IT service environment -- computing, processing, and storage -- at the Radio Access Network (RAN) edge. MEC also uses the mobile operator's existing NFV infrastructure, management and orchestration and can use either a dedicated platform or share resources with other applications and VNFs.

With MEC in use in a cloud-native, virtualized 5G network, the mobile applications that require a high rate of data processing and low latency (augmented reality, connected cars) can be supplemented as close to the user as possible, providing a new kind of mobile experience. Faster response times from applications and other users, as well as unbelievably high video resolution and audio quality, all become possible when MEC rids applications of the transport and routing delays that are inherent in even the fastest mobile networks operating today.

A cloud-native approach to NFV and MEC gives network operators the network foundation they need to build tomorrow's 5G networks. The good news is that there's no need to wait; network operators can start on that journey now by making the behind-the-scenes architectural changes required to support VoLTE. That use of cloud-native VNFs to quickly add IMS capabilities; network security and media translation via session border controllers; cloud-based messaging storage and syncing; and new services created by telephone application servers sets up network operators for the evolution to 5G networks, but also provides them with additional revenue opportunities today.

It is critical for network operators to examine the core network technologies that they're using to support voice services on 4G LTE networks and begin laying the groundwork for something more flexible and future-proof. Beginning a cloud-native network transformation now to take full advantage of VoLTE, mobile unified communications and a new generation of voice-enabled IoT devices, apps and services give network operators a head start by creating the network foundation and development environment that they'll need to make 5G a reality.

— Ian Maclean, CMO, Metaswitch

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from Column
Once pay-TV providers embrace the idea, they must take a comprehensive, company-wide approach to carry out such fundamental changes.
5G will require a fresh look at RF characteristics as operators deploy next-gen tech on very high-band frequencies.
MVPDs have an opportunity to make digital investments without upending their current business.
VoLTE, in the end, becomes a cloud and NFV story, Metaswitch's Ian Maclean argues.
Featured Video
From The Founder
The 'gleaming city on a hill,' Steve Saunders calls it. But who is going to take us from today's NFV componentry to the grand future of a self-driving network? Here's a look at the vendors hoping to make it happen.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
September 28, 2017, Denver, CO
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Royal Garden Hotel
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, UK
November 10, 2017, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Could the Connected Car Help Prevent Terrorism?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 9/15/2017
AT&T Wants to Ditch the Dish
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 9/13/2017
Apple's New iPhones: No Gigabit LTE for You!
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 9/14/2017
Cities Slam FCC on Broadband Proceedings
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 9/15/2017
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed