NFV (Network functions virtualization)

DoCoMo Capex Down 10% Thanks to NFV, Says Exec

THE HAGUE -- SDN NFV World Congress 2018 -- NTT DoCoMo has been able to realize a 10% reduction in relevant capital expenditure by using common off-the-shelf servers instead of dedicated hardware as part of its transition to virtualized networks, the Japanese operator claimed earlier today.

Hiroyuki Oto, the general manager of the NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) core network development department, said the commodity hardware had led to overall capex savings despite some additional costs associated with management and network orchestration.

Providing a progress report on DoCoMo's network functions virtualization (NFV) strategy, Oto said 12 types of network function have now been virtualized, including the EPC (evolved packet core) and IMS (Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem).

While those virtual network functions (VNFs) do not currently support most of DoCoMo's commercial services, Oto claimed that about 25% of commercial nodes are now based on virtualization technology.

The operator is using the open source OpenStack platform as the basis of its NFV infrastructure and says it has been able to accommodate VNFs from a number of different vendors on this system.

NFV appears to have brought other benefits for DoCoMo, too. Developing and introducing new services currently takes just a few months, said Oto at this week's SDN NFV World Congress in The Hague, compared with at least six before the NFV rollout began.

The decision to invest in NFV was taken partly because of Japan's susceptibility to natural disasters such as earthquakes, according to the DoCoMo executive. By taking advantage of NFV, DoCoMo's operational support systems can automatically reallocate capacity in the event of a serious disaster, guaranteeing service quality for customers in affected areas.

The NFV move also appears to have helped DoCoMo to fix network problems without dispatching technicians to a site. That has led to operational savings and greater reliability, said Oto.

The update may help to buoy confidence after executives in The Hague this week complained about slow progress on virtualization. Several operators have said the NFV products that are currently available do not bring the full benefits the industry was promised back in 2012, when NFV first appeared as a concept. (See NFV Struggles With Its Six-Year Itch.)

For more NFV-related coverage and insights, check out our dedicated NFV content channel here on Light Reading.

Companies including Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Orange (NYSE: FTE) and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) have been urging vendors to develop "cloud-native" products that break network functions into smaller and more resource-efficient components. (See NFV 1.0 Is Passé; Cloud Native Is Coming, DT's Terastream: A Bigger Splash?, Orange Issues Telco Cloud Rallying Cry and Vodafone's Heeran: Defining the Telco Cloud.)

Outlining next steps, Oto said the introduction of cloud-native applications was similarly on DoCoMo's future roadmap. Automation and support for 5G network slicing are also priorities, he indicated.

DoCoMo has already carried out a network slicing proof of concept with Sweden's Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC). "We deployed a slicing management function and created several slices in our networks," said Oto. "Those slices can provide different services and the technology will be very important in the 5G era."

The Japanese operator's overall capital expenditure fell 3.5% in its last fiscal year, to 576.4 billion Japanese yen ($5.1 billion), as it took steps to bolster efficiency.

"Toward the goal of further strengthening our managerial structure, we continued to pursue more efficient use of capital expenditures through reduction of equipment procurement and other costs, and further improvement of the efficiency of telecommunications facilities construction," said the operator in its earnings report.

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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