NTT DoCoMo -- the operator typically ahead of the pack when it comes to cutting-edge mobile -- says that it plans to start offering virtualized 4G services by March 2016.
The Japanese operator says that it has now completed proof-of-concept trials verifying the feasibility of mobile NFV with Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701). NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) has been working with the vendors on the NFV tests since November 2013. (See NTT DoCoMo, NEC Test Virtual EPC.)
"Following the successful ... trials, DOCOMO now aims to commercially deploy services utilizing a virtualized mobile network by the fiscal year ending in March 2016," NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) said in a statement. (See Defining SDN & NFV.)
For 4G LTE mobile networks, virtualization initially means moving the specialist hardware functions of the packet core network to run on software and servers, via the virtual evolved packet core (vEPC). Typically, this should allow the operator to more easily scale to handle user traffic flows and improve service delivery. (See The Rise of Virtual EPC.)
Heavy Reading analyst Gabriel Brown wrote in a recent report that he expects a small group of "leading progressive operators" to aim for "complete virtual EPC replacement by the end of 2016." These operators, however, are the exception rather the rule, and Brown believes that a widespread move to virtual EPC is likely to happen post-2016. (See Heavy Reading: The Road to Virtual EPC.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading