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SK Telecom Eyes Virtual Packet Core

Ray Le Maistre
11/25/2013
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South Korean mobile operator SK Telecom has been exploring the potential of a virtualized evolved packet core (EPC) and has already completed a proof-of-concept trial with NSN.

According to the vendor, the network functions virtualization (NFV) trial "showed successful results for capacity scaling for both throughput and signaling traffic in connection with smartphone usage patterns," though no details were provided.

Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) notes it was one of a number of vendors involved in the exploratory efforts by SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM), one of the most advanced 4G operators in the world, and claims it was the only one to "successfully demonstrate a complete EPC solution in a cloud environment," including virtualized Mobility Management Entity (MME) and serving gateway/packet data network gateway elements. (See SKT's LTE-Advanced Subs Growing Fast.)

The vendor's "Liquid Core" solution comprised software-only versions of its EPC elements housed on standard, x86-based IT hardware.

Why this matters
As operators, particularly those involved with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specification Group (ISG), consider the potential economic and operational benefits of NFV, a number of network elements have been identified as ripe for virtualization. The evolved packet core has for some time been regarded as a prime opportunity for virtualized elements to be introduced as new network core capabilities are built out by mobile operators to support their 4G LTE services. (See Packet Core Looks 'Ripe' for Virtualization and V Is for Virtualization.)

Carriers around the world are already looking closely at 4G developments in South Korea, as the market is one of the most developed for LTE and LTE-Advanced services: This proof of concept trial gives them another reason to keep a close eye on infrastructure and operational developments in South-East Asia.

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

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yaronwar
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yaronwar,
User Rank: Light Beer
11/26/2013 | 11:58:35 AM
IPGallery
IPGallery is offering a SW based soft switch (running on SUN machines, not sure if they also have a x86 version).

Its flexible, scalable, geographically distributed but virtually one machine, central control, dont need internal interconnect etc. 

We didnt call it NFV, but it is.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/25/2013 | 2:20:19 PM
Re: What services does this allow?
EPC is going to be one of the first parts of the LTE network to go virtual, much harder to virtualize the RAN as far as I understand it. So this is really about reducing cost-per-bit at the moment.
Ray@LR
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[email protected],
User Rank: Blogger
11/25/2013 | 1:44:21 PM
Re: What services does this allow?
In theory, the ability to share and more easily scale computing resources and have more centralized management -- as with all potential NFV deployments, the main aim is to gain greater flexibility and better utilizatoin of resources, and possibly (though up for debate) lower capex.

 It is just the virtualization of the same capabilities found in a regular EPC though - nothing new in terms of capabilities.

What has yet to be figured out, though, is what the virtualization of any resources means for management/OSS etc and security and operations team stress levels.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/25/2013 | 1:00:11 PM
What services does this allow?
I guessing more intelligence about users and services but what does virtualizing the EPC actually enable?
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