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Cloud Native/NFV

Carriers 'must continue to invest in network software'

A cloud-native network infrastructure that supports containers, edge and network slicing is fundamental to compete in 5G, meaning that carrier network software investment must continue.

So says Stephanie Gibbons, principal analyst for carrier network software at Light Reading sister company Omdia.

Despite the concerns over COVID-19, Gibbons said operators must continue 5G investments, including in SDN and NFV implementations.

Outlook cloudy: Cloud native network infrastructure continues to be vital to 5G. (Source: Unsplash)
Outlook cloudy: Cloud native network infrastructure continues to be vital to 5G.
(Source: Unsplash)

In the report "2021 Trends to Watch: Carrier Network Software," Gibbons said operators are continuing to deploy carrier network software for network automation.

"Over the last two years, ensuring that this automation provides unified 'end-to-end' management has become critical," she said.

Omdia said that 96% of carriers have either deployed or plan to deploy network functions virtualization (NFV) in 2020, while 50% have deployed or plan to deploy carrier software-defined networks (SDN).

"Though the industry is moving toward containerized network functions (CNFs), next year will still be a year of testing and exploration, with virtual network functions remaining part of NFV deployments," Gibbons said.

She added that universal customer premise equipment (uCPE) will be in position to begin scaling up deployments next year, set to reach $93.5 million in 2021 and $1.78 billion by 2024.

In the first instance, this will be driven by enterprise adoption of software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN).

Edging ahead

Edge technology will also form an important part of future network investments.

"The edge is uncharted waters for telcos," Gibbons acknowledged. "It is meant to be revolutionary in the way operators can offer services to customers. Prioritized initial use cases are emerging, the top being private wireless. Operators must continue to integrate NFV into networks to play a key role in private wireless."

Gibbons also said operators are "not done with VNFs yet," but expects that operators will grow in confidence with containers.


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"Operators are still struggling to get the resilience and performance they want from containerized network solutions. They will get more confident as proof of concepts (PoCs) scale up and containerized network functions become the normal starting point for new NFV deployments," she said.

A further key message from the report is that Omdia believes uCPE has a clear use case to sell to enterprises and will see deployments scale in 2021.

"Service providers like Lumen and Verizon have found a compelling business case for uCPE enterprise services – namely SD-WAN plus additional VNFs. As enterprises accelerate network evolution, uCPE will grow in import as a hardware component for them to realize cost and optimization opportunities," Gibbons concluded.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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