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Packet core

Evolved Packet Core for LTE

Driven by 3G subscriber growth, data load, and advanced applications, the mobile packet core market is on fire. Against a backdrop of declines in overall wireless infrastructure spending, it will grow 8 percent to $1.51 billion in 2009, with an even stronger outlook through 2014.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s proposed acquisition of Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR) for $3 billion in cash should tell you all you need to know about the prospects for this market. (See Cisco to Buy Starent for $2.9B.)

Indeed, many of the vendors covered in the new Heavy Reading report "Evolved Packet Core for LTE: Market Forecast & Competitive Analysis" believe that my growth expectations for the mobile packet core market of approximately 10 percent annually from 2010 onward are overly conservative. Some are talking about growth rates of 15 percent or more over the next few years.

Whatever turns out be the reality, there's no doubt the packet core is extremely strategic in the ongoing transition to the next-generation system architecture and Long Term Evolution (LTE).

Specified by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) , Evolved Packet Core (EPC) is at the center of this transformation. EPC is the conduit through which mobile users connect to applications in an LTE network, and it supports vital session, mobility, and QoS management functions. By virtue of its policy charging/control and traffic management capabilities, it also helps operators to monetize their vast investments in RAN and backhaul.

Relative to the classic 2G/3G packet core, the technology required to support EPC is far more challenging. Because of the elimination of the circuit-switch domain, the flatter architecture, and the need to support guaranteed delivery of critical, low-latency services alongside high-throughput, best-effort Internet service, EPC places demanding new requirements on network equipment.

The Heavy Reading report examines these requirements and charts how network operators will migrate to LTE/SAE, and how that migration will shape their core network technology choices. It assesses the implications for the underlying technology platforms, investigates EPC deployment options, and looks at strategies for integrating EPC with the current 2G/3G core.

The second half of the report provides in-depth profiles of leading vendors' EPC product strategies. For suppliers already established in packet core – Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Nokia Networks , Cisco/Starent, and latterly Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. – the analysis looks not only at the next-gen product roadmap, but also at the impact on the installed base and how that asset might be, if at all, migrated to EPC.

And for those vendors that view EPC as disruptive – Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), WiChorus Inc. /Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA), ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), and potentially Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) – the focus is on how they are positioning new IP-centric platforms to take on the incumbents and render legacy packet core platforms obsolete.

It is increasingly clear that, while EPC is primarily thought of in relation to LTE, the technology and architecture is aligned with, and suited to, supporting a common packet core network for 2G, 3G, and LTE radio access. This concept of a common packet core emphasizes the deeply strategic nature of EPC product development and network deployment models.

For operators, the common core concept implies a multi-year strategic, integrated view of not just LTE/SAE introduction, but also of the existing voice and packet core networks, the underlying packet transport domain, and interaction with the policy control and service delivery layer. Because operators' long-term target network architectures depend on product capability, the impact on equipment vendors is just as far-reaching.

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading


For more information about Heavy Reading's "Evolved Packet Core for LTE: Market Forecast & Competitive Analysis," or to request a free executive summary of this report, please contact:




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