Network operators need the agility benefits of 5G now -- the industry can't wait for formal 5G standards to emerge, according to a Brocade executive.
Brocade today introduced new products designed to hasten the transition to 5G. But is it premature for a vendor like Brocade to come out with 5G technology now, ahead of the emergence of 5G standards? Will it create future problems?
"We've seen the industry continue to wrestle with that kind of thing, Brocade Mobile Networks CTO Kevin Shatzkamer tells Light Reading. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), for example, previously advocated waiting for a 5G standards to emerge, but now it's reversed that position and is going into trials with 5G services. (See AT&T Lights Fire Under 5G, Plans 2016 Trials.)
The industry is embracing 5G to mean more than just the air interface, but also the transition to virtualization, software programmability, automation and orchestration that the new technology infrastructure will support. "All of that will be de facto in 5G," Shatzkamer said. These are also central to the transition to New IP.
"We see pressure on SMS revenue, roaming revenues because of regulation, variance in the network itself. The perspective is that 5G must be the answer, but we can't wait -- we must achieve those benefits now," Shatzkamer says. "And we must enable those technical capabilities and technologies inside the infrastructure we have now."
As for today's announcements: Brocade introduced products to help mobile operators get their networks ready for 5G services. (See Brocade Launches Management & Optimization Tools for Mobile IoT.)
Traditional mobile network are already strained by Internet and video services, as well as Internet of Things machine-to-machine services. Emerging uses such as in-flight connectivity make matters worse.
Brocade's goal is to improve agility by reducing the time to break-even for operators to roll out new services, Shatzkamer says. Because rolling out new services is expensive, carriers get beaten to the punch by OTT and cloud providers. Traditionally, new services achieve profitability when they hit the 40% adoption rate -- Brocade's goal is to reduce that threshold to 10%, permitting the kind of "fail fast" business model prevalent in Silicon Valley -- rolling out new features quickly and shutting them down equally quickly when they fail, while getting an early start on the ones that take off.
To meet those needs, Brocade introduced the Virtual Core for Mobile Solutions, a virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) product suite that supports network slicing, independent localization, and control and user planes.
The Brocade VCM -- the result of Brocade's acquisition of Connectem last year -- is designed to transform mobile networks by eliminating expensive, proprietary hardware devices, long upgrade cycles and over-provisioning. It's deployable in days instead of months. Depending on specific networks and deployment requirements, the same software can be used as vEPC or combination of mobility management entity (MME), home subscriber service (HSS), serving gateway (S-GW) and packet data network gateway (P-GW). Network operators can use the Brocade VCM to create network slices optimized for IoT traffic profiles to enable a mobile packet core-as-a-service for hosting MVNO services, or to support new services from mobile operators. The solution interoperates with all major radio and 3G/LTE core network equipment through standard interfaces and connects 5G capabilities to older networks, Brocade says. (See Brocade Aims for Global Mobile Domination.)
Brocade says SmartSky Networks, which provides in-flight data communications, tapped the Brocade vEPC to connect SmartSky 4G air-to-ground broadband network to more than 250 cell sites across the US, Brocade says.
The vendor is also launching mobile edge computing capabilities based on Brocade vRouter integrating routing, IPsec termination and network firewall functions with the virtualized infrastructure of the host OS. The approach allows MNOs to capture new revenue by extending the cloud to the edge of the mobile network, as well as provide for consistent introduction of virtual network functions in closer proximity to end users, and host IoT and other third-party applications. These capabilities integrate with he Brocade SDN Controller and Virtual Packet Broker. (See Juniper Launches Virtual Routers, DevOps Capabilities and So How Do You Test a Virtual Router?)
Brocade also announced new partnerships to accelerate the development of New IP networks and 5G, leveraging SDN, NFV and mobile edge computing (MEC). New partners include Coriant, Rift.io, MetaSwitch, Openet, PeerApp, Saguna, Vasona, Avvasi, EMC, Guavus, Viavi, Aerohive, Aruba and Ruckus. (See Brocade Partners for 5G, New IP, and Open Mobile Networking.)
Brocade faces competition in its 5G and IoT plans -- Cisco, in particular, is making IoT and the need to spread intelligence to the edge of the network central to its future growth strategy, and purchased Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion this month to accelerate those plans. (See Cisco Looks to Jasper Acquisition to Transform Enterprises – & Itself and Cisco Buys IoT Cloud Provider Jasper for $1.4B.)
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