Brocade: 5G Is More Than Just an Air Interface

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?)

Learn more about 5G and IoT at our upcoming Big Communications Event in Austin, TX, May 24-25. Register now!

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.)

And on the 5G front, major telecom suppliers Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. are all scrambling to get pieces of that lucrative upcoming market.

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— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

TV Monitor 2/23/2016 | 7:34:06 PM
Re: It *will* be! kq4ym

"then Brocade and ATT&T and other that move forward without the firm standards"

US carriers are forced to adopt the Samsung 5G because this is one of two standards with a strong smartphone support from Samsung and LG and backed by the FCC under its 28 Ghz 5G sprectrum policy.

The other one is called TD-LTE+ to be used by the Chinese, Softbank, and Sprint. This one too will enjoy a strong smartphone support from Chinese vendors and Apple.

European one is basically dead on arrival, because there is no smartphone support for it and it will be deployed much later than the Samsung 5G and the TD-LTE+.
mendyk 2/23/2016 | 3:56:44 PM
Re: It *will* be! This is setting up to be a potential mess. By reasonable accounts, 5G will be a lot more than a "speed" upgrade -- it will require a completely new infrastructure. It's too early to say, but it would not be a surprise if the gun-jumpers simply come up with higher-capacity services and slap the 5G label on them. So we will have at least a few years of debating what is and what isn't "true 5G." The mobile industry has been down this road before.
kq4ym 2/23/2016 | 3:45:08 PM
Re: It *will* be! If it proves true that "the industry can't wait for formal 5G standards to emerge, according to a Brocade executive," then Brocade and ATT&T and other that move forward without the firm standards might well have a head start over those that wait.
Mitch Wagner 2/16/2016 | 6:43:04 PM
Re: It *will* be! Solid air? Wait, what?
TV Monitor 2/16/2016 | 6:14:47 PM
Re: It *will* be! Dan Jones

"Well, Samsung didn't even manage to get the 28GHz band (yeah, yeah, I know, adjacent band) taken up at the WRC last year, so how loud is their voice exactly?"

Samsung asked for 24~40 Ghz, and they got their wish. Samsung's technolgy can cover 24~40 Ghz and is not tied to 28 Ghz.

On the other hand, Ericsson, Huawei, and NTT Docomo didn't get what they asked for. Nokia got the 60~80 Ghz band they asked for but didn't get the 8 Ghz band.

So the biggest winner coming out of WRC-15 was Samsung, as the structuring of 5G spectrum favors Samsung's technology decisively while excluding the possibility of rival technologies. NTT Docomo officials were complaining how they were even supposed to launch 5G at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, now that they didn't get the spectrum they asked for and the Tokyo Olympic Stadium no longer has a dome. Supposedly the Japanese 5G demo depends on an array of antennas placed on the Tokyo Main Stadium's dome but the dome was eliminated in the budget cut.

"It doesn't pay to take any vendor at their word on the delivery of next-gen technology. There's so much that can happen to cause schedules to slip."

Not in this case since all the parties involved have their honors to defend by launching the 5G network at 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. You bet they will be working 100 hours a week if they have to in order to meet the deadline. Samsung actually did this before, where they scrapped the original Galaxy S6 and launched the Project Zero in September 2014 after the iPhone 6 launch shock, to build a totally new Galaxy S6 from scratch and finished the thing in 6 months. Of course Samsung engineers had to work 100 hours a week to make that happen and got totally burned out, and this is the reason why the Galaxy S7 is a refreshed S6.

And Galaxy S6 thing is nothing compared to the the live launching of 5G network in February 2018 in terms of importance.
DanJones 2/16/2016 | 5:35:17 PM
Re: It *will* be! Well, Samsung didn't even manage to get the 28GHz band (yeah, yeah, I know, adjacent band) taken up at the WRC last year, so how loud is their voice exactly?

I'm sure that Samsung 28GHz system will be in the running in early 5G trials. But I also remember Samsung Networks talking up how big 4G would be for them in 2005, how they had 220 patents etc, etc, etc. Didn't really work out for them did it?

It doesn't pay to take any vendor at their word on the delivery of next-gen technology. There's so much that can happen to cause schedules to slip. Maybe you weren't around for deployment of 3G (a complete fiasco in the US to be frank), 4G (better but still...), but I was. A LOT can happen in 2 years.
TV Monitor 2/16/2016 | 5:07:36 PM
Re: It *will* be! Dan Jones

Let's take a look at what will happen in 2018. By early 2018, there will be the Korean 5G network, fully operational and demonstrated before thousands of world reporters with a working phone model vs other candidates still in lab experiemental stage. Guess whose voice would be the loudest when the final 5G interface is decided at ITU WRC-18 in late 2018, the vendor with an operational 5G system or the vendor with a hypotherical 5G system still in the lab?

This is why Huawei is desperate to demonstrate its TD-LTE+ network and Ericsson its 15 Ghz NX network at Russian World Cup in 2018, in hopes of making a voice at the ITU WRC-18. This is because 2018 is the make or break year for 5G standardization.

To be honest, I expect Huawei to make a stronger impression that Ericsson at the Russian World Cup, because Huawei can build both basestations and phones while Ericsson can't.
DanJones 2/16/2016 | 4:52:43 PM
Re: It *will* be! And AT&T and Verizon will start 5G field tests in 2016, doesn't mean any single one of them will get to define the air interface!
TV Monitor 2/16/2016 | 4:38:31 PM
Re: It *will* be! Dan Jones

"Arguably, 5G isn't *even* a solidified air interface yet!"

Tell that to Koreans who are already building a network on its 28 Ghz 5G interface. This first 5G network will be completed by Spring of 2017 and enter a stabilization phase.
DanJones 2/16/2016 | 1:10:24 PM
It *will* be! Arguably, 5G isn't *even* a solidified air interface yet!
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