China Unicom and ZTE have formed a strategic partnership covering the development of SDN and NFV technologies.
The companies say they plan to work together using open source technology and will carry out research into software and virtualization that could provide a "solid foundation" for future collaboration in this area.
China's second-largest mobile operator, behind market leader China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU) in October completed a proof of concept (PoC) for voice-over-LTE services based on a virtualized EPC (evolved packet core) and a virtualized IMS (IP multimedia subsystem) architecture.
The operator says its work on the PoC was an important demonstration of the network-as-a-service (NaaS) concept it is promoting.
Taking advantage of SDN and NFV, telcos hope to be able to provide network services in the kind of on-demand fashion now taken for granted by customers of web-scale players.
"The partnership with ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) should focus on China Unicom's marketing and business development needs … and adopt open-source, iterative and other new R&D models," said Chi Yongsheng, the deputy director of the China Unicom Network Technology Research Institute, in a company statement.
China Mobile and China Unicom have recently drawn attention to the challenges they are facing as they look to boost revenues from data services, including competition from web offerings. Telcos worldwide hope investment in SDN and NFV technologies will give them tools to help counter that threat. (See China Mobile Flags Concerns as Profits Dip.)
Meanwhile, both China Mobile and China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA), which operates the smallest of China's three nationwide mobile networks, have backed a new SDN and NFV group, called OPEN-O, aimed at driving open SDN and NFV orchestration. (See China Mobile Shifts to Global Stage .)
A rival to the alternative Open Source MANO Community, OPEN-O draws support from vendors including ZTE, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT). (See OPEN-O Focused on Orchestrating SDN & NFV.)
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading