Orange to Focus Polish ECOMP Trials on Residential vCPE

Orange has revealed that its ECOMP trials in Poland will focus on virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) in the residential sector as a first use case.

The French operator announced plans in October for Polish trials of ECOMP, a network management and orchestration (MANO) platform that has been developed by AT&T, without going into much detail. (See Orange Preps ECOMP Trial in Poland, Broadens AT&T Collaboration.)

Orange (NYSE: FTE) has now shed further light on the form those trials will take, as it looks to overcome various hurdles on the MANO track and address the fragmentation that bedevils efforts in this space.

AT&T's ambition is for ECOMP to become the de facto "open source" solution for telcos investing in software and virtualization technologies, saying it makes no sense for telcos and vendors to develop different commands and guidelines.

Although Orange is the only other service provider to have embraced ECOMP so far, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) says interest in the technology is growing fast. "Since March we've had meetings with more than 20 service providers large and small -- but mostly large -- from around the world," said Chris Rice, a senior vice president at AT&T Labs, during a webinar organized this week by Telco Transformation, Light Reading's sister site. "You'll see more discussions in the coming months and then with the launch of ECOMP you'll see who is part of it."

AT&T's plan is to move ECOMP into the open source community during the first quarter of 2017, and it has been working with the Linux Foundation trade association on this objective.

Speaking during the same webinar, Laurent Leboucher, Orange's vice president of APIs and digital ecosystems, said the vCPE trials in Poland would take place in four "phases" over the next few months.

He also revealed that Orange is collaborating on the trials with OSS/BSS vendor Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), which AT&T identified as an ECOMP partner back in July. (See AT&T Taps Amdocs as ECOMP Integration Partner.)

The first phase will cover the initial set-up and run until the end of February. In phase two, which will take place during the second quarter, Orange will add some monitoring capabilities, introducing key performance indicators for measures such as latency and throughput.

Phase three, which will also happen in the second quarter, will be the "more interesting part of the project," says Leboucher, when Orange begins to automate functions and look at designing policies for scaling up the service.

The move to the open source version of ECOMP is set to occur between the first and second phases of the Polish trials, according to Leboucher, as and when it becomes available.

At this stage, the French operator is giving little away about phase four, but Leboucher says "that is when we'll decide to move on to field trials."

For more NFV-related coverage and insights, check out our dedicated NFV content channel here on Light Reading.

He also emphasized that ECOMP would have no immediate bearing on the network-as-a-service offering that Orange recently launched in the enterprise sector under the EasyGo brand. (See Orange Plots Mass Network-as-a-Service Rollout.)

"Since we started that project a while ago we went with another solution from Ciena and we don't want to disturb and change the project because it is working well," said Leboucher in response to questions. "There are lots of different opportunities to virtualize and to apply SDN [software-defined networking] principles, which is why we decided to test ECOMP in a different domain -- residential rather than enterprise. But that does not mean it cannot change in future."

Orange provides the full range of fixed and mobile services in Poland, which is the company's third-biggest European market, after France and Spain, in revenue terms.

AT&T is desperate to build support for ECOMP amid concerns the industry could fracture into different open source initiatives. During a recent Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. conference in Wuzhen, Roberto Kung, Orange's senior vice president of network operation and performance, named the OPEN-O initiative backed by Chinese telcos and ETSI's Open Source MANO project as rival efforts to ECOMP. "There are three [major] open source initiatives and that is bad," he said during a keynote presentation. (See Virtualization Frustration Sees Telcos Rebel.)

Rice acknowledges that ECOMP faces competition but says it is the only platform with actual production experience behind it. "That is a big differentiator for ECOMP in the market and one reason we'll see broader adoption," he said during Telco Transformation's webinar. "We believe this is something that can acceleration the standardization of NFV [network functions virtualization] and SDN."

One possible concern about ECOMP is that it has become too unwieldy -- with more than 8 million lines of code -- for smaller operators to manage. In noting that AT&T has held discussions about ECOMP with some smaller service providers, Rice may have been trying to dispel that concern. But much will hinge on the actual support that AT&T can secure from other telcos over the next few months.

For an archived version of the entire webinar featuring Rice and Leboucher, go to this link.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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