NFV Strategies

Mobile Operators Least Prepared for NFV

Preparedness for NFV varies tremendously by operator, but, as a general rule, mobile operators are currently the least prepared for full NFV implementations that include new operations and management capabilities, according to analysts at last week's OSS in the Era of SDN & NFV: Evolution vs. Revolution show in London.

In what was a lively and often contentious roundtable discussion, Caroline Chappell, principal analyst, Cloud and NFV, at Heavy Reading , said she doesn't see much preparedness in mobile operators for NFV, which perhaps is understandable as their virtual network functions tend to be more complex than fixed line providers. (See Pics From OSS in the Era of SDN & NFV .)

"Generally, [we don't see preparedness] in operators that don't have strong business drivers, perhaps because they are not in competitive markets or they are playing catch-up," Chappell explained.

Fellow Heavy Reading senior analyst and panel moderator Gabriel Brown pointed out that many large operators with both fixed and wireless operations, such as Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) and NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), are actually quite advanced with NFV, but many standalone mobile operators don't see the technology as mature enough to warrant significant upheaval, including an overhaul of their OSS/BSS systems. (See Telefónica Proves Brocade Router Performs for NFV and NTT Docomo Completes NFV Trial With Multiple Vendors.)

For example, deploying voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) on IMS has become a rather urgent requirement for most mobile operators, driven by the iPhone 6's support of the 4G voice technology. These mobile operators want a modern, future-proof system, but they also need it now. Rather than leap to full-fledged NFV with MANO (management and network orchestration), they are deploying virtualized functions on virtual machines -- for features such as telephony apps or RCS servers -- that don't require a revamp of their back office systems. (See NFV, SDN Is a Catalyst for OSS Rethink , Virtual Mobile Core – Why? And When? and Nokia's NFV Strategy Starts With VoLTE .)

"If you are not using MANO, it looks a bit simpler," Brown says. "It's virtualized apps and there's a degree of cloudification, in some cases, but it's not using a full NFV stack with a MANO."

Need to know more about the management of network assets and applications in an SDN and NFV environment? Check out our industry show site for OSS in the Era of SDN & NFV: Evolution vs Revolution here on Light Reading.

Chappell contrasted the mobile operators' experience with that of an Ethernet and cloud service provider such as Colt Technology Services Group Ltd , which is relatively advanced in its use of SDN and NFV. Colt OSS Architect Simon Farrell, who participated in a roundtable discussion, noted that Colt has been virtualizing services for years, so NFV was just a matter of continuing down that road for further cost reductions. While it is still trying to figure out if it can achieve service agility through NFV, Farrell said he's confident the business case will follow. (See Colt: NFV Can't Be Backward Step, Colt Evolves Its OSS for SDN, NFV and Colt Preps Next-Gen OSS for NFV, SDN)

Colt was already saving money just by virtualizing some services, Farrell explained. That is the first business model that makes sense for it. "The other business case I'm less convinced about is service agility, but I'm not worried," he added. "If the first approach is successful, we will have an environment on top of which to introduce it, if we desire, and the business case adds up."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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