All major Indian service providers will have at least a part of their networks virtualized in the next two years, according to Shekar Ayyar, the general manager of VMware's telco NFV business.
As one of the suppliers hoping to benefit from spending on virtualization, VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) obviously has a vested interest in banging the NFV drum. But the heightened levels of competition in India's telecom market will certainly force the country's operators to make investments in new technologies as they seek to become as "agile" as possible. A particular spur has been provided by the entry into the market last year of Reliance Jio , which has unsettled much older service providers by offering customers free voice services for life and free data for the first six months of a contract.
"I think Jio's launch has significantly changed the dynamics around a number of things, including the adoption of infrastructure technologies that allow the service providers to be more agile," says Ayyar. "So if you are a competitor trying to now get to the market quickly with your voice-over-LTE [VoLTE] services because somebody else has, the real tool that you have to have is to virtualize your architecture."
VMware is currently in the advanced stages of discussions with a number of major Indian telcos, having already established a major presence in the enterprise NFV segment. Ayyar says its ambition is to carry its enterprise success into the telco sector.
"From an opportunity standpoint, if you start top down there's at least about $100 billion of capital spent annually globally across all telcos," he says. "Out of this, around $2 billion to $8 billion is the addressable potential for a software infrastructure vendor. So for VMware, if you assume we are going to have 50%, then it could lead to at least $1 billion in new revenue potential or new opportunity in the 2020 timeframe."
Having recently been promoted to spearhead VMware's NFV activities in the telco domain, Ayyar reckons that the Indian market could eventually account for as much as 10% of global spending on NFV technologies. Similarly noting its potential, vendors including Hewlett Packard Enterprise , Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) and Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) are also eyeing a slice of the Indian market and will pose strong competition to VMware.
All those suppliers, however, face considerable uncertainty when it comes to NFV, which has presented its fair share of problems to service providers worldwide. "The challenge is that virtualization is more than just a technology," says Ayyar. "It is really an architectural transformation, but it also involves business process transformation and organizational transformation, and so it is much more holistic than just taking one piece of software and putting it into the network."
The hope is that skepticism will diminish as more telcos take the virtualization plunge. Operators in India can already learn from experiences in Europe and North America, where a number of pioneering service providers have made good progress on virtualizing parts of their networks.
"The European telcos are driving pretty hard in terms of how quickly they want to get virtualized," says Ayyar. "In America, large telcos like AT&T and Verizon are also doing a lot of work in NFV and virtualization. Asia-Pacific is kind of third in that hierarchy of timing."
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading