ZTE is to help Telefónica build a regional virtual IMS platform in Latin America and, in doing so, become the latest vendor to take a prominent role in the Spanish carrier's Unica virtualization strategy.
The Chinese vendor is supplying NFV infrastructure and virtual network functions (VNFs) elements that will be used to provision voice over LTE (VoLTE) and voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) services to Telefónica customers in seven markets -- Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and Uruguay. (See Telefónica Deploys ZTE's vIMS Tech.)
ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) joins a broad range of vendors, including Ericsson, Huawei, HPE, NEC and Nokia, that are working with Telefónica on Unica, which was first announced in early 2014. (See Telefónica Unveils Aggressive NFV Plans and Eurobites: Telefónica Deploys Nokia's Virtual Router.)
Virtualized IMS was among the initial use cases the operator was planning to deploy in the 2014-2015 timeframe, but the introduction of NFV capabilities has proven harder than initially expected and has resulted in a number of strategic shifts: Having initially selected HPE as its lead integrator in early 2015, Telefónica instead handed that role to Ericsson in early 2016. (See Telefónica Ditches HPE as Virtualization Lead, HPE Will 'Continue to Work With Telefónica' on Unica and Telefónica Chooses Ericsson as Its New Virtualization Kingpin.)
The selection of Ericsson as lead integrator heralded the start of what Telefónica CTO Enrique Blanco described as "Unica Phase II," with Germany to be used as an initial market for a broad NFV infrastructure and VNF deployment by the end of 2016. (See Telefónica CTO: It's Time for Unica Phase II.)
But Latin Americas has long been a proving ground for Telefónica's virtualization ambitions: The operator has been working on a virtual CPE pre-commercial deployment (home gateways) in Brazil with NEC since 2013. Now Latin America is once again being used to advance the Unica program, though notably the virtual IMS deployment with ZTE does not currently include Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia or Mexico, where Telefónica has significant operations.
NFV deployments have been a lot more difficult to implement than expected, with targets for the introduction of virtual network functions slipping being missed by most telcos, as the most recent Heavy Reading Future of Virtualization index survey results showed. Check out the indexes on Planning, Deployment and Spending at the Index section of Virtuapedia, the online directory and research project for the virtualization community. (See Virtualization Confidence Takes Hit in Latest HR Survey and Virtuapedia Community Hits 10,000.)
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading
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