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Can NFV and SDN help mobile operators transform?

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Author: Ajay Sahai, Head of Tech & Product Marketing for HPE Carrier SDN Solutions

 

With nearly a billion LTE subscribers today, globally across 450+ commercial networks the rapid penetration of 4G over the last five years has been impressive, however even more amazing has been the exponential growth in mobile applications.  This lead to the growth of new OTT players, while the traditional “mobile service provider” offerings have flat to declining revenues. This despite the demand and usage of their offering is experiencing phenomenal YoY increases. With this growth not showing any immediate signs of slowing and IoT around the corner it is clear that additional investments in capacity will be needed. The question is should the industry continue to invest in the next five years the way they have done in the last 5?

Current networks are built on propriety hardware and software systems with custom designed applications. The architectural challenges with these pre-existing networks are that they are inflexible, expensive, and require on-going maintenance and upgrade. There is no question that existing physical network paradigm has handicapped operators both in terms of the ability to create/deliver new applications and its high cost structure.

The emergence of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) offers MNOs the tools necessary to appease massive data demands. MNOs are looking to improve their existing business models and prepare for upcoming services demands like IoT and 5G connectivity.  With the formation of the ETSI Standards Organization NFV ISG, several public Proof of Concept trials have been conducted to build awareness of the technology and to evaluate the technical challenges. The industry has proved to MNOs that standard hardware and software can operate at carrier demand levels.  SDN can provide operators with the tools necessary to program their network for implementing new features and many of the discrete functions in stand-alone appliances can be ported over to software via NFV.

MNOs must take notice that SDN and NFV have grown out of their nascent stage and must start to evaluate where to implement these new network elements. Adopting of SDN and NFV often requires at least 12-18 months, and in some cases 24 months to roll out new services. MNOs must working to integrate SDN and NFV application technologies to create their own competitive services, or risk being left in the dust in the coming 5-7 years.

For more information, read our recent white paper prepared by the Signals Research Group: Bending Iron – Software Defined Networks & Virtualization for the Mobile Operator: Empowering the Next Generation of Mobile Data Growth, and review the global statistics pulled from the following Global Mobile Suppliers Association report.

Learn more at our HPE OpenNFV website, and follow us on Twitter at @HPE_NFV and @HPE_CSP.

 

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