SAN JOSE, California — Google is demonstrating that it’s possible to deliver carrier-class WiFi service by using cloud-native network functions virtualization (NFV). The company is working with India’s state-owned rail company, RailTel, to deliver WiFi service to hundreds of rail stations throughout India by using a Google Cloud-based virtual evolved packet core (vEPC).
The program, which was first announced in late 2015, is part of the Google Access & Energy Team. The goal is to offer WiFi service in 400 train stations by 2018. So far 116 stations have been outfitted with the service.
Speaking at the Layer 123 NFV World Congress here, Geng Lin, CTO of Enterprise Network and Infrastructure Services at Google, said the WiFi service is currently attracting six million monthly users that consume about 200 Terabits (Tb) of data per day. When complete, Google expects the RailTel WiFi service to support about 30 million monthly users.
Lin outlined four key elements of the network:
- A cloud-based virtual control plane.
- A cloud-based service operations platform.
- Fiber backhaul. RailTel provides the fiber backhaul through its fiber-optic network that runs along most of the company’s railroad tracks covering about 26,000 miles.
- An analytics platform.
Lin said Google’s analytics platform constantly collects network data and runs it through various analytics models to provide a real-time assessment of the network. “This system cuts down significantly on human intervention,” Lin said. “At this moment, to run a service with millions of monthly users you only need two engineers behind the scenes.”
Perhaps even more important than providing WiFi service throughout Indian train stations is that Google is showcasing a new way to deliver network services using the public cloud. “At the network architecture level it is getting to the stage where we can massively commoditize the network function services through software, which fundamentally changes the control plane,” Lin said. “When you transform the control plane architecture, you can alter the capex structure.”