Günther Ottendorfer, chief operating officer of technology at Sprint, in a blog post said the carrier has spent the past couple of years deploying its OpenStack cloud-based network functions virtualization (NFV) platform. He explained the deployment has been “an essential building block” as the carrier builds toward its 5G network.
Ottendorfer said the carrier is set to expand the more than 30 data centers it has deployed in support of its common infrastructure goal. The expansion will be part of a NFV-focused “cap and grow” model that will see the carrier cap investment on legacy core network hardware and grow investment in virtualized platforms.
That investment will be based on open-source software using standards-based hardware. Ottendorfer said the focus builds on its C3PO efforts, and will be on supporting Sprint’s plans for 5G, automation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and edge computing.
Sprint earlier this year unveiled its C3PO project, which is based on CUPS [control and user plane separation] for packet optimization. The platform is an open source NFV- and software-defined networking-based mobile core reference architecture intended to help improve the performance of the network core. C3PO basically provides a data plane for the packet core combined with an SDN controller.
Ottendorfer explained Sprint has been building a virtual core to replace standalone, bare metal platforms with a single NFV infrastructure (NFVI). This virtual core houses the carrier’s virtualized evolved packet core (vEPC) and IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) as virtualized network functions (VNFs).
Sprint has virtualized its IP-based text messaging, and is planning to migrate all of its text messaging traffic to NFV by year-end. The carrier is also migrating its multimedia messaging (MMS) traffic, with plans to deploy a MMS VNF during the first half of next year.
Ron Marquardt, vice president of technology at Sprint, had previously noted reconfiguration of a network core is becoming more important as operators move on 5G deployments. Sprint plans to begin deploying 5G network technology in 2019.
“The core is 80 percent idle today,” Marquardt said. “There are ways to use the core better.”
Metaswitch and Mavenir into the Fold
Ottendorfer also said Sprint is bringing new vendors into its ecosystem. This includes Metaswitch and Mavenir to handle various control and management functions within the IP-based network deployment.
Metaswitch is being tasked to provide its session border controller (SBC), call session control function (CSCF), and the breakout gateway control function (BCGF). A SBC is designed to control the signaling and data traffic in an IP network. CSCF manages the signaling from end-user to services and other networks, building a horizontal layer to support different access networks. BCGF manages network access for the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
Mavenir is providing support with its telephony application server (TAS), media resource function (MRF), and policy diameter routing agent (PDRA). TAS manages applications and multimedia functions in a telecom network. MRF allows operators to deploy multimedia services across fixed and mobile networks. A PDRA allows operators to implement routing rules and policies for network traffic and access.
“Now is the right time to leverage the benefits of NFV, as we evolve toward gigabit LTE and 5G,” Ottendorfer wrote. “We expect this to be a progressive roll-out of functionality, which will begin to introduce new functionality and capabilities, release by release. As we move forward, we expect that the strengths of NFV and our ecosystem will afford Sprint greater flexibility, greater efficiencies, and more agility in terms of innovation.”