Samsung and Cisco scored a win last week when their network functions virtualization (NFV) platforms were announced as components of a multivendor 5G network trial with Verizon. Cisco said the deployment was a collaboration between the vendors, “which was facilitated by Verizon.”
For the trial in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Cisco provided its virtualized packet core as part of its Ultra Services Platform, working with Samsung’s virtual radio access network (vRAN) product, 5G radio base stations, and home routers. Cisco said its architecture is based on the ETSI management and orchestration (MANO) platform with a Cisco virtual network function manager (VNFM).
Samsung supplied its NFV-based vRAN powered by a common-off-the-shelf (COTS) x86 architecture, its complete NFV stack with hardware, and MANO software. The vRAN itself was deployed in Michigan close to the test market, while the platform is managed by the vendor’s ETSI-compliant MANO software, which was deployed on Verizon’s cloud platform in Westlake, Texas.
Samsung said the management solution is also being used to support Verizon’s 5G trials in four other markets.
Cisco said it expects NFV to accommodate edge computing capabilities “to sustain the throughputs and user experience with respect to latency and performance,” which in regard to 5G technology is around 1 millisecond and in excess of 1 Gb/s, respectively.
“With the enhancements in RAN delivering the higher throughputs and less latency, the NFV needs to bring in similar ability to deliver similar capabilities,” Cisco said in an email response to questions about the trial. “[The] ability to scale up VNF capacity as required during peak throughput scenarios (e.g. busy hour for primetime network video) while scaling down capacity when not needed are being accounted for. With control and user plane in different compute and different capabilities, the NFV platform has to account for completely different design and functionality to accommodate these and needs to be flexible.”
The initial Verizon 5G trials are focused on delivering fixed wireless broadband services to consumers using pre-standards-based platforms. However, Samsung said it expects the NFV component to enable faster implementation of applications and use cases, support new network utilization models like network slicing, and broaden the 5G ecosystem to new hardware and software providers.
Cisco and Samsung were among the handful of vendors that last year helped to co-author Verizon’s SDN-NFV Reference Architecture document, which the carrier said at the time brought ETSI and Open Networking Foundation “lingo” into the a “Verizon world.” Other participants included Ericsson, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Intel, Nokia, and Red Hat.
Samsung, in mid-2015, scored a deal with South Korean operator SK Telecom to deploy the vendor’s virtualized IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) components from for its LTE network.
Samsung last year joined the HPE OpenNFV Partner Program as a carrier-grade network equipment vendor; signed up for the Open Networking Foundation’s (ONF) Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) project; and became a member of the Linux Foundation’s OPNFV initiative.
Initial NFV Spend
The inclusion of NFV in the trial comes at a fortuitous time as a report last week from ABI Research predicts operators in North America will lead the market in terms of investment over the next five years, accounting for $13 billion in NFV spend through 2022. The worldwide market is forecast to hit $38 billion in investments over the time period, with software components to see a 55 percent compound annual growth rate.
“Although the market is evolving and technical expertise is starting to mature, the standardization and multivendor involvement challenges will remain stagnant for the next couple of years,” said ABI analyst Neha Pachade. “Software and services vendors will have opportunities to identify NFV use-cases in enterprise verticals and use these to offer end-to-end integrated systems.”
The analyst firm cited established vendors like Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia as most likely to reap initial contracts, with more specialized vendors like Netcracker and Amdocs also predicted to garner market share.