Verizon may be cautiously optimistic when it comes to the current state of some network virtualization platforms, but there is no caution on the importance of those systems to the carrier’s 5G network plans.
“SDN [software-defined networking] and NFV [network functions virtualization] are really a foundation for how 5G will be deployed,” said Rick Hornby, executive director for core network planning at Verizon. “The separation of the control and user plane are all coming from what we see in the web-based environment and are part of what is happening with 5G.”
Hornby said the carrier’s work on virtualization is bolstering its 4G network and those efforts will be a foundation for 5G.
“5G will take it to another level,” Hornby said. “It will cut down on operational costs and drive more competition by bringing more vendors to the table.”
Verizon last month claimed NFV played a key role in a multivendor 5G test. The deployment included a Cisco virtualized packet core and virtual radio access network (vRAN) product, 5G radio base stations, and home routers from Samsung.
“Our teams have really rallied around this and the concepts of virtualization, and it makes sense,” Hornby said. “The applications still provide the same functionality as before, it’s just migrating them to a new architecture.”
As an example of how it looks to prioritize the virtualization of applications, Hornby cited the carrier’s legacy 2G wireless voice service. Verizon has worked to migrate wireless voice traffic from that network to its 4G LTE network, which uses VoLTE technology to transmit voice calls. The carrier can also offer enhanced applications over the VoLTE service running in a virtualized environment.
Verizon plans to eventually shut down its 2G network.
“We have looked at all network applications that make sense to virtualize,” Hornby said. “If something’s not growth then there is no point in moving it toward a virtualized environment.”
AT&T Continues Software-5G Link
AT&T, which has been vocal in its SDN, NFV, and cloud efforts, again this week reiterated its view on the connection between software and 5G.
“5G will be our first new major technology initiative that will be ‘born in the cloud,’” wrote Marachel Knight, senior vice president for wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, in a blog post. “How do you control, automate and upgrade those network assets? How do you increase efficiency? How do you get faster and better service delivery? How do you improve security? Doing all that in hardware is slow, cumbersome, and expensive. The answer is software.”
Knight cited the company’s efforts over the past several years in gaining increased software control over network assets. She also noted plans to have a standard for 5G solidified by the end of this year, which should spur development of the needed silicon to support equipment.
“SDN is critical to managing this capability and optimizing it for all those cloud-centric applications we can’t wait to see,” Knight wrote. “We’re even thinking about the next generation of the cloud and how it gets smarter. How the cloud comes to you.”