BARCELONA, Spain – You can count Verizon as unimpressed with rival AT&T’s push to virtualize 75 percent of its network components that can be virtualized by 2020. During an interview at this week’s MWC Barcelona event, Mike Haberman, vice president of network engineering at Verizon, questioned the significance of AT&T’s progress.
“What does the 75 percent mean,” Haberman said, noting that the number really does not mean anything without context of how that virtualization is helping customers or improving network performance.
AT&T recently stated that it had virtualized the software control of 65 percent of its core network functions by the end of 2018, on its way to that 75 percent control by next year. AT&T, it should be noted, has said that it’s running its mobile 5G network and its FirstNet first responder service both as virtualized applications with full software control.
Haberman’s comments echoed those of Kyle Malady, executive vice president and CTO at Verizon, who recently stated that Verizon has been quiet about its use of SDN mostly because it’s been “hard to define what it really means.”
Malady did note that the carrier currently had “hundreds of applications” running in its core that have moved to its Verizon Cloud Platform (VCP). He added that some of those are housed at some location in “the middle” of its network and that some are closer to the edge.
Malady also explained that so far the move toward virtualization has mostly amounted to reducing its cost of operations.
Haberman was more interested in explaining full applications that Verizon was running in a virtualized environment, including the carrier’s Visible no-contract wireless service. He said that the service is completed virtualized.
“For the applications, it’s what sort of latencies are they going to provide to customers that’s important,” Haberman said. Toward that end, he cited Verizon’s recent trial of Multi-Access Edge Compute (MEC) equipment and MEC platform software on a live 5G network that slashed network latency in half.
Haberman also explained that the carrier has been finding that some software components are not quite able to meet the “five nines” needs of telecom operators, which has required a bit of extra work to solidify.
“That has been one of the learnings with SDN is that it has to be of network quality,” Haberman said. “We can’t sacrifice the quality and reliability that people expect with our brand.”
Verizon this week also added 5G network capabilities to its Cisco-sourced SD-WAN platform. The move will allow enterprises to tap into the next-generation network when using services such as network slicing and mobile edge computing. The carrier announced last week that its 5G network will hit 30 markets by the end of this year.