Having largely accomplished its original mission of moving carriers to voice-over-IP (VoIP), the i3Forum is now expanding its scope to help wholesale carriers adopt network functions virtualization (NFV).
The i3Forum is a nonprofit group for wholesale voice carriers. Its members include AT&T, BT, CenturyLink, Deutsche Telecom, Orange, Verizon, and Vodafone. It was created to help voice wholesalers — carriers that create interconnections between each other’s networks — migrate away from time division multiplexing (TDM).
“These guys transact hundreds of billions of minutes,” says Micaela Giuhat, VP of network interconnection at Metaswitch, a provider of virtual session border controllers (vSBCs) and also a member of the i3Forum. “But there’s a lack of understanding of this market. It’s a world that’s not very well known.
“We believe [Metaswitch is] number one in terms of sales of vSBCs. We have over 20 live deployments, with many others close to deployment and in trials right now.”
- Evolved packet core (EPC) — for mobile broadband access
- IP infrastructure for LTE IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) — for the SIP infrastructure behind VoLTE
- Session border controllers — for IP-based voice network interconnection
The paper also gives some potential NFV use cases for wholesalers.
One example would be virtualizing mobile base stations that manage radio-area network (RAN) nodes from multiple vendors.
“A RAN node utilization is usually lower than its max capacity because the system is designed to cover the peak load,” says the paper. “However, the average load is far lower, and each RAN node resource cannot be shared with other nodes. Base station virtualization can achieve sharing of resources among multiple logical RAN nodes from different systems, dynamically allocating the resource as well as reducing power consumption.”