Enabling the Telco Transformation through SDN and NFV

Gone are the days where mobile providers and telecommunications companies can rightfully be called “phone companies”.

According to GSMA’s Mobile Economy Report – Asia Pacific, the mobile economy in the region is seeing an accelerating migration to higher speed networks. While countries in Asia Pacific (APAC) such as South Korea and Japan are leading the world on 4G deployments, the next steps inevitably lie in the race for 5G.

The starting pistol has already sounded — Korea is looking to launch its ‘pre-standard’ 5G in time for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018 while Japan hopes to conduct a 5G proof-of-concept (PoC) demonstration in the same time frame. Singapore has also joined the race to be among the first to roll out 5G networks with a more personal agenda. The development of 5G technology will play a key role in seeing Singapore’s Smart Nation vision to fruition as the plan centers on connectivity and ultimately relies heavily on networks that can process a massive stream of information.

This development points to a larger trend at play – there will be a dramatic shift in the business model and infrastructure at the center of the modern service provider’s data deluge, owing to 5G adoption.

The combination of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) breaks the service silo model and lowers the relative cost of capital assets through the use of commercial-off-the-shelf hardware and software, resource pooling, network visibility, and analytics. Consequently, networks will be more agile and adapt to evolving subscriber needs. However, this shift to virtualized, software-driven networks isn’t just about upgrading technology, but also enabling centralization of control and programmability of networks, ultimately driving automation.

Our experience with major service-provider customers has honed our perspective on the journey towards NFV and SDN and there are four main organizational elements that service providers need to address:

  • Business processes
  • New software skills
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Company culture

This means groups within telcos – be it the networking guys or the IT folks – that previously never had to collaborate are coming together in new ways as the organizational walls fall.

1. BUSINESS PROCESSES

Simplification and automation are imperative to rapidly delivering the services that consumers and businesses alike need. That could include on-demand firewalls for a startup or tune-streaming services to music lovers that don’t count against data plans.

With NFV, teams can now quickly build and scale these types of new services using virtual functions.

With the introduction of NFV and SDN technologies, software automates complex operational process, and delivers networks functions previously delivered by dedicated or proprietary hardware. This requires a new process model for controlling software-based objects, not boxes, and as such, service providers must learn to work with logical devices as well as physical devices.

It is important for service providers to understand how SDN and NFV will impact their business. Mapping out where SDN and NFV will most greatly affect their business is the first step to embracing the changes that they will bring. A deep dive into the technology will allow service providers to establish the processes needed, and enable them to support automation and software control.