Building 5G: Network Slicing

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Talking to a random sample of vendors at Mobile World Congress this past spring, it was tough to get a definitive sense of what the 5G mobile core would look like. There were plenty of ideas and visions, but the only clear point of agreement was that it was too early to know for sure. Well, that and the fact that the 5G mobile core would include mobile edge computing (MEC) and network slicing. Yep, everyone seemed to agree on that.

The fact that many definitions of network slicing include the term ‘network slice’ might seem tautological (or redundant in non-SAT speak). Chalk that up to the concept of a ‘slice’ being particularly apropos for describing dynamically created (sliced) virtual networks in support of specific service requirements. Think stitching together diverse network resources – virtual or physical; RAN, core, or transport; storage or compute – in order to deliver on the demands of network operator or third-party delivered services. Per a recent 5G Americas whitepaper, “Network slicing, in its simplest description, is the ability to tailor a set of functions to optimize use of the network for each mobile device. All of the functionality needed, but only the functionality needed, is assembled in a way that optimizes that device’s ability to find the correct network, access the network efficiently and securely, and be attached to the core network with the set of functionality needed by that device.” Read more of this post

Three Different Approaches to VNF Data Management Could Spell Trouble Ahead

Summary Bullets:

  • David Snow - Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

    David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

    ‘Stateless operation’ is the result of taking all the state (or session) data out of an application and relocating it into some form of ‘shared data entity’ to enable easier VNF scaling, failover, upgrade and so on.

  • With at least three different approaches emerging, VNF data management may prove as much of a hindrance to NFV rollout as NFV MANO.

In a previous Network Matter blog post, we identified how ‘cloud native’ terminology is now being used to highlight the differences between simply converting existing physical network function-based software into VNFs and creating VNFs ‘designed for the cloud’ from the start. In “Microservices: How ‘Cloud Native’ Are Network Vendors Today?”, we looked at some of the unanswered questions around microservices. This blog takes the cloud native discussion a little further by discussing the issues around ‘stateless operation.’ Read more of this post

Comptel and Apttus Advance the Salesforce Communications Industry Framework to Drive Operator Engagement Models

Ron Westfall - Research Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Ron Westfall – Research Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• Comptel and Apttus recently debuted a joint solution built on the Salesforce Communications Industry Framework (SCIF). The solution targets operators adopting cloud-based business-to-consumer (B2C) platforms to meet their emerging digital engagement demands.

• The Comptel/Apttus partnership indicates that SCIF, originally introduced in May, is building the supporting ecosystem it needs to produce innovative cloud-oriented solutions. However, the framework needs to add security and assurance specialists to spur wider operator consideration and adoption.

In October 2016, Comptel and Apttus unveiled a joint B2C solution developed on the new SCIF. The cloud-based framework is designed to help operators improve the customer engagement experience across all their channels by integrating Salesforce into existing operator environments, streamlining the transfer of data between business and consumer applications and between operator OSS and BSS processes.

The Comptel/Apttus solution meets emerging operator B2C application demands such as self-service configuration; real-time network usage tracking; and catalog-to-order flow, orchestration and fulfillment. What competitive advantages can Salesforce, Comptel and Apttus look to generate from their collaboration?

Read more of this post

Building 5G: NB-IoT

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • NB-IoT is often invoked in discussions of next-generation wireless network evolutions as part of “paving the way to 5G.”
  • While there is no way to interpret NB-IoT as a 5G technology, it provides a “bridge” to the massive IoT capabilities that 5G promise, giving operators insight into IoT opportunities and tool to address many of them.

Our blog post from late October highlighted a fundamental MEC dynamic: while MEC is fundamental to 5G, it’s not strictly a 5G concept.  It can be deployed well before 5G becomes a commercial reality.

This same dynamic is at play with NB-IoT.  It’s here today, but expected to be critical to 5G in the future.

An evolution of LTE, nobody considers NB-IoT a 5G technology.  And yet that doesn’t stop NB-IoT from getting routinely called out as part of the “race” to 5G or “paving the way” to 5G.  At the same time, the move to accelerate NB-IoT commercialization started in 2015 with demos from Ericsson, Nokia and Intel at MWC this year.  Just last month, then, we saw Vodafone announce plans for commercial NB-IoT networks in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain to be launched in Q1 2017.  Not to be bested, T-Mobile Netherlands almost simultaneously revealed that they would have NB-IoT up and running in major cities before October came to an end. Read more of this post

Microservices: How ‘Cloud Native’ Are Network Vendors Today?

David Snow - Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • ‘Cloud native’ is the new virtualization mantra, often used to highlight the characteristics of applications designed for the cloud from the start.
  • A host of smaller network vendors are already claiming to be ‘microservices-based,’ a key attribute of being ‘cloud native.’ Larger vendors need to be careful not to lag behind.

It could hardly have escaped anyone’s notice at the SDN World Congress in The Hague this October that ‘cloud native’ is the new mantra in describing virtualized network functions (VNFs). Hardly a discussion or presentation from either operator or vendor took place without mentioning the term at least once. Generally, the term ‘cloud native’ highlights the differences between simply converting physical network function-based software into VNFs and creating VNFs ‘designed for the cloud’ from the start. Read more of this post

5G Implications on the Network Core: Moving Beyond Vagaries

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • The deployment of 5G networks will require innovation in the radio access network (RAN) as well as the network core. Most discussions of 5G network transformations, however have focused on the RAN alone.
  • Outside of the RAN, 5G will require changes to the mobile core, SDN/NFV implementations, OSS/BSS, analytics, orchestration, self optimizing networks (SON) and cloud systems. Executing on those changes successfully will require service providers to begin identifying (and messaging) their requirements.

Founded in 1991, ETIS bills itself as “The Community for Telecom Professionals.” What this translates into is an information sharing organization bringing together telecom service providers to tackle pressing issues along diverse business lines and business imperatives: Procurement, Innovation, OSS/BSS, Business Intelligence, CIO.  Current Analysis has been fortunate to work with ETIS for several years.  This year, we joined their Community Gathering in Zagreb (October 13-14) to talk about 5G – specifically, the impact 5G will on telecom networks beyond the RAN.  You can find a a copy of our presentation here.

5G RAN innovations have gotten a lot of attention from vendors and telecom service providers, and with good reason; a new air interface, new spectrum bands (mmWave) and new spectrum architectures (unlicensed / shared) all point to the need for critical new RAN R&D and RAN solutions. Yet if we recognize that 5G will be more than just the radio access network, we need to acknowledge the need for 5G-oriented core network innovations as well. Read more of this post

Network Operators Scold Suppliers at SDN World Congress

   David is a Principal Analyst on the Current Analysis Service Provider Infrastructure team.


David is a Principal Analyst on the Current Analysis Service Provider Infrastructure team.

Summary Bullets:

• The most talked about sessions at the October SDN World Congress in The Hague saw Verizon, BT, and Orange scolding suppliers about perceived weaknesses in their SDN and NFV product offerings.

• There is no doubt the transformation to a more software-centric network model is changing the relationship between network operators and their suppliers.

If network operators wanted to create a buzz at SDN World Forum they succeeded. In bluntly discussing what they see as weaknesses in vendors SDN and NFV product offerings, network operators such as Verizon, BT, and Orange inserted themselves into many of the casual conversations taking place during session breaks and in the exhibit hall at the event held in The Hague in October. Read more of this post