Virtual EPCs Arrive Much Sooner Than Many Have Expected – But Where Is the Revenue?

Glenn Hunt
Glenn Hunt

Summary Bullets:

  • Predictions that EPC would be one of the first and most important NFV applications ring true; this month alone, we have seen not only technology/product announcements, but also POCs and even initial deployments.
  • Vendor opportunity appears to be wide open for both small and larger, well-established suppliers; given the software content, non-hardware vendors now have a chance to penetrate this early adopter market.

Now that the reality of virtualized network functions such as the mobile core and CPE is beginning to transition from the discussion and concept stage into proof of concept (PoC) and initial deployment in support of new operator service models, how will the vendor community be impacted from a profit and competitive perspective? June is shaping up to be a watershed month for virtual EPC (vEPC) announcements which point out that the mobile core is indeed one of the initial network functions to become fully virtualized and staged for deployment. A key observation is that not all of the announcements have come from traditional network suppliers, leaving no doubt that the market will become more crowded as startups and IT players join the traditional mobile core players. What seems clear is that the new vEPC model can help operators; what is somewhat less clear is how the new and existing suppliers will turn this market transition into profitable product sales – which are for the most part software-based.

Why would this supplier business model become somewhat cloudy? Consider the recent announcement by Hitachi as an example. Hitachi’s new virtual MME/SGSN relies on Juniper’s Contrail SDN/NFV controller to deliver carrier-grade scale and elasticity needed by mobile operators; but how will the solution be priced given software and platform components being sourced by multiple vendors? A similar scenario is evidenced by the Connectem and Vipnet demonstration of live HD video being supported by Connectem’s vEPC (VCM); although it conquers the startup vendor ‘credibility hurdle,’ we see a new vendor in the mobile core space which would not have existed without virtualization. Now that the industry has rushed to deliver on operator demands, will the overall costs of the virtualized network be any less than that delivered by the traditional EPC solution when all the fees associated with software licenses, usage fees, professional service and ancillary third-party components are summed up? Will the influx of a new group of suppliers complicate operator buying options?

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