Even the “Downs” of NFV Projects Point “Up”

David Snow
David Snow

Summary Bullets:

  • Telkom Austria’s pioneering live virtualized VoLTE project has been suspended with unknown impact on Metaswitch and OpenCloud
  • Counter-intuitively, the reported rationale is the high level of senior management attention required, which speaks to the last barrier that NFV will need to overcome; organizational

When it comes to the fortunes of NFV projects and particularly virtualized VoLTE (vVoLTE), this year seems to have been something of a roller coaster ride for Metaswitch and OpenCloud. Back at Mobile World Congress both companies publicized their key roles in what Telkom Austria’s Serbian subsidiary, VIP Mobile, proclaimed to be a “world premiere”; a live vVoLTE deployment. Metaswitch provided the virtual IMS and virtual SBC and OpenCloud the virtual application server. However, it wasn’t to last too long, for earlier this month it was revealed that Telekom Austria is reportedly suspending the project, due to a management reorganization.

So what are we to make of this? At first, it seems a disappointing outcome for what looked like an early victory for smaller telecom players against major TEMs on the more level playing field NFV is aimed at fostering. Of course, it’s always difficult to assess what’s really going on, and neither operators nor vendors are likely to be able to speak freely about it. On the one hand it’s termed a “suspension”, which may mean that it will start up again, and indeed Telkom Austria says that its overall NFV program is on track – but it would say that, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, for the vendors, the operator is ominously talking about new partner selection and the article speculates around Nokia Networks and Huawei, although that could be just for the virtual EPC part.

However, laying all that uncertainty aside, there is a far more positive implication of this otherwise unwelcome development, and that’s the fact that the disruption to the NFV project is for management, rather than technology reasons. If the reporting is correct, then it appears that senior management are having to switch their attention away from the NFV program towards dealing with the group’s internal reorganizational issues. This implies that NFV projects have been very high on the operator’s agenda, absorbing a high proportion of senior management focus – and that’s good! It shows how NFV is not just a technology evolution, but a whole new ball game for an operator affecting all its business activities and processes. This is a message that Current Analysis hears all the time: NFV provides multiple technology challenges but they are steadily being removed, however the fundamental barrier to success will be organizational, not technical.

Okay, all well and good for NFV and the industry in general, but what about Metaswitch and OpenCloud? Well, don’t be too worried about that, even if VIP Mobile is suspended, they’ve got other opportunities cooking – see Spark Selects Metaswitch Virtual IMS Core for VoLTE Proof-of-Concept and OpenCloud lightning-speed VoLTE for Spark. That said, perhaps the lesson for all NFV vendors, large or small, is to make sure to address not only technical challenges but also to help operator management teams overcome the organizational and operational barriers that still stand in the way of NFV.

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