- Virtual EPCs (vEPC) begin to see commercial application, but PoCs and trials still outweigh deployments by a wide margin.
- Operators appear to be sampling the wares of multiple vendors before taking the plunge – small and larger vendors claim significant operator interest in their solutions.
Current Analysis recently updated its mid-year assessments of the products of the six primary mobile core vendors, all of which continue to add enhancements to their traditional physical EPC solutions; but over the past period they have also expanded their virtual EPC (vEPC) offers and note considerable traction (albeit mostly on the trial and PoC front) with operators from all geographies. This is only natural since the promise of network virtualization, if only partly realized, could significantly change network architectures, benefiting both consumers and operators.
In mapping key operators to vendor claims of either trials, PoCs or commercial deployments, it is obvious that many operators have chosen to work with multiple vendors in their trek through the perils of network virtualization and the idea of transitioning their “rock solid”, but somewhat inflexible, mobile core architectures. Most notably, we see operators such as China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, Telefonica and AT&T (to name a few) being touted by multiple vendors. It remains to be seen if operators will eventually settle on one of two suppliers, or continue to leverage multiple suppliers to satisfy their need for more agile and unique services as well as new business opportunities.
Taking a look at the primary use cases which are being considered for vEPC application, as well as its companion vIMS, reveals varied service types, including: VoLTE, M2M, IoT, Wi-Fi calling, virtual enterprise, virtual home gateway and distributed mobile broadband. The two applications topping the list in terms of operator interest appear to be VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling, with several vendors claiming deployment in multiple live networks. Although certainly a possibility, the replacement or augmentation of the physical EPC appears to have taken a pause in favor of adding new services that can grow top line revenues. However, from an SDN perspective, operators see the automation of network functions as a clear method to reduce OpEx and improve time to service cycles.
Both small (startups) and established vendors (Tier 1s) appear to have captured the attention of operators; however, multiple startups (specifically Maviner and Connectem) were acquired, leaving Affirmed Networks as one of the few remaining independent suppliers that can claim a level of visibility in large operator networks, such as AT&T. For the remainder of 2015, we expect the number of commercial deployments to increase significantly and trials/PoCs to level out as operators gain confidence in vendor implementations and the technology in general.