MWC Shanghai 2017: ZTE Addresses ‘5G Network Slicing Backhaul’ Requirements with New Solution

Glen Hunt – Principal Analyst, Transport and Routing Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Introduces Slicing for Backhaul: The ZXCTN 609 supports separate backhaul slices (tunnels), each with independent performance characteristics, meeting 5G demands for low-latency, high-speed, flexible connections.
  • 100G Backhaul Link Support: The ZXCTN 609 expands ZTE’s Flexhaul series to support 100G links to handle expected high-bandwidth 5G backhaul speeds, with high-availability features such as protection switchover and SDN control.

ZTE leveraged this year’s MWC Shanghai 2017 to further its stake in the emerging 5G infrastructure market by expanding its Flexhaul series backhaul platform to support 100G links. 100G is needed to cope with the massive capacity requirements expected as 5G comes to life in the next few years. The ZXCTN 609 also includes the company’s FlexE tunnel technology, which it announced as part of the ZXCTN 6180H launch, bringing the equivalent of network slicing to the backhaul network. ‘Flexibility’ is clearly the focus, with FlexE supporting a variety of service characteristics for applications such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine type communications (mMTC), and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (uRLLC), which have vastly different transport requirements. ZTE has collaborated closely with multiple operators to craft mobile network solutions that meet a range of application types and capacities. In addition to being visible in China Mobile and Ncell Axiata, ZTE successfully completed tests in seven major scenarios that are part of the second phase of China’s national 5G tests and set multiple records for network speeds and performance. Read more of this post

Accelerating 5G: Taking Gigabit LTE to the Masses

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Gigabit LTE (LTE networks, services and devices supporting theoretical peak speeds of a Gigabit or more) has been a big part of 5G discussions in 2017.  But it’s also – as the name implies – an evolution of LTE.  3GPP R13 LTE-Advanced Pro, to be specific.

It’s fair to ask, then, what’s the link to 5G?

While it would be technically inaccurate to position Gigabit LTE as a 5G technology, there’s no denying that it will support 5G rollouts and services.  As 5G rolls out in targeted pockets, Gigabit LTE will ensure consistent network-wide user experiences.  Likewise, as service providers investigate the specific IoT and broadband use cases 5G will support, Gigabit LTE will help them understand the options and opportunities ahead of them not to mention fundamental 5G technologies that start getting introduced into the network with Gigabit LTE.    Read more of this post

TM Forum Live! 2017: Bringing Telco IT Up to Real-Time Network Speeds

David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • The 2017 edition of TM Forum Live! is in Nice, France next week, and with the nature of telco IT-network interactions undergoing radical change, the ‘Live!’ suffix is more appropriate than ever.
  • NFV MANO, advanced network analytics and 5G network slice management are all hot topics with operators and vendors alike, and all play their part towards the goal of autonomous network operation.

In the same way that Mobile World Congress has steadily evolved over the years to be far more than just a mobile network event, next week’s annual TM Forum event has continued to expand. It used to be the place for ‘telco IT’ systems and carrier operation based on OSS and BSS, and if there was any direct linkage to the telecom network, it would be largely in terms of non-real time network management interactions. In fact, the nearest to ‘real time’ these network-telco IT interactions operated at was as a continuous and one-way ‘blast’ from the network to the telco IT systems delivering such things as fault reports. OSS and carrier operations staff then had to filter all these reports, prioritize them and finally decide what to do about them; that was (and largely still is) very far from real time. Now, however, everything is changing with the advent of network functions virtualization (NFV) and NFV management and orchestration (MANO). These new telco IT-network interactions must be both two-way and very close to real time for the network to remain operational at all, similar to the manner in which some modern fighter aircraft would literally fall out of the sky without automated, real-time aerodynamic trimming. Read more of this post

Accelerating 5G: Bringing NR to Reality

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Every new generation of cellular technology has come with its own, new, air interface.  5G is no different, introducing 5G New Radio (NR). And, as with so much of 5G, 2017 promises to be a big year for 5G NR.

Long before AT&T announced 5G Evolution services based on LTE technologies last week, it was clear that service provider strategies and vendor positioning, alike, include LTE technologies as new air interfaces in their 5G service and marketing plans.  With LTE continuing to evolve, its inclusion in 5G discussions makes sense (a topic we’ll come back to).  But it also begs the question of why a new air interface for 5G is necessary.  Beyond any interest in delineating a new technology with a new air interface, 5G NR promises a number of important features and functionalities: support for diverse spectrum, including low-band (sub-1 GHz), mid-band (1 to 6 GHz) and high-band, mmWave (24 GHz and up) assets; lower latency; added network capacity; improved spectral efficiency (lower cost-per-bit); improved service uniformity (EG, at cell edge); and the flexibility to support 5G’s diverse use cases (massive IoT, critical communications, and enhanced mobile broadband) with one unified design.

The 2017 Story

Against this backdrop – and a general interest in moving 5G forward – it’s not surprising that operators including AT&T, Verizon, and SKT have committed to commercial and pre-commercial 5G deployments this year incorporating mmWave spectrum and an air interface beyond LTE.  It would be wrong to call the technology used in these launches “5G NR” since these operators aren’t waiting for the 5G NR specifications to be complete.  Regardless, these launches are important, if only because they point to three key realities: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) as the first 5G use case focus; demand for moving quickly on implementing new 5G air interfaces; the progress made to date in bringing that new air interface to life. Read more of this post

AT&T Introduces “5G Evolution”: Is This the Moment When 5G Became a Marketing Term?

John Byrne

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• AT&T launched the first of what it calls “5G Evolution” upgrades slated for 20 major metros in the U.S. in 2017.

• As with the introduction of 4G/LTE, operators are likely to begin treating “5G” as more of a marketing tool than a specific set of performance specs.

The history of mobile network evolution used to be pretty clear. First there was analog (which, by the way, no one referred to as “1G”), which was the service customers had in the 1980s – simple voice over inefficient networks, but that was OK because most people couldn’t afford cellphones (which were at that time “carphones”). Read more of this post

Accelerating 5G: The Pivotal Role of 2017

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

On the proverbial “Road to 5G,” you might think that 2017 is just another year, taking us just a little closer to the commercial 5G networks and services we’ve all heard will arrive in 2020.  You would be wrong, on multiple fronts.

First off, the analogy itself is somewhat flawed.  5G is not a finish line being raced towards; just like 4G LTE, the technology will evolve long after initial services debut, with most operators launching services at their own pace.  Perhaps more importantly, the earliest commercial service and network launches won’t be coming in 2020.  They’ll arrive sooner.  An extreme eagerness to get 5G up and running across the world means that we will see large-scale 5G NR (the global 5G standard) based services starting in 2019 along with pre-5G NR efforts starting as soon as the end of this year. One year sooner than originally expected may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re talking about the development of new technologies and new ecosystems, it’s massive. Read more of this post

Huawei Analyst Summit 2017: The IP and Optical Core Network Go Cloud – It’s About Time

Glen Hunt – Principal Analyst, Transport and Routing Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:
• The telco cloud requires an IP and optical core that can handle massive traffic growth and data center interconnection requirements. Huawei’s Network Cloud Engine (NCE) solution brings a cloud operational model to the network core.

• Huawei’s NetEngine 9000 (NE9000) IP core router delivers leading capacity to address massive 100G-centric connectivity requirements, from drivers such as 4K video.

This year, at Huawei’s 14th Annual Analyst Summit, affectionately referred to as HAS2017, we found a strong focus on the infrastructure layers of the network – specifically the IP core and optical core. The attention given these network layers has historically been sporadic, driven by necessary upgrades in link and/or switching capacity to keep up with growing traffic demands, a cycle that has occurred in four to eight year cycles, and further paced by technological breakthroughs. Recent industry discussion related to telco cloud seemed to be focused on network functions virtualization (NFV) in an effort to create an environment capable of supporting traditional carrier connectivity businesses and counter the threat from OTT players. However, with the arrival of web-scale providers and moves by operators to adopt a more flexible data center-centric architecture, attention is now focused on optimizing the core layers of the network.

With respect to SDN, the IP and optical domains have evolved separately, each having developed software to enable programmable control and management for the elements in their respective domains. To establish a common solution platform, Huawei introduced its Network Cloud Engine (NCE) to provide an integrated end-to-end solution for each domain, as well as provide the ability to combine multiple domains and multiple layers. In addition to the IP and optical domains, NCE includes additional solutions designed to address the access, metro and other network layers (to be covered in separate reports and blogs). Huawei has also expanded its flagship Network Engine 9000 (NE9000) core router portfolio and provided an update on its progress and new capabilities. The idea of providing a common control and management model for a multi-layer multi-level core infrastructure is not new, competitors are also pursuing similar approached to optimize the performance and efficiency of their core infrastructures.

CloudBackbone: The IP core layer, under Huawei’s NCE architecture, is controlled by the CloudBackbone solution, which includes the company’s Agile controller for IP, network service orchestration and a suite of common management functions. CloudBackbone provides support to address services such as HD video and features like automated service provisioning and network security. Also included is the ability to optimize traffic across the optical layer, which promises to deliver significantly greater bandwidth efficiency, support traffic on demand and improve provisioning efficiency.

CloudOptiX: The optical layer, under Huawei’s NCE architecture, is controlled by the CloudOptiX solution, which provides the equivalent management for the core optical transport layer as CloudBackbone does for the IP layer. CloudOptiX leverages Huawei’s Agile TSDN controller as well as common management functions and orchestration. By integrating IP + Optical, Huawei projects a 40% TCO savings through multi-layer planning and improvements in reliability with multi-layer restoration.

IP Core Advances: Along with Huawei’s NCE launch, the vendor provided an update on its flagship NetEngine 9000 (NE9000) IP core router portfolio which addresses massively scalable data center-centric interconnection (DCI) requirements, as well as traditional and emerging IP core routing functionality. The NE9000 (initially launched at HAS2015 in a 20-slot version) now includes a smaller 8-slot version, targeted to smaller core applications. Both models provide massive low latency 100G connectivity with port densities up to 400/160 per chassis, respectively. The design provides improved power/space efficiency through the use of advanced thermal techniques and expanded network programmability via Huawei’s programmable “Solar 5.0” silicon. Huawei further noted that the NE9000 is now deployed in ten service provider networks, and the NE9000-8 model will be commercially available in October 2017, along with 4 Tbps per slot line cards, to further increase capacity and density. The ability to support network slicing is also included, which enables operators to leverage one platform to support fixed, mobile and enterprise core applications.

The NCS and new NE9000 routing capacities highlighted at HAS2017, help us to remember that behind the software, is a highly capable data plane to deliver on the promise of next generation services. Capabilities such as Huawei’s NCE are well timed to support carrier transition to a DCI to cope with increased east – west traffic patterns, expected to grow >30% CAGR; support the adoption of fewer, but larger data centers, located outside of populated areas to address factors such as facility cost and power consumption; and adopt a more cloud-based operational model to automate provisioning and improve time to service. The noted capabilities also support the notion that carriers will want to manage their networks and cloud environments together, not as independent silos.

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