Nokia Brings the Family Jewels (FPcx) to the Access Network – Raises Expectations

Glen Hunt, Principal Analyst
Summary Bullets:

• Operators are challenged to build access networks that transition from the 1G era to meet 10/100/400G service expectations. It is not only a bandwidth issue, but one of sustainability, flexibility, and the adaptability to deliver 5G services.

• Nokia’s move to adapt its FPcx silicon to fuel a new range of access and aggregation routers elevates the access layer as an integral part of the intelligent network and changes the game.

The access and aggregation routers of the past were based on platforms designed to deliver effective access and aggregation services for 1G to 10G services. Most were based on merchant silicon, which hosted a vendor’s network operating system and networking features, including platforms such as Nokia’s 7250 IXR. In contrast, the higher-scale IP services edge and IP core have been based on proprietary silicon, which delivered high-scale switching capacity, rich telemetry, and programmability needed to meet automate and meet stringent performance, power, and security requirements. The use of merchant silicon was widely adopted by equipment vendors to deliver solutions that kept pace with market demands, and a few vendors also leveraged programmable silicon such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Part of the draw for merchant silicon was driven by operators who desired to minimize vendor dependance – i.e., the white box era.

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Ericsson Aims to Give Operators More vRAN Options with AMD, Dell Deals

Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

• Ericsson announced a deal to include Dell servers in its cloud RAN solution, giving operators more choice in virtual RAN sourcing.

• Ericsson also announced a collaboration with chip maker AMD aimed at improving vRAN performance.

Ericsson announced two partnerships last week to help diversify its virtual RAN offerings.

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Intel’s New Chips with Integrated Accelerators Could Boost vRAN Performance Enough to Spur Disruption

Summary Bullets:

Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst

• Intel’s new system-on-a-chip (SoC) features integrated accelerators, which help close the performance gap between virtual RAN (vRAN) and traditional RAN. Thus far, accelerators have been offered as separate hardware cards.

• Rakuten Symphony’s plans to offer a vDU based on the new SoC, following the availability of Qualcomm’s new accelerator and Juniper’s recent move to give away its RAN Intelligent Controller, show vRAN momentum building.

Recently, vRAN vendor Rakuten Symphony revealed plans to produce a virtual distributed baseband unit (vDU) based on new Intel SoC, due in 2023, whose accelerator is integrated with the CPU rather than being offered as a separate hardware card. This represents a departure from the status quo (accelerators as separate hardware cards), but the two vendors say it also addresses a key obstacle that has been holding vRAN back.

Network Automation (2.0) Takes on Service Assurance Challenges

Summary Bullets:

Glen Hunt, Principal Analyst
  • Automated network service provisioning (via SDN technologies) is an established industry norm; however, dealing with service quality assurance requires advanced capabilities such as real-time network visualization, multi-factor path computation, and the ability to dynamically handle high-scale network variations.
  • Service assurance benefits include optimization of network resources, increased revenue potential, and reduced operational costs, among others; achieving these objectives can yield significant operational efficiency and improved quality of experience for end users.

Operators continue to invest and scale their IP and transport networks to meet growing capacity and new use cases demands, and the need to expand automated network management beyond network element and service provisioning, as well as begin to address service assurance, has become a top priority. Experience has shown that today’s highly complex and dynamic networks rely on automation as the key to successfully delivering high-quality services. In the two most recent networking conferences (i.e., MWC 22 and MPLS SD & AI Net World), network automation demonstrations and proof of concept (PoC) presentations by vendors and network operators alike were front and center and show promise when addressing service quality assurance.

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Starlink’s Role in the Russia-Ukraine War Could Inspire Further LEO Investment

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • At the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Starlink – with ample financial support from the US and its allies – supplied terminals and active service in the country.
  • Starlink’s service has proven unparalleled resilience, giving a new set of arguments for further development of low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations.

Since the beginning of the all-out Russian invasion of Ukraine, Starlink has consistently proven its worth as a critical communications medium. The service has been proven resilient, both in its design and operations. The service requires no ground-based infrastructure aside from a user terminal, allowing users to set up internet access quickly. It circumvents terrestrial infrastructure, which has not only been damaged by the ongoing warfare, but has also crumbled under targeted Russian cyber and physical attacks and sabotage. This part of its performance was expected.

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2022 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in the Mobile Access Sector This Year

Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • In 2022, RAN vendors will increasingly focus on the energy efficiency of their solutions as a competitive differentiator.
  • Network management applications for Open RANs will multiply – developed by both incumbent RAN vendors and third-party developers.

The past two years have been anything but predictable, but the new year brings hope for a return to normalcy. In that spirit, here are a few predictions for what to expect in the RAN space in 2022: Continue reading “2022 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in the Mobile Access Sector This Year”

NEC and Netcracker Delve Deeper into 5G Xhaul

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

• NEC and Netcracker wrap their respective professional services and domain orchestration solution around Juniper’s IP networking and ADVA’s open line system for a multi-layer, multi-vendor, and automated 5G Xhaul.

• The cooperation has great potential to increase each of the vendors’ credibility in 5G transport, but must show tangible advantages in functionality and cost savings to uproot entrenched competitors.

The 5G transport market continues to heat up, as operators are gradually waking up to the fact that transport renovation and automation will be one of the key ingredients of their future end-to-end 5G architecture. In that context, accelerated activity by NEC and Netcracker in 5G Xhaul illustrates well the importance of transport for 5G, and the size of the market opportunity awaiting. NEC, Netcracker, Juniper, and ADVA contributed their leading capabilities to their joint solution introduced in September.

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Industry Mulling Impact of AT&T-Microsoft Core Deal

John Byrne, Service Director

Summary Bullets:

  • AT&T announced it will transfer its mobile network to the Microsoft Azure cloud, beginning with the 5G core.
  • Other operators are likely to make a similar transition, though many will take much longer to do so than AT&T.

AT&T certainly grabbed the headlines – and stole some of the already dim MWC Barcelona spotlight – with its announcement June 30 that it will move its 5G network to Microsoft’s Azure for Operators cloud, beginning with its 5G core. Continue reading “Industry Mulling Impact of AT&T-Microsoft Core Deal”

TIP Spells Out What WAN SDN Controllers MUST Do

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • TIP MUST intends to accelerate SDN adoption in the WAN by defining requirements for WAN SDN based on real-life operator use cases.
  • The resulting architecture is open and will likely help fill the gap most vendors are unwilling or unable to address: the hierarchical controller space.

From the onset of attempts to implement SDN into telco WAN infrastructure, operators have faced two obstacles that severely limited its usefulness: lack of multi-vendor support and inability to control legacy environments. Telco equipment vendors have not been able to come up with a technical consensus that would solve these issues, for various reasons. Instead, most WAN SDN implementations have so far been restricted to one vendor’s equipment or have entailed costly integration of multiple vendors’ equipment under one domain controller. The results of these developments have so far been underwhelming; the market landscape remains fragmented, SDN adoption is slow, and the costs are high due to custom integration and operational support overhead. Continue reading “TIP Spells Out What WAN SDN Controllers MUST Do”

2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Optical Transport This Year

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • The impact of 5G will start showing in optical transport revenues in earnest in 2021, and the ensuing capacity increases will translate into accelerated upgrade cycles in the metro packet-optical domain.
  • Vendors competing in coherent solutions will put more emphasis on overall fiber capacity and spectral efficiency and present their capabilities across several dimensions, reducing focus on maximum wavelength capacity as the industry currency.

5G Transport Needs Will Shape Packet-Optical Access and Metro

The impact of 5G on the CSP network technology ecosystem beyond the radio access will be substantial, and transport is the first domain where this has become evident. Beyond capacity requirements an order of magnitude higher than was the case with 4G, 5G also needs stringent timing and synchronization and defines very low-latency system-wide latency budgets, which translate into very strict requirements for each network element in the communications link. As opposed to 4G, where most deployed base stations were macro, 5G architecture is much more versatile and opens the way for significantly more disaggregation between different elements of radio access. This directly translates into a much greater role for fronthaul and midhaul that need to seamlessly connect these disaggregated parts of radio network access. Taken together, the new speed, precision, and latency requirements of 5G have already led most operators to renew and augment their mobile x-haul portfolios. Additionally, the continually increasing volume of new connections and the need for flexibility to support functions like network slicing have brought on a realistic and urgent need to deploy automation and orchestration solutions across the transport networks. Continue reading “2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Optical Transport This Year”