MWC 2018: Ericsson and Ciena increasing Telstra network virtualisation

Telstra is increasingly moving towards virtualised functions to enable the network slicing necessary for 5G applications, with the telco to close down multiple exchange buildings in favour of distributed datacentres.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra is getting ready for its launch of 5G in 2019 by increasingly virtualising its network with Ericsson, including by moving towards a mobile network with dedicated slices for different applications.

Speaking ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona on Sunday morning, Telstra MD of Networks Mike Wright said the telco will continue working with Ericsson to implement Ciena network technologies.

"As we think of the future and as we go towards 5G and we start thinking about the different use cases, some use cases as we've talked about require very low delays but not all; some use cases want low cost, they're not really concerned about the delay; some need super high speed. For each of those to work, we actually have a network that's not one thing but multiple types of network, and the industry term for that is slicing," Wright said.

"To build a network like that wire by wire, the way we've traditionally built networks, is impossible because you can't physically wire together the architecture, so we need to go to a software world."

According to Wright, this will mean shutting down around half of Telstra's exchanges and building 2,500 distributed datacentres to control core network functions and 5G technologies from the network cloud.

"That means that network cloud can be moved in software to different places, so now we've got an architecture that ... we can turn on the function near where you are in software; you don't have to go all the way back to the city, which is the way traditional 4G and 3G networks had been architected," he said.

Ericsson ANZ head Emilio Romeo said the Swedish networking giant will continue delivering its 5G-ready radio systems and solutions to Telstra throughout 2018 to help deliver 2Gbps 4G and continue upgrading the optical transmission network.

"We'll continue to virtualise Telstra's wireless network, with an increased number of network functions now moving into the Ericsson-supplied NFV infrastructure during 2018, a key part for 5G. And this will allow Telstra to deliver new customer services more quickly using network slicing techniques," Romeo said.

"We will also continue working with Telstra to upgrade Telstra's optical network infrastructure, which will be critical for future high-bandwidth requirements such as 5G. Ericsson will continue to supply, install, and integrate the next generation of these optical solutions with our partner Ciena."

According to Wright, as Telstra moves progressively to 5G, it doesn't want its customers to have "radically different experiences" -- which is why delivering gigabit and 2Gbps 4G is important.

Read also: MWC 2018: Telstra's 5G rollout plan for 2019

Following rival telco Optus' announcement that it will have 5G fixed-wireless services ready to go in early 2019, Telstra COO Robyn Denholm also argued that 5G is about more than just having the infrastructure.

"It's great to have the infrastructure, [but] if you don't have devices that work on the network, or you don't have use cases that can actually be used by enterprise and consumer customers, then to me infrastructure's not going to be used in a holistic way," she said.

"It's not just about turning on a service; it's about actually having the ability for consumers and businesses within Australia to have 5G across multiple use cases, and from our perspective, we believe we're in the lead in terms of getting that deployed."

Denholm argued that as a result, Telstra will be "the first to bring 5G to Australia in a holistic way". Only once the 5G standalone standard is set during the 3GPP meeting in September can telcos talk about "real 5G deployments", she added.

"It needs to be multiple use cases, it needs to be a non-standalone, standards-compliant network for anyone to claim victory," Denholm said.

"We've been very clear, in 2019 we're launching our 5G network, and it will have multiple use cases ... it will be deployed over time, we will deploy in major capital cities and regional Australia in the 2019 timeframe."

Finding these use cases was one of the main reasons Telstra launched its 5G Innovation Centre earlier this month, she said -- so the telco can work with enterprises and consumer-focused companies on exploring potential use cases for 5G.

According to Wright, both Telstra and its customers need to "learn how to consume" 5G.

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