Nokia to upgrade Spark's mobile and fixed networks

Nokia has signed on to upgrade New Zealand carrier Spark's network using IP software and optics equipment, including its 7250 platform, over the next three years.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Nokia has announced a three-year partnership with New Zealand telecommunications provider Spark to upgrade its mobile and fixed-line network infrastructure in order to prepare for the rapid increase in traffic to be caused by 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) services.

The upgrade will see Spark's core and backhaul networks run on a Nokia IP/Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network using Nokia's 7250 Interconnect Router R6 (IXR-R6).

According to Nokia, its 7250 IXR-R6 has terabit capacity, "high-port density", and connectivity options including Ethernet and legacy synchronous optical networking (SONET) and synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH).

"The 7250 IXR-R6 enables cost-effective transport of both latency-sensitive and 'bursty' traffic, which makes it equally suitable for [5G] ultra-broadband as well as for new IoT-based services," Nokia said.

The upgrade will allow Spark to enjoy a position of "worldwide leadership in preparing for 5G", GM of Spark's Partnering, Procurement, and Vendor Management business Rajesh Singh said, as well as allowing its network to handle the forecast rapid increase in traffic.

Spark said its broadband over wireless service, which is also run on a Nokia IP/MPLS network, has already experienced a tenfold increase in traffic.

Spark had previously used Nokia's PSS1830 Optical Transport Network to launch 200Gbps per wavelength fibre, and the telco also plans to improve the capacity of its transport network over the next two years.

Spark has also been upgrading its network with Ericsson after announcing in February a multi-year deal to fully digitise its voice network during a phased upgrade program.

In April, Spark said it would progressively upgrading its legacy copper Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to an IP-based network named the Converged Communications Network (CCN) over the next five years.

Under this program, Ericsson will build the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), which will form the core technology for the CCN.

The CCN will replace the PSTN to deliver new voice calling, landline, fibre, data, video conferencing, content, mobile, and Wi-Fi services enabling voice over LTE, voice over Wi-Fi, and VoIP, Spark said.

"This is a significant and essential upgrade of our oldest network, providing us with a future-proof platform for the latest voice technology and allowing us to develop and deploy new services," Spark COO Mark Beder said at the time.

"We've been talking about doing this for over a decade now, and many other countries are also in the process of retiring their PSTNs, so it's great to finally be able to get on with it here."

The CCN will consist of three redundant core network nodes spread geographically across the nation, in order to ensure resilience during natural disasters or other outages.

Spark plans to build the core network foundation, begin migrating and decommissioning exchanges, and introduce the IMS during 2017 and 2018. In 2019, it is aiming to scale up migrations of PSTN, wireless broadband, and VoIP; enhance calling features; and commence regional migrations.

By 2020, it is looking to have the CCN fully replace PSTN services; introduce new calling features, products, and converged services; and add the third core.

The IMS upgrade will modernise and unify Spark's core networks to allow for greater reliablity and scalability, according to the telco, towards an increasing uptake of VoIP usage over both fixed-line and wireless broadband as the number of wireless and fibre connections grows across the country.

Spark first mapped out its network virtualisation plans back in 2015, when it told investors it would utilise software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV), saying that the use of networking software rather than physical switching and hardware configuration would provide more opportunities.

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