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Vodafone virtualising core network with Ericsson and Cisco

Vodafone has partnered with Ericsson and Cisco to virtualise its core network in the hope that it will improve customer experience while reducing opex and capex spend.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Networking giants Ericsson and Cisco have announced working together on virtualising the core network of Vodafone Australia in an effort to replace its fixed functionality systems with virtualised systems.

Under the project, which marks the first "major collaboration" on telecommunications cloud infrastructure between Cisco and Ericsson, Ericsson will build the infrastructure as well as take responsibility for end-to-end operations.

The network architecture solution makes use of Ericsson's Hyperscale Datacenter System and such software as Ericsson Cloud Execution Environment, Ericsson Cloud Manager, and Cloud SDN controller.

Cisco is contributing its WAN Automation Engine; IP Network VNFs including IOS XR 9000v and Cloud Services Router 1000v; virtualised and physical security technologies including its Adaptive Security Appliance and Cisco Firepower security gateway; and security support services for the Vodafone project.

Vodafone Australia CTO Kevin Millroy, who was appointed to the role last month, said Cisco and Ericsson were chosen because they already provide the telco's core network and routing functions.

By simplifying its infrastructure and core network -- which earlier on Tuesday suffered a three-hour voice outage -- Vodafone said it will decrease operating expenditure and capital expenditure, and improve both customer experience and the "agility" of its network.

"This transformation allows us to introduce new applications to drive innovation and improve customer services and user experience," Millroy added.

"The new infrastructure opens the door to new business models and markets, such as Internet of Things, for Vodafone."

Intel last year emphasised how virtualised networks within telecommunications providers will also lead to consumers paying less for more data.

"The carriers are getting tremendous pressure to continue to build out that infrastructure to better support higher and higher data rates, [and] greater and greater demands," Diane Bryant, Intel executive vice president and general manager of its Data Center Group, told ZDNet in June.

"The network today is very expensive; demands far exceed their ability to support it in a cost-effective way, so they have got to start over and create a network infrastructure that is virtualised and can flux."

Increasing network capacity is faster under a virtualised network, Bryant added, because providers no longer need to physically build out a series of fixed function devices, whereas in a virtualised cloud environment, companies can procure more capacity instantly.

"Once they go to a virtualised environment, the vision is for customer services on demand," she said.

Virtualisation is also a step towards network slicing, Ericsson said, which is used with 5G for more personalisation across networks. Using the slicing technology, a physical network can be segmented into several virtual mobile networks.

Ericsson demonstrated 5G network slicing technology in partnership with South Korean telecommunications giant SK Telecom in October 2015, performing the demonstration at its R&D centre.

Both Vodafone and Ericsson have been trialling 5G network technology in Australia: Ericsson and Telstra attained download speeds of 18-22Gbps during their 5G trial in September, Vodafone and Nokia attained speeds of 5Gbps in October, and Australia's third mobile provider Optus and Huawei saw speeds of 35Gbps in their 5G test in November.

Vodafone also announced at the end of last year that it is working with Nokia to create a proof of concept to combine mobile edge computing, 4G networks, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, network function virtualisation (NFV), and video analytics to improve public safety.

The companies said they would trial the technology in 2017, using the Nokia Mobile Edge Computing platform to track the movements and numbers of people in public safety applications through real-time data processing and video analytics from censors including CCTV footage.

Telstra is similarly "co-innovating" with Cisco on NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) functionalities.

"SDN and NFV technologies are redefining the user experience on the network," said Philip Jones, Telstra executive director of Global Products and Solutions, when unveiling a series of SDN and NFV products with Cisco last March.

"By allowing us to overcome the constraints of traditional network infrastructure, the software-driven customer experiences dramatically increases our agility by enabling us to quickly create new solutions, and puts the control of those solutions into the hands of our customers."

In October, Telstra additionally announced a partnership with HP, F5 Networks, and Alcatel-Lucent startup Nuage Networks to design a proof of concept for a multi-vendor NFV solution, certified by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute.

Under the collaboration project, HP's Helion CloudSystem framework was paired with F5 Networks' virtualised network functions, as well as Nuage Networks' virtual services platform.

Telstra renewed a deal at the end of 2014 to use Ericsson optical network equipment and services to build out its SDN and NFV offerings.

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