Technology Advances Needed Before Telecom Network Operators Can Fully Equip Their Networks for 5G

A new report “Edge virtualization: Near-term drivers for 5G service enablement” published this week by RCR Wireless News points out that despite the growing notion that telecom networks are becoming increasingly virtualized, key challenges remain that must be overcome for network operators to properly prepare their networks to be cost-effective, scalable, and agile enough to support the myriad of use cases that 5G is expected to support.

“Network operators are fully aware that they need to virtualize their networks at the edge in order to prepare for 5G”, says Jason Marcheck, principal analyst at Layne Bridge and Associates and author of the report. “However, they still need quite a bit of support from their suppliers in terms of VNF product development in order to make it happen.”

Specifically, operators have indicated that the computing footprint of many VNFs is still too large to be deployed in networks at scale, and still deliver on the operating efficiencies that a move to network virtualization has been marketed as being able to deliver. At the same time, there is reason for operators to be optimistic that help in on the way. Moore’s Law applies quite directly to the technology needed to reduce the number of cores that a VNF needs to run on. In addition, microservices can be used to allow changes to aspects of a VNF to be made without the need to re-architect the entire VNF.

The report also examines edge networking use cases that can help operators to manage traffic more effectively at the edge so as to delay certain CapEx requirements related to increasing capacity in the mobile network core.

“Although much of the hype around virtualization at the edge focuses on supporting 5G and IoT use cases, the ability to use solutions based on virtual network elements to either keep video traffic local or offload it directly to the cloud can be a powerful tool to help operators manage traffic growth, and reallocate capital towards other, necessary network investments that will be crucial to supporting 5G” Marcheck concludes.

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