Alcatel-Lucent and Telefónica agreed to carry out further tests on network functions virtualisation (NFV) as the operator investigates how it can prepare its mobile network to meet future demands placed on it by the Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and increased customer connectivity.
The new agreement renews and expands an existing accord between the two companies that was signed in February 2014. Telefónica has already tested the Alcatel-Lucent virtualised service router (VSR) in its NFV Reference Lab using the OpenMANO NFV orchestration stack.
The companies said they will now focus on enhancing network performance and efficiencies to support "ever-growing demand for flexible connectivity."
Next steps will include testing the vendor's VSR in a production environment as well as tests of other elements of Alcatel-Lucent's NFV portfolio, including the virtualised evolved packet core, virtualised session border controller and the vCPE.
Regarded as a crucial next stage in the evolution of telecoms networks and as one of the future key pillars of 5G, NFV is expected to improve the agility of operators and shorten time to market for new products and services.
Indeed, at the SDN & NFV 2014 summit in Nice last September, operators themselves said service agility and new revenue make the business case for both NFV and software-defined networks (SDN). Savings in both operating and capital expenditure were also cited as leading drivers for the new technologies.
Enrique Blanco, the global CTO at Telefónica, said the operator had already seen "an outstanding performance" in the testing of Alcatel-Lucent's VSR, showing that it delivers comparable performance to hardware-based routers.
"Use of these technologies will open up new opportunities as we continue innovating to exceed our customer's expectations," Blanco added.
Telefónica is closely involved in the ETSI NFV ISG for generating the reference architecture for NFV. The OpenMANO orchestration stack is an open source project that provides a practical realisation of the Management and Orchestration reference architecture (NFV MANO), currently under ETSI's NFV ISG standardisation. The stack has now become a key component in Telefónica's NFV Reference Lab.
Speaking at the SDN & NFV 2014 summit last year, Antonio Armengol, head of virtualisation strategy at the operator, stressed the importance of open source and the need to avoid vendor lock-in with NFV. He said care must be taken to avoid repeating the situation with previous legacy equipment that saw operators tied to equipment manufacturers and faced with interoperability requirements that proved to be a barrier to competition.
"We think this will change for the operators," Armengol said at the time. He added that "softening" the hardware is one of the answers to the current problems that operators face.
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