Network functions virtualization (NFV) will be all the rage at next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. To that end, both Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ: ALU) and Huawei are taking the opportunity to make cases for using their respective NFV solutions in mobile networks.
Alcatel-Lucent announced a portfolio of virtualized mobile network function applications, including evolved packet core (EPC), IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and radio access network (RAN). The vendor is currently conducting five customer trials using the vEPC, while its vIMS is already being deployed within customer networks and is being used in eight vIMS cloud customer trials.
SDNCentral noted that the CloudNFV group, which emerged from stealth mode last July, is also endeavoring to virtualize IMS but is more focused on employing open-source software, while Alcatel-Lucent prefers to use its own IMS software.
Alcatel-Lucent's vRAN portfolio includes a virtualized 3G radio network controller (RNC) and virtualized proof-of-concept LTE and LTE Advanced RANs. "The LTE components leverage Alcatel-Lucent's LTE software deployed in eight of the top ten mobile operator networks and advanced wireless algorithms from Bell Labs," the vendor said.
Alcatel-Lucent has been said to have at least a two-year head start over some its competitors on the virtualization front. Indeed, as part of its Shift Plan for reorganization, the vendor is repositioning as an IP networking and high-speed broadband specialist and has said those two areas will represent 85 percent of its R&D investment in 2015.
Meanwhile, Huawei unveiled its Cloud Edge platform, which builds upon the vendor's SingleEPC solution for convergent EPC operations. Cloud Edge encompasses capabilities for vEPC, virtualized multi-service engine (vMSE) as well as cloud management and orchestration (MANO).
In October 2013, Huawei launched the core component of its software-defined networking (SDN) solution and its SDN/NFV orchestration and management system called NetMatrix. Cloud Edge and NetMatrix are part of Huawei's SoftCom unified framework for implementing cloud, NFV and software-defined technologies (SDN) in telecom networks over the next decade.
Softcom was announced one year ago and elements of it are reportedly being tested by carriers including Deutsche Telecom.
Specifically regarding Cloud Edge, Huawei said several operators in Europe and Asia Pacific have already trialed it as well, with early use cases covering applications for M2M, MVNOs and service chaining. Huawei said it will partner with leading operators, which it did not name, during next week's MWC to reveal more information about Cloud Edge's capabilities.
Similarly, Alcatel-Lucent's virtualized products will play a key role at China Mobile's MWC booth, which will feature a demo in which visitors can make voice and video calls using voice over LTE (VoLTE) enabled handsets. The demo will rely upon Alcatel-Lucent's virtualized proof-of-concept LTE RAN baseband unit (BBU) and vEPC in a multi-vendor environment.
As part of the China Mobile demo, Alcatel-Lucent's vEPC "will be onboarded, managed and orchestrated within the virtual environment" by the vendor's second-generation CloudBand 2.0 NFV platform.
CloudBand is an open, multivendor NFV management platform that enables service providers to extend the benefits of cloud to their own networks and business operations. The platform's latest version integrates the Virtual Service Platform (VSP) from Alcatel-Lucent's software-defined networking venture, Nuage Networks.
Alcatel-Lucent has lined up three CloudBand NFV customer contracts and 10 trials. In addition, it has signed four contracts to deliver the SDN platform created by Nuage.
"Each mobile operator will have different priorities and want to take their own specific path to NFV, based on their business priorities and the state of their network and operations readiness," observed Marcus Weldon, corporate CTO of Alcatel-Lucent and Bell Labs president.
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