SDN-based backhaul applications will save $4B in capex, report says

Software-defined networking (SDN) could save mobile operators more than $4 billion in capital expenses in 2017, with the largest capex savings stemming from metro aggregation/load, according to fresh research from Strategy Analytics.

The research, sponsored by vendor Tellabs, forecasts five SDN applications and the significant capex savings they will generate in 2017 will be: metro aggregation/load redistribution, $1.116 billion; local breakout/Internet IXP, $1.083 billion; Wi-Fi offload/video redirect, $1.021 billion; Cloud RAN fronthaul, $777 million; and small cells, $202 million.

Strategy Analytics SDB backhaul elements

According to Strategy Analytics, these savings can help close more than 45 percent of a backhaul gap--the difference between required backhaul investment and planned spending--that the research firm identified in another Tellabs-sponsored report earlier this year. In that report, Strategy Analytics predicted a $9.2 billion global backhaul funding gap with a 16-petabyte shortfall in backhaul capacity by 2017.

Operators do not need to wait till 2017 to start generating capex savings via SDN. For example, metro aggregation/load redistribution via metro-area networks with partial mesh/ring connectivity could contribute savings of $96 million in 2013, Strategy Analytics said.

Asia Pacific is the region facing the most significant backhaul funding shortfall and will also be most likely to benefit from SDN, according to the firm. The three most developed regions will see estimated capital expense savings during 2017 as follows: Asia-Pacific, $2.662 billion; North America, $599 million; and Western Europe, $574 million.

SDN is migrating from data centers and service platforms to operational network elements, but Strategy Analytics noted that standards work has only recently begun on applying SDN to transport and backhaul optimization. Nonetheless, vendors are hustling to integrate SDN into their network products.

For example, in June Accedian Networks announced its SkyLight product, designed to deliver performance assurance on multivendor heterogeneous mobile backhaul networks by leveraging SDN and self-organizing/optimizing network (SON) technologies.

Tellabs said it will incorporate SDN functionality into its 8000 intelligent network manager, Tellabs 8600 smart routers and Tellabs 7100 optical transport products early in 2014. The vendor demonstrated its congestion control application, which applies SDN to head off bottlenecks in the backhaul network, earlier this year.

For more:
- see this joint release
- see this executive summary

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