As part of IDATE DigiWorld benchmark on SDN and NFV, 28 additional projects have been identified between September 2016 and July 2017. Seven additional telcos have joined the move towards virtualisation during this period.
For telcos, the initial interest of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) was in cost savings but this benefit has become less important. Today, virtualisation has gained traction among telcos for their capabilities in providing programmability, flexibility and automation for their network. The change in the network operational model through automation has notably opened the door to many opportunities for telcos. The concepts allow rapid deployment of network services, significant improvements in network assets utilisation and the creation of business models thanks to network provisioning capability. Telcos can thus expect implementation of services based on further customisation by delivering flexible and on-demand services.
Support for future networks and for development of network slicing
The introduction of 5G is also a key motivation for telcos to be interested in network virtualisation. Indeed, 5G networks expect to support different types of services driven by the development of IoT and the increased demand of connectivity from different vertical industries. For reasons of efficiency and flexibility, 5G will need network slicing where each slice will have the capability to address specific services requirements in terms of latency, capacity, energy consumption. As a consequence, SDN and NFV will have a key role in network evolution as enablers of network slice creation and orchestration. As key building blocks for 5G, they will be able to allocate resources for different use cases and enable the network to scale dynamically.
Clear acceleration of SDN and NFV implementation in telcos’ network
More and more telcos are currently committed to SDN and NFV and are integrating them in their telco network environment. They have differing priorities and are implementing network functions virtualisation each in their own fashion. Some of them can be distinguished by the level of implementation of SDN and NFV in their network as with the aggressive AT&T plan. For others, their priority is focused on the introduction of revenue-generating services based on SDN and NFV notably to help grow their enterprise services activity. In general, in order to become familiar with virtualisation, major telcos do both. They have started to virtualise selective piece of network, commonly core network functions (vEPC and vIMS). The deployment of vIMS is helping telcos to support more easily the delivery of multimedia services over LTE networks. As regards enterprise-based services, SD-WAN mostly interests telcos; the service is often associated with the telco strategy of developing Network as a service (NaaS).