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Google Shows Off NFV-based Wi-Fi Operations

By Steve Anderson May 18, 2017

Network functions virtualization (NFV) has brought a lot of new value to the corporate user over the last couple of years, along with its cohorts software-defined networking (SDN) and virtualized network functions (VNFs). Yet the average Joe or Jane here might wonder just what good it's done them, aside from slightly improved job hunting prospects. Google may have pulled just such a demonstration out recently with a new team effort with India's RailTel.

With the new arrangement, Google is bringing carrier-grade Wi-Fi service to rail lines run by RailTel using what amounts to a virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) system driven by Google Cloud. Part of a larger program going back to late 2015, part of the Google Access and Energy Team, the system is set to offer Wi-Fi service to 400 train stations by 2018. So far, the actual count is 116 stations so outfitted.

Current use of the Wi-Fi service is substantial, pulling in around six million users a month that consume a combined total of 200 terabits per day. Google is planning for a network that supports even more than that, with 30 million users total supported.

The system is built around four key points: an analytics platform to keep the network running smoothly and spot potential problems in the network—thanks to the analytics, the system only needs about two engineers to keep it all running—as well as a fiber backhaul system to do much of the heavy lifting. RailTel is providing that point, since it has a fiber optic network running the length of its tracks and covering about 26,000 miles total. Finally, two cloud-based systems step in, with a virtual control plane and a service operations platform.

Basically, this system allows Google to offer some thoroughly staggering Wi-Fi system capability over a wide-scale, particularly where there's already a fiber network in place to serve as a backhaul element. That may not be so valuable everywhere—those hoping for a potential solution to the rural connectivity problem in the United States and elsewhere likely won't find it as a result of this—but for places that have the necessary infrastructure in place, Google may have found a great way to put NFV to work in adding connectivity.

NFV has proven itself valuable on several fronts, and with this new operation, Google has demonstrated one more great purpose that NFV can bring to the table. Improving Internet connectivity is generally welcome for everyday users, even if it doesn't go quite as far afield as some might have wished.

If you’d like to learn more about NFV, be sure to check out TMC and Crossfire Media’s newest conference and expo, Communications 20/20, happening July 18-20 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The event will focus on the next wave of technology and innovations that will transcend the importance of person to person contact, disrupting the future of the entire communications industry. Find out more HERE.


Contributing Writer

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