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5G Will Rely on NFV, SDN

By Paula Bernier June 12, 2017

In case there was any doubt, let’s review: Software-centricity and virtualization will be key tenets of carrier networks – both wired and wireless – going forward.

Architectures and environments relying on software-defined network and network functions virtualization can already be found in 4G networks. And they will be a hallmark of the 5G networks of the future.

That’s because these technologies allow for more agility; can cut down on operational costs; and allow for more open networking, creating more opportunities for more suppliers and more flexibility for carriers.

As Andre Fuetsch of AT&T blogged back in February, the company’s 5G services will be based on AT&T Network 3.0 Indigo. That’s a software-defined and data-powered network that allows for “blazing fast Internet speeds.”

“Our Indigo network is the result of years of planning not just around access technologies like 5G and 5G Evolution,” Fuetsch added. “It’s also the result of our work in areas like software defined networking and data analytics.”

That includes ECOMP, which recently became part of a larger SDN-based VNF orchestration effort. And it includes the carrier’s quick work to virtualize the AT&T Integrated Cloud.       

Also in February, Cisco and Verizon announced they have been working on 5G pre-commercial pilots leveraging software-based technologies and virtualization. Those efforts have employed the Cisco Ultra Service Platform for onboarding and operational simplification of virtual network functions.

They also have involved Cisco’s Virtual Managed Services. That’s a software platform that uses analytics, automation, the cloud, and virtualization to rapidly deploy network and security services. And they have used Cisco’s iWAN and security solutions.

“SDN and NFV are really a foundation for how 5G will be deployed,” Rick Hornby, executive director for core network planning at Verizon, said, as quoted in a report by SDxCentral. “The separation of the control and user plan[e] are all coming from what we see in the web-based environment and are part of what is happening with 5G.”

Earlier this month, Verizon took its 5G Experience Bus to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate the very high speeds that 5G will be able to deliver. The bus made stops on Capitol Hill, to the Federal Communications Commission, and at Phelps Agriculture, Construction, and Engineering High School.

This followed by a month Verizon’s visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Ericsson. There, the companies showed what the ultra-low latency that 5G delivers can enable. In this demonstration, a professional driver in a car with blacked out windows maneuvered the vehicle around the track based on a video feed he received through virtual reality goggles. 


Executive Editor, TMC

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