Vodafone enlists Ericsson, Cisco to virtualise its network

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Vodafone enlists Ericsson, Cisco to virtualise its network

Vodafone has kicked off a five-year project to virtualise its core and IP networks to run out of an on-premises Openstack-based cloud.

The project – which VHA CTO Kevin Millroy declined to put a dollar figure on – will be run by Ericsson and Cisco Systems, which take care of the telco’s existing core and routing functions respectively.

VHA hopes the “transformed” core and IP networks will both save money and make it easier to bring on and personalise new services, such as the internet of things, 5G, and virtual reality.

That is likely to be achieved through the introduction of network slicing – an Ericsson concept that allows a physical network to be divided into logical slices that can be targeted at specific use cases. The vendor is already bringing the same concept to Telstra’s core network.

“The establishment of a ‘telco cloud’ environment and the virtualisation of the network functions means that we can dynamically place content and services where customers actually need it,” Millroy said.

“It will enable us to respond to new applications more easily.”

VHA hopes to save money by moving away from a traditional telecommunications network design, where various vendors’ appliances are bought and interconnected.

“By moving to this ‘telco cloud’, with its separation of software and hardware, we get the ability to move towards a standard-cost hardware platform, which then allows us to be more efficient from a cost perspective,” VHA’s general manager of network engineering and planning Barry Kezek said.

“The cloud infrastructure will be built first - we’re embarking on [this] already, and then application by application will be moved in. It will be a phased approach with multiple drops over the five-year journey.”

Most of the heavy lifting of the project is expected to occur in the first two years.

However, once done, it is expected that the capabilities will be applied to a broad cross-section of VHA’s offerings.

The telco has already embarked on some early studies aimed at quantifying how much faster it could introduce new services over a virtualised network.

“We did a study looking at how VoLTE [voice over LTE] would have been deployed in this virtualised network,” Millroy said.

“We estimate that we could have deployed VoLTE in half the time it actually took."

Ericsson and Cisco partnered in November 2015 in a bid to persuade telcos to transform their networks for future applications.

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