Nokia lays groundwork for next-generation virtualized mobile networks

The company demonstrated that virtualization and cloud-based infrastructure can help combat network congestion

Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) and Korean operator SK Telecom have demonstrated the potential for virtualizing the core of a mobile network, which will make it easier for operators to roll out new services.

Virtualization and cloud-based services have changed enterprise systems' architecture and management. Mobile operators' desire for the same advantages in their networks has given rise to the concept of NFV (network functions virtualization).

The goal is to move away from the proprietary and expensive equipment operators use today and instead adopt a more cloud-based infrastructure that allows them to be more flexible and use commodity hardware. That could, in turn, allow operators to cut costs and roll out services faster, according to Nokia, and that should be a boon for users, as well.

Moving to a whole new way of building the networks operators rely on to offer telephony and mobile broadband isn't going to happen overnight. But even if it's still early days, vendors have to show they are current with this idea, according to Sylvain Fabre, research director at Gartner.

Nokia and SK Telecom's joint proof-of-concept focused on virtualizing the so-called Evolved Packet Core (EPC), and they were able to successfully control capacity for both throughput and signaling traffic based on smartphone usage patterns, Nokia said Monday.

SK Telecom is not the only vendor interested in NFV. Last year representatives from 13 operators -- including Verizon, China Mobile and Deutsche Telekom -- came together to write a white paper on the topic.

Because there is great interest from operators, the vendors can't ignore NFV even if a move to a more open network would open the door for new competitors in the network infrastructure sector, according to Fabre.

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