This is the first in a series of posts where we’ll ask our experts – top TeleWorld engineers – to provide their thoughts on a topic relevant to today’s mobile operators.
As mobile operators consider the potential to virtualize their networks, TeleWorld engineers weighed in with the top two or three technical challenges to be addressed:
Network virtualization can bring efficiencies in cost and increased time-to-market for new services and technologies, but it does require a change in how networks are engineered, operated, and monitored. Operators must ask — do the skillsets of today translate into the virtual networks of tomorrow?
Virtual networks promise the same quality and grade of service as legacy networks, but this can only be quantified and proven over time. What technical assurances can be put in place to ensure we are not taking a step back in quality? Does deploying monitoring and testing systems mitigate any of the promised efficiencies? Those are the questions that need to be addressed.
Virtualized infrastructure may give the operators the option of resource sharing and virtual backup when one fails, but may not allow a simple, proactive, pinpoint solution for any congestion. More complex and analytical monitoring and solutions are a must to be able to be proactive.
Many operators integrate multiple technologies, including legacy or 3G networks. Thus, unless the operators deploy a high-cost, full virtual network and infrastructure, they have to rely on the current topology (such as tree topology). In such cases, time-sensitive applications may face some delay and latency issues. Also, application-specific solutions should strongly be considered for performance enhancement plans.
Network virtualization is a concept which many companies tried to implement in the past, but in a different fashion – with managed services, where the idea was to virtualize your operations. But many operators kept their networks the way they were, as a way to maintain quality and accountability.
Similarly, today’s network virtualization, which goes the next step to virtualizing the hardware itself, poses similar challenges. Two or more operators sharing the same core and/or RAN networks riding on the same infrastructure, just like a Mobile Virtual Network Operator – but will they really be in control of quality, while still being held accountable by their customers? The technology itself will not fail, but the operators’ failure or success will be in how they best meet their customers’ needs and expectations.
Virtualization may dilute the performance of each individually designed and optimized RF system, given the inherent differences in the different technologies.
Connectivity between virtualized components from the physical layer to the controller side needs to be adequate to support scalability over time.
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