Now is the time to leverage the benefits of network function virtualization (NFV) on the path towards Gigabit LTE and 5G, Sprint COO of Technology Günther Ottendorfer said in a recent blog post about the carrier’s progress in its virtualization efforts.
“NFV is an essential building block as we develop our LTE Plus Network to Gigabit LTE and 5G, which will require more efficient scaling of core network capabilities to handle the dynamic flow of data requirements among our customers,” Ottendorfer wrote.
Beginning two years ago, as part of Sprint’s push towards virtualization, the company created and deployed common infrastructure in more than 30 data centers around the network that will be expanded as needed as time goes on.
Sprint has also been migrating MMS and SMS capabilities over to its NFV platform.
Currently 100 percent of IP Short Message (ISPM) traffic has been virtualized. Meanwhile, SMS will be fully virtualized by the end of 2017, and the company intends to deploy MMS VNF onto the virtual platform at the beginning of 2018, Ottendorfer noted.
Ottendorfer indicated that NFV initiatives will provide new services that will allow consumers to do more with every day devices, while reducing Sprint’s infrastructure and operating costs.
“For NFV, Sprint is committed to deploying open-source software on standards-based hardware to provide a more flexible, innovative, and cost-effective network that can support the 5G requirements for super-high data speeds, ultra-low latency, automation, and mass connectivity required for IoT, Ultra HD video, AR-VR, and Edge computing,” Ottendorfer commented.
As part of its efforts, the carrier is collaborating with new vendors on its nationwide Network Function Virtualization OpenStack cloud deployment. Ottendorfer said Metaswitch will be the provider for the Session Border Controller (SBC), the Call Session Control Function (CSCF), and the Breakout Gateway Control Function (BFCF). Mavenir will be the provider for the Telephony Application Server (TAS) functionality, Media Resource Function (MRF), and policy Diameter Routing Agent (pDRA).
Sprint has virtualized its Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and IP Multimedia Sub-Systems (IMS) platforms onto a single Network Function Virtualization infrastructure (NFVI), which will allow the company to scale its virtual core up or down “dynamically” to support new 5G services, Ottendorfer said.
Sprint isn’t the only one working on virtualization efforts – other carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile have also started initiatives. AT&T has been the most vocal so far about its virtualization goals. The carrier previously said it’s aiming to virtualize and software-control 55 percent of its network by the end of this year, and push that figure to 75 percent by 2020.