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Mobile Broadband Drives ICT Transformation

Driving Network Transformation

In addition to the rapid growth in smartphone markets in recent years, innovative technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) have emerged. Component-level breakthroughs in chips, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), and low-power electronics are also continuing and, not least, the development of large-scale integrated systems, such as distributed cloud computing involving Big Data analytics, have also matured.

In this context, mobile telecommunications businesses are expanding aggressively from traditional voice and data services to new areas, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Vehicles (IoV). Consequently, telecommunications carriers that used to see the consumer market as their end-users and primary source of revenue are having to develop new segments across a wide number of enterprise and public sector verticals, including Finance, Transportation, Energy, and Safe Cities. To adapt, carriers must evolve their mobile networks toward a target architecture that meets the diverse requirements of multiple vertical industries based on capabilities that support enhanced network agility and openness.

Target Network Architecture

The target for a future-proof network architecture must accommodate an increasing variety of mobile Internet applications, including the coming explosion of IoT gateways and endpoints. Unlike existing networks, this new architecture must improve throughput, security, reliability, latency, and power consumption. It must be open, flexible, efficient, automated, scalable, and deliver optimal and personalized user experiences. To achieve these goals, the target network architecture must incorporate the following characteristics:

  • Separation of Hardware and Software: Unified hardware infrastructures will support multiple logical networks.
  • Separation of the Control Plane from the Presentation Layer: Network functionality is deployed flexibly and on demand.
  • Data-Driven Open Network: Services are delivered quickly and optimized in real time.
  • Service-Oriented Network Architecture: Network slicing supports multi-service experience.

Key Technologies

The following technologies are key to the design and construction of the target architecture for next-generation networks:

  • Network Functions Virtualization (NFV): Network Elements (NEs) are independent applications deployed flexibly on unified platforms built using standard servers, switches, and storage devices; software and hardware are decoupled, and network functionality is no longer hosted by a single device.
  • Software-Defined Networking (SDN): Based on programmable network equipment and centralized control planes, SDN supports flexible deployments of network functionality.
  • Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA): This allows separate services to combine the functionality of large software applications as SOA principles are independent of vendors, products, and technologies.

Transformation Phases

The core network plays a pivotal role in network architecture evolution. Before the target network architecture can be achieved, the core network must complete the following transition:

  • CloudEdge: Enabling technologies such as NFV and cloud computing achieve the decoupling of hardware and software at the NE level. Enhanced resource elasticity and service flexibility lay the foundation for expanding services.
  • Service-Oriented Core (SOC): Existing network functionality is restructured to support network slicing for the delivery of multi-service experiences. Network functionality currently provided by the Serving GPRS Support Node (SGSN), Gateway GPRS Support Node (GGSN), Mobility Management Entity (MME), PDN Gateway (P-GW), and Serving Gateway (S-GW) will be replaced with new control, service, and management functionality to support business innovations and improve operating efficiency.

Building Cross-Industry Ecosystems

A comprehensive, healthy ecosystem is critical to any successful network transformation. As telecommunications carriers deploy more ICT technologies to transform their networks, the boundary between the core network and Over-The-Top (OTT) service providers and industry verticals will be continuously blurred. The convergence of the telecommunications industry with other commercial and private networks will accelerate. Cross-industry ecosystems that feature openness and collaboration will form.

An example of the natural collaboration between telecom carriers and service providers is the creation of a joint NFV Innovation lab by Huawei and Tencent — announced February, 2015 — to provide a service for mobile game acceleration to the Guangdong Branch of China Mobile. Also, in June 2014, Huawei collaborated with market research company GFK to provide a Big Data-based location service for the Shanghai Branch of China Unicom. Cross-industry collaborations create the opportunity to innovate services and facilitate the exploration of new business models. Consequently, as more applications that are specific to the needs of various industries become available over the network, increased demand drives growth in the types of business opportunities that have a profound impact on people’s lives.

By William Zhaowei

Senior Marketing Manager, Packet Core Marketing Support, Carrier Business Group, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.