Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sprint charts journey to NFV Openstack Cloud

Sprint announced several milestones for its nationwide Network Function Virtualization OpenStack cloud deployment.

In a blog post, Günther Ottendorfer, Sprint's Chief Operating Officer, Technology, described a multi-pronged approach to address both the operational and the technological components of NFV, including the deployment of a common infrastructure in more than 30 data centers around the network. This deployment, started two years ago, coincides with a “cap and grow” approach to commercializing NFV. While building the virtualized infrastructure, Sprint is simultaneously capping the expansion of legacy core network hardware.

Ottendorfer asserts that 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.  Sprint's new virtual Core replaces stand-alone, bare metal platforms with a single Network Function Virtualization infrastructure (NFVI) on which all of the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and IP Multimedia Sub-System (IMS) platforms virtually reside as Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs).

http://newsroom.sprint.com/the-sprint-nfv-journey.htm


  • In May 2017, Sprint (announced the availability of C3PO (Clean CUPS Core for Packet Optimization – CUPS: Control & User Plane Separation), an open source NFV/SDN-based mobile core reference solution designed to significantly improve performance of the network core by providing a clean, streamlined, high-performance data plane for the packet core.

    C3PO uses standard high-volume server hardware and streamlines mobile core architecture by collapsing multiple components into as few network nodes as possible. In lab tests conducted on Dell EMC DSS 9000 rack scale infrastructure with compute sleds running dual socket 14 core Intel Xeon processors E5-2680 v4, Sprint achieved 1.63 Mpps (million packets per second) throughput. This C3PO configuration demonstrated high efficiency by utilizing as few as seven processor cores - with one packet processing core and six processor cores supporting other tasks such as Control Plane, statistics, load balancer, operating system and other operations, for 500,000 subscribers using a typical Sprint traffic model. A similar C3PO configuration achieved 2.2 Mpps with a similar traffic model for 50,000 subscribers.

    Sprint's C3PO is the result of four years of collaboration between Intel Labs and Sprint on a joint research effort to develop optimal DPDK-based data plane nodes and disaggregated evolved packet core architectures, as well as a platform for further 5G core infrastructure research. “C3PO makes traditional mobility architectures and software designs more streamlined, efficient and scalable,” said Dr. Ron Marquardt, Vice President of Technology at Sprint. “By combining Sprint’s real-world operator knowledge with Intel’s research on optimizing software for standard high-volume servers, we’ve developed a single solution that provides seven functions previously located within separate physical elements.”

Sprint selects Metaswitch to accelerate mobile innovation

Metaswitch confirmed that Sprint is deploying its products and technologies to enable the accelerated development and deployment of advanced mobile communication services for businesses and consumers.

Metaswitch said its cloud technology portfolio provides an extremely agile and cost-efficient innovation platform for LTE and 5G networks, extending beyond person-to-person communications and into the real time connectivity and control of the Internet of Things. Working together, Metaswitch and Sprint are looking to provide higher quality, feature-rich and sophisticated communication services that are native to the mobile phone dialer. The goal is to provide users a more intuitive, reliable and collaborative experience than is typically available from third party applications that ride on top of a standard mobile data plan.

"We're excited to lay this foundation as part of Sprint's network virtualization initiative, which we expect will deliver an expanding range of innovative services to our customers for many years to come," said Günther Ottendorfer, Chief Operating Officer of Technology at Sprint. "These new services will enable our customers to do more with the devices they depend on at home, at work and on the go, while reducing our infrastructure and operating costs."

"Our goal is to provide a range of exciting and potentially exclusive services that delight our customers and help them connect in new and better ways," added Ottendorfer.

"Sprint's commitment to mobile cloud innovation is impressive and will accelerate value for its customers and partners," said Martin Lund, CEO of Metaswitch. "We are honored to have been selected as a key strategic provider for the core of Sprint's next generation network and we look forward to driving future innovation together."

https://www.metaswitch.com/the-switch/sprint-selects-metaswitch-to-accelerate-mobile-network-innovation

Ericsson broadens 5G with massive MIMO radio

Ericsson expanded its 5G portfolio, which comprises the 5G core, radio and transport platforms, together with OSS, BSS, network services and security. The broadened portfolio now includes a new radio product, AIR 3246, for Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (Massive MIMO), which is a complement to Ericsson’s global 5G radio offering.

AIR 3246 supports both 4G/LTE and 5G NR (New Radio) technologies. It is Ericsson’s first 5G NR radio for frequency division duplex (FDD) and designed for boosting 4G capacity and bringing 5G to subscribers in metropolitan areas using mid-band spectrum. Commercial availability is expected in Q2 2018.

Ericsson’s 5G Platform includes three previously launched time division duplex (TDD) radios capable of supporting 5G and Massive MIMO, as well as core, transport, digital support and security elements. The company has the most complete 5G portfolio in the industry, serving the needs of the first movers in 5G.

Fredrik Jejdling, Head of Business Area Networks at Ericsson, says: “We now expand the 5G platform that we introduced last February. The new radio will enable operators to enhance 4G capacity for their subscribers today and be ready for 5G tomorrow, using the same hardware. We also complement the products with a set of network services, simplifying the journey to 5G for our customers.”                    

Ericsson noted that FDD Massive MIMO is part of a trial with T-Mobile US, on three sites in Baltimore, Maryland. This will be the first time that standardized Massive MIMO will be used to carry commercial LTE traffic using mid-band FDD spectrum.

Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer for T-Mobile, says: “T-Mobile’s racing forward at breakneck pace with Ericsson’s next-gen tech that advances LTE today and paves the way for 5G tomorrow. While the carriers scramble to prop up networks caving under the weight of unlimited, the Un-carrier’s rolling out advanced technologies to massively increase network capacity and data throughput for customers. Translation – we’re making America’s best unlimited network even better!”

Commercially available in the second quarter 2018, AIR 3246 will be part of Ericsson Radio System.

SoftBank tests 5G in 4.5GHz band with Ericsson

SoftBank is working with Ericsson to conduct an end-to-end trial of 5G in the 4.5GHz band in the urban areas of Japan.

Ericsson said this will be the first end-to-end 5G trial including two 5G New Radios, virtual RAN, virtual EPC, beamforming, Massive MIMO functionalities and test support services. SoftBank is currently awaiting an experimental license to conduct the trial.

The companies have been conducting 5G lab trials using 4.5GHz spectrum since last year.

Earlier this year, Hideyuki Tsukuda, Senior Vice President, SoftBank Corp., was quoted: "SoftBank started to verify 4.5GHz radio back in August 2016 and now 4.5GHz is becoming the leading candidate band for 5G services in Japan together with 28GHz.  We are leveraging Ericsson's Test Bed with 28GHz radio to validate a lot of advanced features at super low-latency and high throughput, which helps position us as a pioneer of 5G."

http://www.ericsson.com

OIF Updates Micro Intradyne Coherent Receiver IA for 400G

Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) announced updates to its Micro Intradyne Coherent Receiver implementation agreement. The IA introduces three classes of receivers, distinguished by their RF frequency response, to support Flex Coherent DWDM transmission to 400G and beyond.

The OIF said it continues its efforts to look beyond 100G by selecting a 400G implementation technology option. The newly published Flex Coherent DWDM Transmission framework document specifies a single technical approach for diverse network applications, including long-haul (LH), metro and data center inter-connection (DCI). One of the objectives of this work is to provide direction on the technical developments required by system and component providers.

“Our system vendor members continue to flow down future system requirements so that component suppliers can be ready with products to support their designs,” said Karl Gass of Qorvo and the OIF’s Physical and Link Layer Working Group – Optical Vice Chair.

The OIF is currently planning its next global transport SDN Interop demo and seeking input from the service provider community, including those that have not participated in past interop demonstrations.

In addition, the following officers were re-elected to one-year terms:
Klaus-Holger Otto of Nokia - Technical Committee, Chair; Ed Frlan of Semtech - Technical Committee, Vice Chair; Lyndon Ong of Ciena - MA&E Committee Co-Chair, Networking; Brian Holden of Kandou Bus - MA&E Committee Co-Chair, Physical & Link Layer.

http://www.oiforum.com

MTN South Africa looks to Cat-M1 for IoT

MTN South Africa has completed lab trials of Cat-M1 in support of its Internet of Things (IoT) ambitions.

The Cat-M1 trial uses IoT devices integrated with a Qualcomm MDM9206 global multimode LTE IoT modem and the Ericsson Massive IoT Radio Access Network product.

Giovanni Chiarelli, CTIO, MTN South Africa, says: “Cat-M1 provides key advantages of low-cost devices, long battery life, extended coverage and supports a wide range of use cases. The successful trial, in conjunction with Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies, proves that both companies have the ability to support new IoT services and technologies for MTN. The initial use of this technology has been for tracking and reporting use cases that have benefited both consumer and business customers. At MTN we are providing the platform for these and future applications to enhance people’s lives.”

https://www.ericsson.com/en/press-releases/2017/9/first-cat-m1-test-in-africa-for-internet-of-things

Anuta Supports Remote Deployment of Tata Communications’ IZO SDWAN

Anuta Networks announced that its NCX orchestrator has been successfully deployed by the global managed services provider Tata Communications for automating the roll-out of the company’s IZO SDWAN offering across 130 countries.

NCX delivers configuration and policy management for multi-vendor network devices using extensible device and service models. For Tata Communications’ IZO SDWAN, NCX automates Cisco Integrated Services Routers, Cisco Aggregation Services Routers and Cisco Cloud Services Router 1000V Series. In addition to provisioning, NCX collects telemetry from thousands of network elements to provide customers with unprecedented visibility into their network operations.

“Since launching IZO SDWAN, we’ve seen significant interest in this service from our enterprise customers who want to make the most of their cloud deployments, while reducing the complexity of moving to the cloud,” said Peter Juffernholz, Associate Vice President, Virtualized Network Services at Tata Communications. “To enhance the self-service capabilities of IZO SDWAN and enable on-demand service provisioning, including network telemetry driven service assurance, we have partnered with Anuta Networks. The company’s NCX network orchestrator has the breadth and depth of features we needed to automate remote branch deployments for our customers globally.”

“The transition to cloud-centric service delivery including hybrid cloud, presents a great opportunity for managed services providers,” said Chandu Guntakala, President & CEO of Anuta Networks. “NCX with its YANG model driven architecture empowers them to automate complex provisioning and operational flows. It gives me immense pleasure to partner with Tata Communications to accelerate the company’s IZO™ SDWAN deployments.”

HPE announces intent to acquire Cloud Technology Partners

HPE agreed to acquire Cloud Technology Partners (CTP), a consulting company that helps enterprises migrate to hybrid IT capabilities. Financial terms were not disclosed.

CTP is cloud agnostic, with extensive experience on multiple platforms, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google and OpenStack.

Cloud Technology Partners (CTP) describes itself as a born-in-the-cloud services with the following expertise:

  • Move to the cloud – CTP helps sophisticated IT organizations move to the cloud by helping them determine which applications are optimal for both public and private clouds, executing the migrations, while helping them transform their organizations for the future.
  • Innovate on the cloud – CTP helps its clients build new and disruptive solutions using key technologies like IoT, Big Data and Machine Learning.
  • Operate the cloud – With its Managed Cloud Controls (suite of next generation managed services), CTP helps its clients achieve governance, risk and regulatory compliance on day 1 while also automating the reconciliation of actual cloud spend back to the projected TCO savings in the original business case and optimize spend.   

Together, HPE and CTP will provide our customers with a comprehensive IT strategy that includes private, managed and public clouds, as well as traditional IT.  

http://www.cloudtp.com

China Unicom's US$11.7 billion strategic investment brings advantages

China United Network Communications Group (China Unicom or 中国联通), the fourth largest mobile operator with over 270 million subscribers, recently closed a deal that will bring in US$11.68 billion in cash from top Chinese tech companies. Under the deal, the Shanghai-based holding company of China Unicom, will sell a 35.2% stake worth RMB 78 billion to 14 strategic investors, including the following.

The deal is backed by the Chinese government, which holds a significant stake in the China Unicom group and its various listed companies, as part of a wider effort to encourage private investment in state-owned enterprises. In this case, the multisided arrangement between China's biggest tech companies also ties the largest players so that their financial interests are closer aligned. After the investments are completed, by way of both new and old share sales, the state will hold approximately 25% of the new China Unicom A shares.

The deal is complex and since it was announced on Wednesday, trading of China Unicom shares has been halted on the Hong Kong market.  The transaction is described as follows: “Strategic investors will subscribe for about 9 billion new shares of Unicom A Share Company and purchase 1.90 billion shares of Unicom A Share Company from Unicom Group, representing in aggregate 35.2% of Unicom A Share Company’s enlarged share capital, at a price RMB 6.83 per share.”

While China Life is expected to invest the large amount, the deal is interesting mainly for the synergy it could generate with the Internet companies. There has already been word from Tencent that a special broadband card option will be available to China Unicom's mobile users giving the unlimited access for Tencent applications.

Current status of China Unicom

In mobile subscriptions in China, Unicom holds second place, far behind China Mobile but ahead of China Telecom. In fixed-line broadband, China Unicom trails behind its two rivals. As seen from China Unicom's 1H2017 financial results (highlighted below) competition is fierce between these top three operators.

In the first half of 2017, China Unicom’s service revenue reached RMB 124.11 billion, up by 3.2% year-on-year. EBITDA amounted to RMB 43.56 billion, up by 5.5% year-on-year, and accounted for 35.1% of the service revenue, up by 0.8 percentage point year-on-year; and profit attributable to the equity shareholders of the company increased by 68.9% year-on-year to RMB 2.42 billion.
Key operating metrics

Total handset data usage for 1H2017 soared 326% over 1H2016, reaching 2,522 MB (monthly average mobile billing handset subscriber DOU.
Handset Internet Access Revenue for 1H2017 reached RMB 42.90 billion, up 22.9% yoy.
Fixed-line service revenue (including legacy voice) was RMB 46.57 billion, basically flat yoy.
Fixed-line broadband access revenue amounted to RMB 21.56 billion, down by 3.0% year-on-year. The number of fixed-line broadband subscribers increased by 4.0% year on-year to 76.92 million.

China Unicom plans to several high-priorities for the remained of 2017 and 2018, including:

Accelerating mobile customer migration onto the 4G LTE network. In the first half of the year, Unicom added 34.26 million 4G subs, bringing it to 138.81 million out of a total customer base of 269.45 million, which means that about 52% of its customers are using the 4G network and 48% remain of 3G or 2G service. The migration is slower than seen by other operators worldwide, but the subscriber base to migrate is much higher, China is a huge country, and subscribers have to agree to a substantially more expensive monthly package. China Unicom’s 4G ARPU is RMB 66.50 (US$9.97) vs the company’s overall mobile ARPU of RMB 48 (US$7.19).
The 4G network rollout is mostly done.  In 2016, China Unicom installed 337,000 4G base stations bringing it to a total of 736,000 4G base stations in service.
CAPEX is down substantially for the second year in a row. The cost reduction trend is accelerating. In fact, in 1H2017 capital expenditure decreased by 49.5% year-on-year to RMB9.14 billion i
Capital Expenditures

  • 2015 – RMB 133.9 billion
  • 2016 – RMB 72.1 billion
  • 2017 estimate – RMB 45.0 billion

To drive ARPU, China Unicom is pushing subscription packages based on a “data + content” model. A recently launched “Unlimited Video Enjoyment”. WO Video, already has about 16 million subscribers. China Unicom will focus on differentiated video partnerships.
China Unicom claims to be the 2nd largest Internet data center operator / cloud provider in China. It has 12 national-standard cloud data centres in operation with approximately 122,000 data cabinets in services. China Unicom also has some 300 “local data centers”. Revenues for IDC/Cloud for 1H2017 reach RMB 5.80 billion, up 22% yoy.
China Unicom now has a pre-commercial NB-IoT network in operation.
In fixed-line home broadband, China Unicom reports that it has encountered extremely intense competition. For 1H2017, fixed-line broadband access revenue fell to RMB 21.557 billion from RMB 22.231 billion a year earlier. To counter this, China Unicom is again looking to pull more subscribers unto fiber access, and to feature IPTV with enriched content package to drive differentiation.

Implications of the newly announced strategic investments

Another interesting dynamic in this deal is that China Mobile and China Telecom is that the government pushed for this investment deal with China Unicom first.  The new investment and the commercial partnership could become a strategic advantage for China Unicom if the other two carriers fail to secure similar deals.  In terms of finishing the 4G rollout or beginning the 5G construction, the new cash will be advantageous. Special bandwidth + bundling arrangements with Tencent and Alibaba could be alluring.

The investment deal involves only private Chinese companies, so in this stage of reform, China is not acting to further open its telecom market to foreign investment. China Unicom has had an ongoing partnership with Telefónica for many years. A strategic alliance between the firms began in 2009 when China Unicom and Telefonica invested US$1 billion in the other party's shares. In 2011, the companies deepened their cooperation by investing the equivalent of US$500 million in the other party through the purchase of each party's shares. China Unicom raised its stake in Telefonica through the acquisition of 21,827,499 Telefónica shares at an agreed value of 17.16 Euros per share. In turn, Telefonica was to buy more shares in China Unicom from third parties. Since then, the companies have collaborated in technical research and in network interconnections. More recently, Telefónica has sold some of its China Unicom shares.  Its current holdings in China Unicom are probably under 2%.

In terms of overseas investments or strategic expansion China Unicom, like China Mobile and China Telecom, has pretty much abstained from large scale venture or acquisitions. Whereas carriers like Vodafone, Orange, Zain, MTN, NTT, Bharti Airtel or Singtel, have ventured widely into all of the countries of Asia and Africa, China Unicom has kept its focus only on its home turf. With the reduced government equity stake in the company, perhaps this will begin to change but it is too soon to know.

Network management policies could evolve in step with these deals

Another area to watch with this transaction involves network management. As it brings on strategic content partners, like Tencent, China Unicom will be incentivized to ensure that subscribers get assured access to bundled programming and applications.

See also