Saturday, November 28, 2015

Blueprint: Virtual Session Border Controllers - Benefits and Pitfalls

by Ashish Jain, Director of Solutions Marketing, GENBAND

The move to Network Functions Virtualization is certainly gaining steam. Increasingly, communications service providers are evolving their hardware-based infrastructure to new, next-generation communications networks. The rationale is simple – because of the many benefits offered by the virtualization of network functions including, but certainly not limited to, time-to-market for introducing new services and operational efficiencies.

One of the most critical network functions that communication service providers (CSPs) are looking to virtualize is the Session Border Controller (SBC), which is a vital element in today’s IP communication networks. The SBC is a software function that provides session security, interworking, and advanced session control for real time voice and video communications. Considering their standalone nature, SBCs have minimal dependencies on other key network functions and can evolve independently in terms of network infrastructure. They can also continually interface with other network elements using standard protocols such as SIP.

SBC virtualization provides CSPs with several benefits including:

Cost efficiencies by leveraging general purpose datacenter platforms and shared infrastructure across multiple applications
Service agility and faster time-to-market for new services and or new markets
Operational simplicity for deploying and managing SBCs
Evolution to cloud-based deployments to achieve dynamic scalability
Removal of SBC vendor dependencies on hardware lifecycle
Creation of virtual test environments

But even though the benefits of SBC virtualization are numerous, as with any new technology, there are considerations and challenges that CSPs should be aware of as well.

Make Sure You Have Clearly Defined Virtualization Goals

First and foremost, CSPs should have a clearly defined strategy and goals and know what they want to achieve with SBC virtualization. For instance, are they simply looking to virtualize the SBC function to leverage general purpose platforms in datacenters to reduce dependency on their SBC vendor’s hardware lifecycle and reduce costs? Or do they intend to fully embrace NFV cloud infrastructure to gain a broader set of benefits such as service agility, operational simplicity, dynamic scalability and more?

Given these questions, simple virtualization versus cloud virtualization is the first key decision CSPs need to make. That should be closely followed with the type of infrastructure they will need. The infrastructure requirements will be different for a simple virtualization strategy compared to NFV cloud virtualization.

Understand the Nitty Gritty of SBC Virtualization

The next important set of considerations is to understand how to run SBC as a virtual network function within a virtual or cloud infrastructure. It takes time and planning when considering an SBC virtualization strategy.

There are several things to consider, including:
Readiness of datacenters to handle real time applications
Performance assurance in shared infrastructure
Carrier-grade Five 9’s reliability
Infrastructure characteristics in terms of type of hardware, hypervisors and cloud
Deployment strategy – (private, public, or hybrid cloud?)
SBC virtualization framework
Characteristics such as integrated versus distributed SBC architecture
Service characteristics such as consumer, enterprise, mobile, wholesale or interconnect
Scalability strategy of SBC in a virtualized environment
Troubleshooting and management
Cloud Infrastructure ecosystem support

Not all Virtual SBCs are Created Equally

One of the most important components of an SBC virtualization strategy is selecting the right solution and partner. There are several key considerations operators should make before selecting a virtual SBC.  If CSPs want to leverage the full potential of cloud NFV deployments, the selection of an SBC must take into consideration whether the SBC is architected for cloud infrastructure such as NFV OpenStack or other similar implementations or if it is architected for just a simple virtualization to run on any general purpose server. Virtual SBC doesn’t always mean cloud NFV support. Make sure you clarify that in the vendor evaluation process.

CSPs should also consider the ecosystem support needed to run the virtual SBC in a multi-vendor cloud environment. It must seamlessly interface with the virtual infrastructure managers and cloud orchestrators that have been selected.  In addition, it is important that a cloud infrastructure and virtual SBC solution is carrier-grade, one which ensures Five 9’s or greater reliability when carrying real-time traffic.

Another major consideration is deployment flexibility. The SBC should provide the flexibility to be deployed either as an integrated SBC with both signaling and media functions, or with distributed and separated signaling and media processing functions. Distributing the signaling and media independently brings several benefits in SBC virtualization strategy enabling operators to 1) make a step-wise evolution to the cloud by virtualizing signaling first, and media second, for better economies of scale for media processing such as transcoding functions; 2) gain datacenter optimization by maintaining separate networking infrastructure for signaling (1G) and media (10G); 3) gain cost efficiencies by sharing media resources across multiple signaling instances; and 4) improve quality and reliability by centralizing signaling control and localizing media closer to the customer.

The final major consideration is performance and scalability. One of the major adjustments CSPs have to make in the virtualization environment is a shift from receiving high scalability on a dedicated SBC platform to achieving similar scalability by running multiple smaller virtual SBC instances on a farm of general purpose servers – a recommended strategy for cloud deployment. But vertical scaling (rack and stack) of virtual SBC instances can introduce numerous new operational challenges in a large scale deployment. The virtual SBC should support cloud managers to provide the intelligence to dynamically scale up or down based on network traffic demands – a concept that is generally called elastic scalability in cloud deployments.

From a CSP’s perspective the benefits of deploying virtual SBCs in the cloud far outweigh any potential challenges. From providing consistency in services across geographic locations, to improving the quality of service and service availability, to operational simplicity, to service agility, SBC virtualization offers a great business case. We’re already seeing quite a bit of movement in the market to virtual cloud SBC environments - and that pace should only increase.

About the Author

Ashish Jain is Director of Solutions Marketing at GENBAND. He brings over 12 years of telecommunications industry experience with expertise in the areas of Real Time Communications for fixed and mobile networks, Wireless Security, Mobile OTT, and enterprise social media applications.  In his current role as Director of Solutions Marketing at GENBAND, Ashish drives planning and strategy for mobile security products covering session border controller (SBC), Wireless Access Gateway, Diameter Signaling product line and manages IP based Real Time Communication solution portfolio covering VoLTE, VoWi-Fi, Small Cell, Carrier Wi-Fi, SIP Trunking, and IP Interconnect. Ashish holds a bachelor degree in Electronics Engineering and a Masters in Computer Science, with specialization in networks and communications, from The University of Texas.

Orange and Ericsson Test Internet of Things

Ericsson and Orange announced a trial of optimized, low-cost, low-complexity devices and enhanced network capabilities for Cellular IoT over GSM and LTE.

Some highlights:

  • Improved indoor coverage: The world-first EC-GSM (Extended Coverage) trial will be conducted in France using the 900 MHz band, with the aim to enhance device reachability by up to 20dB or a seven-fold improvement in the range of low-rate applications. This further extends the dominant global coverage of GSM in Europe and Africa to reach challenging locations such as deep indoor basements, where many smart meters are installed, or remote areas in which sensors are deployed for agriculture or infrastructure monitoring use cases. In addition, EC-GSM will reduce device complexity and thus lower costs, enabling large-scale IoT deployments. Another advantage of this technology is enablement by software upgrades of existing cellular networks, providing nationwide IoT coverage without additional hardware investments.
  • Reduced IoT device cost: In parallel, the world's first LTE IoT trial in partnership with Sequans will take place using  low-cost, low-complexity devices with one receive antenna (instead of two), and half-duplex FDD .This simplifies the device hardware architecture and reduces expensive duplex filters, allowing for 60 percent cost reduction in comparison with existing LTE Cat 4.
  • Extended battery life: In partnership with Sequans, Ericsson will also demonstrate energy efficiency over GSM and LTE networks with Power Saving Mode (PSM) technology. The PSM feature is applicable to both GSM and LTE, and supported by Evolved Packet Core (EPC). It enables extended battery life of communication modules such as sensors by up to 10 years thanks to optimized, power-efficient operations.


"IoT is a key area in Orange's Essentials2020 strategic plan, and France should play a key role in IoT takeoff in Europe. In order to extend our connectivity offer, we are currently deploying a LoRa network. At the same time, we are preparing the future of cellular networks and we are happy to collaborate with Ericsson to be the first operator to demonstrate IoT over GSM and LTE in order to roll it out ahead of 5G availability in the market."

http://www.ericsson.com

Cosmote Hits 500 Gbps with LTE FDD 3x Carrier Aggregation + 256QAM

Cosmote Greece achieved download speeds of 500Mbps in a live LTE network using equipment from Ericsson.

Cosmote is implementing FDD 3xCarrier Aggregation & 256 QAM innovation to their commercial network, boosting performance and market differentiation.

The demonstration, which took place at the Infocom World 2015 event in Athens on November 24, 2015, used Ericsson’s radio solutions and Ericsson Networks Software 16A . In addition, three component 20+20+10MHz FDD LTE carrier aggregation in combination with 256 QAM modulation deployed in a live network for the first time in the European market.

Ericsson said its 256QAM downlink encoding technology provides up to 33 percent higher downlink throughput in good radio conditions. This enables more efficient use of the spectrum allocated to a cell, as well as a 33 percent increase in maximum user downlink throughput.

"OTE Group brings the future of telecommunications today. We invest in innovation in order to be the first to offer our customers pioneering fixed and mobile telecommunications services, while we continue to assertively expand our New Generation Networks and develop the country’s infrastructure. With the consecutive 'firsts' achieved by the OTE Group, such as the demonstration of speeds up to 500 Mbps via our 4G+ network, we confirm our technological superiority and make a difference for our customers," stated Stefanos Theocharopoulos, Chief Technology & Operations Officer, OTE Group.

http://www.ericsson.com/news/151127-ericsson-and-cosmote_244069644_c

DOCOMO's 5G Trials Hit Multiple Gigabits Rates

NTT DOCOMO announced results from several recent 5G trials, each of which surpassed the gigabit barrier.  Some highlights:

  • A 5G trial it conducted with Nokia Networks at the Roppongi Hills high-rise complex in Tokyo on October 13 achieved data transmission in excess of 2Gbps. The trial used millimeter-wavelength signals with an extremely high frequency of 70GHz, a key development for the eventual commercial use of 5G wireless technology in actual-use environments. To date, no test had achieved a 5G data transmission in a commercial complex, such as a shopping mall, due to problems with base stations being out of line of sight and diffused reflections causing the attenuation of highly directional millimeter signals. This time, however, the trial was successful thanks to the use of two new technologies: beamforming, which focuses radio waves in a specific direction, and beam tracking to control beam direction according to the mobile device's location.
  • A 5G trial with Samsung Electronics in Suwon-city, South Korea on November 12 achieved a maximum data-receiving speed of more than 2.5Gbps.  This was accomplished in a vehicle travelling with a speed of 60km/h. The trial used a 28GHz high-frequency signal in combination with beamforming with a high number of antenna elements and beam tracking.
  • A 5G trial with Ericsson verified the feasibility of massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology by achieving a real-time data-receiving speed of more than 10Gbps using Ericsson 5G radio prototypes with a 15GHz frequency band on November 19.
  • A 5G trial with Fujitsu confirmed a multi-base-station cooperative transmission system by achieving a data-receiving speed of over 11Gbps in total of four mobile devices with a 4.6GHz signal on October 26.
  • A 5G outdoor data transmission trial conducted by DOCOMO, DOCOMO Beijing Communications Laboratories and Huawei Technologies on November 18 achieved a multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) transmission of 43.9bps/Hz/cell, which was 3.6-times more efficient than past outdoor trials of LTE-Advanced based MU-MIMO technology.


https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/info/media_center/

ADVA Acquires Engineering Team

ADVA Optical Networking has acquired an engineering division from technology incubator, mic AG. Financial terms were not disclosed.

ADVA said this team of engineers is specifically focused on the development of optical monitoring technology and will help to advance its FSP 3000 Access Link Monitoring (ALM) product.

"We have one of the biggest engineering teams in the industry. It's this combined intelligence, this collective insight, that sets us apart," said Christoph Glingener, CTO, ADVA Optical Networking. "That's why this acquisition is so important. We're adding dynamic new talent to our engineering force. Our new team members will help us to further strengthen our layer 1 assurance strategy. In a world driven by cloud and mobility, service delivery and assurance are critical factors that can effectively decide the success or failure of cloud offerings. That's why our team will be working hard to explore new possibilities and rapidly implement new features. Make no mistake, in 2016, our FSP 3000 ALM will be a product to watch. I can't wait to see what our new team achieves."

http://www.advaoptical.com



  • In December 2014, ADVA Optical Networking introduced its new FSP 3000 Access Link Monitoring (ALM) solution for providing greater insights into carrier fiber access networks.
    The ADVA FSP 3000 ALM is a small, non-intrusive device that operates independently of data networking equipment and regardless of the bitrate and protocol the overlaying service is using. It provides visibility into the health of fiber links by analyzing reflections of a non-intrusive test signal in continuous real-time. It can simultaneously monitor up to 16 fiber access tails and supports distances of 30km.

Verizon Sees Jump in Black Friday Data Traffic

Verizon reported a bounce in broadband and mobile data traffic for Black Friday:

  • Broadband traffic attributed to e-commerce shopping activities on Black Friday (Nov. 27) spiked by 12 percentage points from Thanksgiving Day, and is relatively consistent with the same day in 2014.  
  • Average daily mobile traffic on Black Friday increased by a few percentage points from Thanksgiving Day, which exhibited the same pattern in 2014.
  • Year-over-year, average daily traffic for both e-commerce and mobile commerce on Black Friday remained relatively consistent.
  • Internet traffic attributed to online shopping activities on the Wednesday (Nov. 25) before Thanksgiving increased by three points (105) from the same day in 2014, though declined a few points by Thanksgiving Day.
  • Average daily mobile traffic spiked (109 points) on the Wednesday (Nov. 25) before Thanksgiving though was slightly down from the same day in 2014.
  • Year-over-year, average daily traffic for both wireline and mobile remained relatively consistent, though overall numbers were higher for this same period last year.

"The kickoff weekend to the holiday season is no longer about shopping via a specific channel—whether mobile, online or in-store—on a given date.  It’s the Wild West for retailers as they continue to try new tactics to attract consumers and gain wallet share.  The challenge will be in successfully engaging with customers throughout the season who may be holding out for better deals given all the price slashing and special offers," stated Michele Dupré, group vice president of retail, hospitality and distribution for Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

http://news.verizonenterprise.com/2015/11/2015-verizon-retail-index-traffic/

GSMA: India Surpasses 500 Million Unique Mobile Subscribers

India is on track to surpass half a billion mobile subscribers by the end of the year, according to a new GSMA study published today, signaling the start of a new era for the country’s mobile economy. The new report, ‘The Mobile Economy: India 2015’, finds that 13 per cent of the world’s mobile subscribers reside in India and that subscriber growth is forecast to outperform the regional and global averages over the coming years as the country cements its position as the world’s second-largest mobile market behind China.

Some highlights:

  • India had 453 million unique mobile subscribers at the end of 2014. 
  • India is forecast to add a further 250 million subscribers by 2020 to reach 734 million, accounting for almost half of all the subscriber growth expected in the Asia Pacific region over this period. 
  • Frowth is linked to India’s relatively low mobile subscriber penetration rate, which stood at 36 per cent of the population at the end of 2014, compared to a 50 percent global average. 
  • The subscriber penetration rate in India is forecast to reach 54 per cent by 2020 as many millions more are connected by mobile.
  • Mobile broadband networks (3G/4G) accounted for only 11 per cent of Indian mobile connections in 2014, but are expected to make up 42 percent of the total by 2020. 
  • More than half a billion new smartphones connections are expected in India between 2015 and 2020, bringing the total to 690 million, up from 149 million in 2014.
  • India’s mobile industry made a total contribution of INR7.7 lakh crore (US$116 billion) to the Indian economy in 2014, equivalent to 6.1 per cent of India’s total GDP. This contribution is forecast to almost double to INR14 lakh crore by 2020, which would represent 8.2 per cent of projected GDP by that point. 


“India is a unique mobile market and one where the mobile ecosystem is playing a hugely influential role in transforming the lives of its citizens, and driving economic growth,” said Alex Sinclair, Acting Director General and Chief Technology Officer at the GSMA. “The market is now rapidly migrating to mobile broadband technology, which is providing a platform for India to transform into a digitally empowered society and connect many millions of unconnected citizens to the internet over the coming years.”

http://www.gsmamobileeconomy.com/india-new

Poland's Polkomtel Readies Voice over Wi-Fi with Nokia

Polkomtel, the Polish operator of the Plus network, has partnered with Nokia Networks to launch Poland’s first public trial of its Wi-Fi Calling+ service. The service lets users make regular calls when connected by Wi-Fi in locations with poor mobile coverage. The common voice core for VoWiFi and voice over LTE (VoLTE) enables a smooth evolution of enhanced voice services going forward.

During the trial period, the Wi-Fi Calling+ service is available to Plus users in Poland and across the European Union. Polkomtel is testing the functionality before its commercial launch, gathering feedback and ensuring its flawless integration and operation in the Plus network.

The service uses Nokia’s voice core technology, including its IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), Open TAS (Telecommunications Application Server) and Border Gateway (BGW), along with a fully customized end-user application from OptiMobile.

http://networks.nokia.com/

See also