Cloud Computing, Virtualization and Software Defined Networking – three sides of the same coin – will soon bring the benefits of IT evolution to the mobile broadband EPC. In the past, cellular networks were, by necessity, hierarchical with centralized control and data structures. These architectures required high performance, custom hardware to process, and route traffic. With distributed architectures, the same total MIPS and Bandwidth apply, but it’s more cost effective to manage locally and meet the performance requirements of modern 4G networks.
The advent of 4G and the shift from voice-centric to data dominant traffic aligns well with a distributed and virtualized Evolved Packed Core (EPC). Using the preferred Telecom term, Virtualization, the technology is gaining mindshare and the initial building blocks are now at hand.
ABI Research expects virtualization of the EPC will move past the curiosity and tire-kicking stage, and develop into a $400M market by 2018, representing upto one-third of the overall EPC market.
Joe Hoffman, principal analyst for mobile networks comments, “Operators are of course looking to displace the expensive Big Iron from their supply chain. When the time is right, and the technology proven as low risk, operators will capture additional benefits beyond the low-cost hardware, such as dynamic allocation and reuse of virtualized assets and streamlined service and feature development.”
Joe adds, “In this brave new world of SDN and virtualization, NSN has a slight lead with their Liquid Core virtualized network using COTS hardware. While most other vendors use proprietary hardware, there is a genuine push towards SDN and separation of the control plane. In general 2013 should bring more clarity on how different vendors will approach virtualization and SDN.”
These findings are part of ABI Research’s report, “Centralized vs. Distributed EPC and the Role of SDN and Cloud”. This is published as a part of the Mobile Packet Core (http://www.abiresearch.com/research/service/mobile-packet-core/) Research Service.