Telecommunications Industry Trends That Will Shape 2016
By Pierre-Jean Chalon, Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific, Sonus Networks
2015 was an exciting year in telecommunications industry. We saw the continued growth of Unified Communications and the proliferation of new network architectures and platforms. Over the past year terms like Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), Software-Defined Networking (SDN), 5G and Cloud networking were exemplified as important industry trends and we will see these ramping-up in 2016.
SDN Strategies Ramp-Up
Although we continue to see NFV outpace the notion of SDN, in 2016 SDN strategies will become increasingly prevalent.
In the past, network infrastructures have been static and the idea of migrating to an all software-defined network, although full of promise, has been a scary proposition to many organizations, often viewed as “too much to handle.”
However, we’ve seen an influx of SDN solutions that don’t require the re-architecting of a network by replacing every router with a white box switch. Essentially, instead of creating an entirely new network architecture, companies are delivering SDN solutions to drive network value, while customers develop their strategy and migrate to a core SDN-infrastructure. These solutions enable new business models, such as Network-as-a-Service, where service providers are able to put a layer of automation on top of their network infrastructure, allowing them to configure the network how they want to use it, when they want to use it, and dynamically partitions it to provide enterprises with benefits such as data center interconnectivity. Service providers will continue to use these solutions to deliver new business offers to enterprises, and for that reason we will see SDN solutions ramp-up in 2016.
The Cloud Moves Closer
As NFV and the ever-growing transition to the Cloud continues to gain popularity in 2016 the next logical evolution of the Cloud infrastructure is the expansion of the service provider’s virtual edge all the way to the enterprise premise.
Traditionally, when a service provider sold network functions to an enterprise, such as a Session Border Controller (SBC), they supplied them with customer premise equipment (CPE) and required someone to go on-site, turn-up and deploy the application. In an industry where cutting IT costs and improving processes is widespread, the ability to streamline the aforementioned process has become increasingly important.
Now that the industry has finally reached a point where a large set of applications that were previously tied to proprietary hardware can now be run on generic commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computing hardware, service providers have new business opportunities. With this transition, service providers can now bring their “virtual” Cloud infrastructure to the enterprise premise. Now, CPE is becoming virtualized and applications are being managed by the service provider from its core Cloud infrastructure. With this shift, an enterprise has an extension of its service provider’s Cloud at the edge of its premise where applications are being hosted and managed. This provides the enterprise with the opportunity to trial new services quickly with no CPE investment and the ability to scale on demand.
5G Creates Hype, but VoLTE, VoWiFi and LTE-A Deliver Now
Over this past year, 5G has received more media coverage and industry buzz than any other technology. Experts explain that it will deliver faster mobile data rates, broader wireless coverage, more efficient signaling and lower latency. However, the consensus is that 5G will reach mainstream adoption closer to 2020. Instead of waiting till then, in 2016 we expect to see the mainstream adoption of initiatives such as Voice over LTE (VoLTE) Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A).
If we look at VoLTE, the business case for operators is simple. It reduces cost for operators by enabling voice, video, and data to run over a common IP infrastructure and provides them with the ability to re-farm 3G spectrum for LTE expansion. This, in turn, benefits today’s mobile worker by improving the overall quality of experience, delivering high-definition voice and providing the ability to run voice, video and data applications concurrently on the same handset.
VoWiFi, similarly, delivers operators with increased coverage and capacity, optimized network access and the ability to extend services easily to Wi-Fi. This technology provides today’s mobile worker with simple, secure unrestricted connectivity and mobility between Wi-Fi and cellular IP networks, even outside of LTE coverage. Moreover, LTE-A is already providing increased performance, scalability and service availability and is expected to only increase in 2016. Once operators in the region are able to address interconnect issues and finalize infrastructure details, we expect to see these complimentary technologies blossom in 2016.
In the end telecommunications industry rarely lacks change. However, one prediction we can all agree on is that both service providers and enterprises will continue to look for ways to simplify their network while increasing performance and reducing cost in 2016.