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Friday, August 11, 2017

Juniper: 5G ROI for Operators Depends on Use Cases, Government Investment

For mobile operators, implementing and managing 5G networks and services requires a different approach than did 4G, resulting in a business model and strategic shift, said Juniper Research in its report, “5G: How Operators Can Maximise ROI.” In a nutshell, market forces are compelling operators to look at how they might align 5G with their business models, but they can’t and won’t do it alone.

The trick with 5G ROI, Juniper said, is that as of yet “there is no discernable use case that will encourage operators to roll out 5G networks.” Therefore, “increased investment from governmental bodies will be needed to encourage the development of these networks.”

A big reason for government involvement, Juniper said, is that deploying 5G requires operators to purchase additional spectrum, a substantial investment with a long ROI timeframe, even if payments are spread out over several years. Plus, spectrum auctions are an ongoing activity, rather than a once-and-done proposition.

Such investments will “depend on the spectrum to be utilised, the legacy equipment that the operators have available to them and national regulation relating to the use of spectrum.”

ROI from IoT

From a business sustainability standpoint, the Internet of Things—in which many traditionally dumb devices (appliances, vehicles, etc.) will become connected via 5G networks—may be the most compelling broad use case that could incentivize operators to make major investments in 5G, Juniper posited.

“The data-centric mobile world will become increasingly interconnected, leading to a range of opportunities at the infrastructure, device and component levels,” Juniper predicted. “The impact of the IoT will be far-reaching, built through the widespread deployment of sensors in everyday items.”

That impact depends on 5G networks being scalable and intelligently efficient, so they are capable of supporting billions of connected devices.

Under the IoT umbrella, several use cases for lucrative services seem likely, Juniper said, including:

  • Smart home applications for consumer safety, comfort, and energy savings
  • Connected passenger vehicle applications for infotainment and, eventually, driverless cars
  • Industrial applications for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business
  • Public transport and payment systems
  • Smart city applications designed to improve efficiency through information sharing
The Question is How

Implicitly, Juniper acknowledged in its report that 5G will get off the ground; it just isn’t quite clear yet where operators will find the best ROI. The research firm predicted that by 2025, global billed revenue from 5G will reach $269 billion.

“The majority of acquired 5G connections will be users upgrading from 4G connections,” Juniper predicted, with ROI being achieved from the fact that “5G connections will initially carry a premium over ARPC (Average Revenue Per Connection).”

Not too surprisingly, Juniper concluded that early 5G adopters “will be ‘top end’ users who are currently in the higher echelons of monthly spend. In the early years, the actual numbers of connected subscribers will be very low, rendering early trends less representative.”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Securing 5G

The fundamental promise of 5G—transforming telecommunications by bringing wireline reliability and truly everywhere/anywhere service accessibility to mobile—introduces some new security challenges that must be solved to make next-generation services dependable and safe. As operators, vendors, and standards-developing organizations work together on 5G, they need to address not only security provisions for new products, but also security as a built-in feature of communication between devices or components along the network path.

Broadly, the reason for this new approach to security is that 5G networks will involve many more devices, inevitably resulting in more potential vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit.

NFV and 5G Security

More specifically, it is looking briefly at the role of network functions virtualization (NFV) in 5G and how that relates to network security.

To achieve the fast responses and low latency envisioned for 5G, it’s necessary to locate some applications on the IP network edge. This will significantly change network design, requiring NFV servers and virtual machines in the core network, allowing applications to be split and decentralized—so that apps can technically be “everywhere and nowhere.”

But, the use of NFV creates some significant challenges around network security. For example:

  • Many NFV solutions are built on open source software and whitebox hardware, a setup that tends to be less secure than proprietary software and hardware.
  • Obtaining access to any VNF software component can result in attackers gaining control of hosts (via an external controller) and therefore potentially the entire network.
  • Virtual networks built on NFV are not protected by firewalls. 
  • Segmenting VLANs introduces security vulnerabilities. 
Relatedly, network slicing makes it possible to perform dynamic service chaining, but this does mean more components in the network and more security needed for each component. If not detected immediately, attacks can reach all the way to the eNodeB—resulting in wasted bandwidth or much worse.

Key 5G Security Challenges

Digging a little deeper, there are two main security challenges involved in securing 5G networks:

1. IP layer visibility
In a nutshell, all layers and components involved have to be secured. To stop attacks, behavior detection can be highly effective. This might involve, for example, using different parameters to characterize the IP flow. With predictive measurements, it is possible to detect an attack and perform live filtering to stop it.

2. NFV integration
In NFV environments, the control agent is the in the core network and the user plane is distributed. This creates another link to secure with proper encryption. Attacks must be detected at the edge to achieve successful security; it’s too late by the time the attack reaches the core. Operators, vendors, and development communities must work together to secure virtualized networks and release associated standards.

Achieving 5G Security

Fundamental actions that need to be taken to ensure 5G security include:
  • Adapt network equipment for virtualization functions
  • Diversify security to address the mobile core 
  • Do away with “one size fits all” security methodologies
5G is a complex environment that integrates open source elements with proprietary solutions. Complexity is the enemy of security. Security must therefore be part of the network design from the start.

Report: Mobile Operators Adopt C-RAN to Prepare for 5G and Reduce Deployment Costs

Increasingly, mobile operators are adopting centralized radio access network (C-RAN) as their preferred method of deploying new networks, with global spending on this technology expected to reach almost $9 billion by end of 2017 and CAGR estimated at about 24% between 2017 and 2020, SNS Telecom said in its recently published report, “The C-RAN Ecosystem: 2017-2030.” These investments will include spending on remote radio heads, baseband units, and fronthaul transport network equipment.

C-RAN—which was initially popularized by Japanese and South Korean operators—represents an architectural shift for RAN design, centralizing and aggregating baseband processing for a large number of distributed radio nodes, explained SNS Telecom in the report. Other Tier 1 operators in markets around the globe—including AT&T, China Mobile, Orange, Sprint, Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), Telefonica, Verizon, and Vodafone—are now adopting it.

“In comparison to standalone clusters of base stations, C-RAN provides significant performance and economic benefits such as baseband pooling, enhanced coordination between cells, virtualization, network extensibility, smaller deployment footprint and reduced power consumption,” SNS Telecom elaborated.

Related to the general drive toward C-RAN adoption, SNS Telecom two sub-trends:
  1. Small cells deployment within a C-RAN architecture to leverage resource pooling and multi-cell coordination. This is especially popular for enterprise and indoor market segments. 
  2. Use of multiple baseband functional split options for C-RAN implementation, as a means of easing the transition to 5G and reduce fronthaul costs. 
SNS Telecom also noted that the vendor arena for C-RAN continues to consolidate, illustrated by merger and acquisition deals like the Mavenir Systems merger with Ranzure Networks, positioning the new combined organization as an end-to-end provider of 5G-ready solutions.

If implemented thoughtfully, C-RAN can help operators better manage interference and LTE-Advanced features like Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP), and reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) for RAN deployments, SNS Telecom concluded.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cable MSOs Charge Ahead With SD-WAN, Address Need for Hybrid Deployments

For cable MSOs, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) represents a potentially transformative technology in the quest to better serve enterprise customers, with virtualized functions as a foundation. This technology "is a golden opportunity to add a cutting-edge product to their business services and support strategies to move up market by serving larger companies and multi-site enterprises," said Heavy Reading contributing analyst Craig Leddy, in a Light Reading article

Operators like Comcast and Cox Communications see SD-WAN—in combination with DOCSIS 3.1as more affordable and flexible than MPLS, and a means to expand services using their existing coaxial connections for gigabit internet speeds, rather than relying on fiber, Leddy noted. 

He added: "The market is expected to be flooded with SD-WAN products and related VNFs that cable can support with its high-speed business Internet services. All service providers and SD-WAN suppliers face a market where competition is becoming fierce and the pace of SD-WAN adoption is unclear. Cable providers must prove they can deliver a high quality of service and customer support -- areas where they currently are not perceived as leaders in rankings by business customers."

But, most businesses still aren't using SD-WAN services to replace private MPLS-based links, noted Light Reading editor-at-large Carol Wilson in a recent article. Instead, they need solutions for a hybrid approach that allows them to add SD-WAN options to existing links, and run services across both. 

"Managing traffic and implementing policy in such a hybrid approach introduces complexity that many businesses don't want," Wilson elaborated. 

Addressing this need, CenturyLink recently rolled out a set of managed service bundles designed to eliminate the complexity of such hybrid deployments, Wilson said in the article. 

CenturyLink's SD-WAN offerings come in three bundle packages: bronze (add-on to existing MPLS connection), silver (MPLS and broadband connection provided by CenturyLink), and gold (same as silver, with two SD-WAN devices at the remote site), explained RCR Wireless News technology writer Nathan Cranford, in a recent article

Comcast is another operator that's putting a lot of thought into the best uses for and methods of deploying SD-WAN for enterprises. In a recent SDxCentral webinar, Comcast Business' VP of Connectivity Jeff Lewis elaborated on its reasons for treating SD-WAN as an over-the-top (OTT) cloud-based service, embracing such a strategy for its robustness and extensibility. 

Successful SD-WAN, Lewis explained in the webinar, is all about execution and customer satisfaction, which requires monitoring as a key component to avoid network-wide visibility drawbacks that MPLS tends to suffer from. And, as already discussed earlier, he noted that SD-WAN is likely to deployed as part of a hybrid migration alongside MPLS. 

How do you see SD-WAN being adopted by enterprises? Drop a comment below. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

U.S. Cable MSOs Keep Things Moving With Fiber, IoT, Gigabit Internet, and Open Source

What's new in the U.S. cable MSO market? Quite a bit! Here's a roundup of recent industry news, including Altice's fiber-to-the-home built-out, VoIP for small business from CenturyLink, the fizzled Sprint/Charter merger and what might happen next, Comcast's IoT ambitions, Cox's gigabit internet strategy, and open source community involvement on the part of Comcast and Telefonica.

As part of a five-year plan involving its entire Optimum footprint and part of its Suddenlink service area, Altice USA is now rolling out fiber-to-the-home, Light Reading reported. The operator's strategy is different than most of its peers in the U.S., which are heavily focused on DOCSIS 3.1 for high-speed broadband. Using what it considers pioneering GPON technology, Altice thinks it can cost-effectively deploy fiber instead, as a means to expand its existing plant, much of is built around aerial connections rather than underground cabling.   

It might seem old-school, but VoIP for small business is the focus of two new service packages from CenturyLink, Light Reading reported. The operator is providing two cloud-based, pre-packaged services: basic for roughly $20/line per month, and a unified communications upgrade for about $5 more per month. CenturyLink said this type of service is still something small businesses need to reduce their voice costs and gain access to more features like email & calendar integration and making softphones available on laptop computers. 

An initial bid on the part of Sprint to merge with Charter Communications has fizzled (for the moment), but there's still speculation that SoftBankwhich has a stake in Sprintmight buy Charter outright, Light Reading said. And it is entirely possible that Charter will consider a reseller deal with Sprint, as a way to expand beyond its existing MVNO arrangement with Verizon. 

The growing importance of Internet of Things (IoT) to the telecommunications and cable industries is nicely illustrated by service expansion on the part of Comcast, which is expanding its low-power, wide-area (LoRa) network to twelve new markets, through its machineIQ business unit, SDxCentral reported

The markets Comcast chose for machineIQMiami, Detroit, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Washington, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Baltimore, and Minneapolismade the cut because of demand, in particular related to smart city initiatives. Focus for these services is on applications like utility metering, environmental monitoring, and asset tracking, SDxCentral said.  

Comcast also recently became the first U.S. cable MSO to join Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), bringing that organization's total number of members to 50, Light Reading reported. This is a significant step in the operator's strategy to prove its growing influence in the open source community, a logical step given its focus on embracing virtualization for internal IT operations and cable modem termination system. 

A pioneer in offering gigabit-speed connectivity, Cox has found the process of rolling this service out to be slower than expected, noted Light Reading. The operator originally intended to begin deploying gigabit across its entire footprint by end of 2016, but as of now it has entered parts of 13 states out of the 18 it covers. It continues on, however, and now expects to reach virtually all the rest of its customers by end of 2019. 

As it works on automating and virtualizing its networks and IT systems, Telefonica is now considering joining the ONAP initiative, potentially merging into that organization its Open Source MANO (OSM) project as a means of expand its scope, Light Reading reported. That would represent the integration of two rival efforts focused on the complex issue of management and network orchestration. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to Assure Performance for the Enterprise Digital Transformation

The majority of enterprises with a formal ‘digital transformation’ strategy see cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) migration—backed by a highly available, fast, resilient IT infrastructure—as being foundational for their competitive differentiation, 451 Research found in a 2017 survey of enterprise IT decision-makers. Hardly surprising; the extended network—spanning branch offices, private data centers, and public clouds—is now a strategic asset, with 43% of enterprises reporting that their competitive position deteriorated due to poor IT infrastructure performance.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Deloitte: Want 5G? Invest in Deep Fiber!

5G is sexy. Beefing up the U.S. fiber optic infrastructure? Not so much. But, you can’t have one without the other, said Deloitte in a recent Perspectives article.

Friday, June 30, 2017

For Enterprises and Service Providers, SD-WAN Advantages Outweigh Challenges

While many networking technologies are overhyped, that can't be said of software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), according to Andrew Lerner, Research VP at Gartner. In a recent blog post, he noted that over the past three years, SD-WAN adoption has really taken off, with an estimated 6,000-plus paying customers and more than 4,000 production implementations.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mobile Network Operators, Organizations Forge Ahead With 5G

Mobile operators, industry organizations, and vendors are making progress toward 5G with activities that include multivendor network trials, nationwide network plans, innovative approaches to partnerships, and standards development. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Network Monitoring and Assurance: Visibility and One-Way Delay

The general-purpose network test equipment market is changing, driven by the emergence of 5G, greater need for interoperability testing, and increase in outsourcing, said RCR Wireless news in a recent article, citing research from TechNavio. We would add that rapidly developing changes in network monitoring extend far beyond the realm of traditional test and measurement.


For example, consider the importance of visibility into network performance, and what that actually means: insight that "allows IT to control and optimize the network, along with applications and IT services," stressed Light Reading in a recent article

Without such visibility, "organizational speed decreases, network problems take longer to resolve and security threats increase," Light Reading elaborated. A successful strategy to achieve visibility requires considering end-to-end architecture and setting up systems for immediate ROIand recognizing the unique dynamics of the network itself. 

"Ultimately, one-size does not fit all in terms of visibility architectures," Light Reading concluded. "You need one that is sized to your network’s specific configuration and needs."

One-way delay

Another, more specific, aspect to consider: one-way network delaya topic both RCR Wireless and Light Reading and touched on in articles focused on techniques operators can employ to ensure data gets where it needs to be, when it needs to get there. 

"Delay is proving to be one of the most challenging metrics to manage in advanced wireline and wireless networks," RCR Wireless said. Yet it is also "a critical component of both end user experience and infrastructure stability, since it can lead to dropped calls, slow browsing and TCP transport protocol performance impacts."

Light Reading concurred: "lengthy network delays, is an issue bedeviling video content and service providers of all stripes and sizes. Buffering delays of even just a few milliseconds can lead to a poorer customer quality-of-experience (QoE) and much higher rates of video abandonment by subscribers."

It's difficult to effectively measure and manage delay, RCR Wireless elaborated, because it "has both fixed and variable components, and it varies over time as network conditions change." Plus, "In order to properly measure and assure network delay, both one-way and two-way delay must be considered."

Further, RCR Wireless said, distributed deployment of measurement mechanisms (e.g. GPS at endpoints or in-line devices for clock synchronization) add cost and potential failure points to the network. Instead, operators have come to rely on estimating one-way delay by dividing round-trip delay in two. This is not an accurate way to measure one-way delay, however. 

"The obvious shortcoming with these rough estimates is that they don't offer any visibility into what might actually be happening on either network path," Light Reading noted. "As a result, the estimates for one-way delays could be way off because of the asymmetrical nature of most video traffic. Worse yet, these estimates could wind up producing 'false positives,' incorrectly indicating no latency problems overall when in fact there may be huge traffic delays occurring in one direction or the other.

Clearly, "service providers must measure and monitor one-way network latency directly and accurately," regardless of the cost of doing so, Light Reading concluded. (We would add that it does not need to be prohibitively costly, and solutions exist that leverage virtualization and other low-cost technologies to accurately measure one-way delay.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ovum: Low Latency Networks Underpin Service Provider Business Models

What is the inherent value of a low-latency network? In a nutshell “Latency performance underpins the entire network and therefore impacts the entire CSP business model,” said Ian Redpath, Practice Leader, Components, Transport and Routing, in Ovum’s report, “Monetizing high performance, low latency networks.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Virtualization Helps Cable MSOs Reduce Energy Consumption, Save Money

Often, the OpEx and CapEx benefits of virtualization are talked about in broad, general terms. But how exactly does the softwareization of networks and service delivery, especially for cable MSOs, save money and make things more efficient? One area that doesn't get much attention is the potential to reduce or at least curb energy consumption. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

5G: Six Predictions for the Future of Mobile Telecom

5G. It's coming, but there are still so many aspects of its implementation to figure out, nobody is really sure what the next generation of mobile telecom will look like, or what it will be used for. We have some pretty good guesses, though. Here are six 5G predictions from industry analysts and researchers. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cable MSO Market Trends: Enterprise Services, SD-WAN, Partnerships, and Skinny Bundles

The U.S. cable MSO market continues to be a dynamic area, with operators focusing on enterprise services, the potential for SD-WAN, partnerships to launch wireless service divisions, and introduction of "skinny bundles," among other trends. Here are some updates from several of the industry's largest players. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Mobile Telecom Market Update: IoT Networks, SDN & NFV Investment, LTE-A Pro Expansion

Recent trends in the mobile telecom market include Internet of Things (IoT) network launches, self-funding software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) investments, LTE-A Pro expansions, and another potential mergers. Here's a look at some of the latest moves on the part of major operators around the world.