Distributed computing network architecture could be the key to helping operators reclaim value in the data pipe diminished by OTT applications, Mavenir CEO Pardeep Kohli told Mobile World Live (MWL).

But the shift will throw plenty of challenges at both operators and vendors, Kohli cautioned.

Today operators are faced with the “unenviable” task of building ever-larger pipes for numerous data-heavy applications which make them little or no money, the CEO explained. However, deploying data centre capabilities at each cell site would enable operators to shift their focus away from the pipes themselves and on to other opportunities, Kohli explained.

“If you now have every user plane function at the edge with the cloud integrated into the cell site, applications are passed at the cell site to the local cloud which improves the operator’s costs by not having to provide large, costly pipes through the network core.”

Challenges ahead
Kohli told MWL the shift to a distributed, virtualised, architecture will ripple through all segments of the industry. While operators will face new challenges around control, security and customer management, vendors will have to adapt to an environment requiring “open hardware with network functionality across many software communities”.

Kohli said the change will be tough for equipment incumbents who currently sell custom hardware and software, but indicated the shift is necessary.

“The insistence to maintain existing technologies for revenue today is reminiscent of companies like [movie rental company] Blockbuster who lost their market once new technology enabled Netflix, or Blackberry who lost their market due to a closed ecosystem. 5G is multi-faceted and comes at a time when operators are already squeezed with lower ARPUs while demand from subscribers (and connected things) is exploding – and the current economic model isn’t working.”

In a virtualised world, vendors will face competition from new technology providers using open software and minimal hardware, Kohli added. These disruptive new players will steal market share from incumbents as “the new 5G world cost structure takes effect,” he predicted.

Mavenir is no stranger to bold predictions: in September, SVP John Baker told MWL the company believes it can become one of the top three global infrastructure vendors within the next five years by taking share from current leaders Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei.