LIVE FROM LTE WORLD SUMMIT 2015: Executives from EE, Orange Group, Vodafone Netherlands and Zain Jordan talked up the benefits virtualisation will bring to operator networks, but it’s clear that each player sees different roles for the technology.

Speaking in a roundtable session, Yousef Abu Mutawe (pictured above left), CTO of Zain Jordan, noted that while much of the focus has been on the cost saving potential, “capex and opex are not really the main challenges right now – the main challenge is how to bridge the revenue gap”.

“If virtualisation manages to bring more intelligence into the network, then I believe the move toward virtualisation will be very fast. And this is what we are looking for from vendors – to show us how virtualisation can bring us more intelligence while correlating the virtualised event with big data,” he said.

Matthias Sauder (right), chief network officer of Vodafone Netherlands, said that the big benefit comes through the ability to quickly launch and test new services in the network, without the expense of dedicated hardware.

“When you want to implement something, you will get it much faster because it should be easier to deploy. And it should also be easier for us to try out new things. We need to implement new things, to try them out, maybe a bit of the Google approach, to see if it works with our customers. Then, if it works, we can get it to a mature state and keep it on the platform.”

Mansoor Hanif (second right), director of RAN development and programmes at EE, said that the dynamic reallocation of resources enabled by virtualisation will be “really powerful”, particularly with regard to managing unexpected network events.

“Signalling storms are the biggest nightmare of any network in the world, and the problem with signalling storms is that they show up and you have an average of seven minutes to react before it goes out of control. You need it to be very fast, and then it can bubble up across the network – you close it down here, it goes somewhere else. With virtualisation, you can have really fast, flexible processing power, that you can move to wherever that is,” he said.

The operators were not unequivocal in their support for virtualisation, however. Pierre Francois Dubois (second left), VP of product development at Orange, said that the technology is best suited to exploring new opportunities, which are not already served by legacy network infrastructure.

“I believe that when it comes to services, [virtualisation] can be applicable right now for niche markets and new opportunities, that are starting from a blank page, without any legacy – it’s easier to deploy and execute. But when you have to combine the legacy world for some customers with these new opportunities, it is very difficult,” he said.

And with regard to the opportunity to make cost savings, the Zain Jordan executive said that there is the potential to make savings, “probably”, but that this is dependent on the stance of vendors. “Mostly, when you virtualise, the vendors are intelligent enough to sell you licences rather than hardware, and the cost is still the same,” he said.