LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS 2014: Telefonica today announced UNICA, a group-wide NFV (network functions virtualisation) initiative. It will lay the groundwork for a radical re-design of the operator’s mobile and fixed-line networks.
Enrique Blanco (pictured), Telefonica’s global CTO, told Mobile World Live that shifting from proprietary infrastructure to platforms based on open standards – and so avoiding vendor lock-ins – was one of the main drivers for its large-scale push on virtualisation.
“We want this to be a multi-vendor environment from day one,” he said. “We want to source different functions from different suppliers.”
Blanco expects UNICA implementation to start in June 2014. By 2016 the target is to have 30 per cent of the company’s new infrastructure virtualised.
Telefonica is working with a raft of suppliers to build the UNICA reference architecture. It is insisting on vendor interoperability.
Blanco said NEC and Huawei had almost completed proof of concept, working at Telefonica’s network operation centres in Miami and Madrid respectively. Compatibility with SDN (software-defined networking) technologies is another requirement. Alcatel-Lucent is undergoing proof of concept in Mexico. In each case, the vendor is supplying both hardware and software.
The first phase of service, said Blanco, is focused on virtualising signalling-related functions. These include IMS (IP multimedia subsystem), DNS (domain name system), SMSC (short message service centre) and OCS (online charging system).
The second UNICA phase will look at virtualising functions that carry traffic, such as the core packet network
“To prove each vendor is capable of working with someone else, we have asked them to demonstrate software running on their infrastructure from another supplier,” added Blanco. “In this case it is messaging services from Ericsson.”
There are also plans for proofs of concept from HP and Ericsson. Software from VoIP specialist Broadsoft, meanwhile, is being tested on equipment from Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, HP, Huawei and NEC.
NSN, too, is in the UNICA mix. Telefonica is to test virtual IMS and virtual EPC (Evolved Packet Core) in Q2 using NSN hardware and software.
“I think we’ll implement vEPC in 2015, but that all depends on how it works in multi-vendor environment,” said Blanco.
At Mobile World Congress, Telefonica is demonstrating how vIMS can be set up in minutes using infrastructure and software from Huawei.
Agility of service provision, and the ability to change software suppliers quickly and easily, is a prospect that excites Blanco. “We can put suppliers under greater pressure and get better deals,” he said.