MWC 2014 Preview: Alcatel-Lucent unveils new NFV solutions for networks in the cloud

Network functions virtualisation roadmap includes virtual EPC, IMS and LTE RAN, all of which are designed to help mobile network operators become more efficient, responsive and innovative

MWC 2014 Preview: Alcatel-Lucent unveils new NFV solutions for networks in the cloud

Alcatel-Lucent is delivering a portfolio of virtualised mobile network functions - packet core, IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and radio access network (RAN) - and migrating them to the cloud.

Mobile operators will become more agile, efficient and responsive as they innovate with new service offerings, speed deployments on a massive scale and expand into new markets. 

Alcatel-Lucent’s network functions virtualisation (NFV) portfolio aligns with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV vision. It is already working with 20 service providers as they begin to leverage NFV in their networks.

NFV appeals to mobile service providers now because it allows them to innovate more easily while providing the best return on their investments in an all-IP network infrastructure such as LTE. It enables network automation and efficient use of resources for rapid scaling up and down of services.

It will optimise delivery of services such as voice over LTE (VoLTE), Web real time communications (Web RTC), secure mobile communications for enterprises and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. In addition, NFV will cut the time and costs of bringing these and other new services to market. 

At its annual Technology Symposium in November 2013, Alcatel-Lucent defined its cloud shift vision for building a better cloud with high performance, reliability and greater scalabilty using open industrial or carrier-grade virtualised networks that leverage cloud flexibility.

Today the company is announcing a carrier-grade virtualised mobile portfolio that is hardware independent – by the separation of functional software from the underlying hardware. This will allow it to leverage industry initiatives such as OpenStack, to operate with NFV platforms including management, orchestration, infrastructure and networking elements. The virtualised portfolio includes: 

A virtualised evolved packet core (vEPC)

This automates the authentication and management of subscribers and the services they access, as well as the creation of and connectivity to services within the operator’s network and to the wider Internet on a massive scale, with the quality and performance subscribers demand.

Alcatel-Lucent’s vEPC leverages a software base that has been proven in the networks of the world’s largest mobile network operators. The company is currently conducting five customer trials using the vEPC.

A virtualised IMS (vIMS) solution

This is a cloud communications platform for delivering a rich portfolio of multimedia services over IP networks. Alcatel-Lucent’s vIMS embraces new open cloud technologies whilst retaining the high performance leveraged from being operational at scale in the largest communication networks with 100% availability. Alcatel-Lucent’s vIMS is already being deployed within customer networks and the company is engaged in eight vIMS cloud customer trials.

A virtualised RAN portfolio

This encompasses a virtualised 3G radio network controller (RNC) and virtualised proof of concept for LTE and LTE-Advanced radio access networks.  The LTE components leverage Alcatel-Lucent’s LTE software deployed in eight of the top ten mobile operator networks and advanced wireless algorithms from Bell Labs.

To leverage cloud efficiencies the functional software must be on-boarded, managed, orchestrated and optimised within the cloud network. Alcatel-Lucent’s CloudBand 2.0 is an example of an integrated NFV Platform.

The company has been using CloudBand at its Cloud Innovation Centre lab in Naperville, US, to onboard and manage its virtualised applications. The 2.0 version has been expanded to support greater network control, broader open industry standard technologies, and virtualised network functions.

It also integrates the virtual service platform (VSP) from Alcatel-Lucent’s SDN venture, Nuage Networks. Software defined networking (SDN) solutions from Nuage Networks deliver highly automated, programmable and responsive networks in support of IT and telecommunications applications for the cloud era. 

Alcatel-Lucent is currently delivering on three CloudBand NFV customer contracts and 10 trials. Over 20 trials of the Nuage Networks SDN solution are underway and the company has four contracts.

It is committed to accelerating industry development of NFV, both through active participation in the ETSI NFV advisory board, as well as with the formation of the CloudBand Ecosystem Program.

Alcatel-Lucent rounds out its ability to help customers in the adoption of NFV by offering extensive professional services expertise available throughout the process.

Caroline Chappell, senior analyst with Heavy Reading said: “The arguments for NFV are compelling for mobile operators. When combined with SDN, NFV will enable them to deliver new services flexibly and faster, with positive implications for revenue generation and their ability to expand into new markets.

“NFV is timely as operators migrate to LTE and look for new ways to take full advantage of this technology. However, it is critical that virtualised network functions for LTE maintain the features and stringent performance requirements of the same functions in non-virtualised networks.

“NFV also provides mobile operators with an opportunity to rethink network operations and reduce operational cost. Alcatel-Lucent has a market-leading understanding of NFV and is well-positioned to help mobile operators on their NFV journey.” 

Marcus Weldon, corporate CTO of Alcatel-Lucent and Bell Labs president, said: “Each mobile operator will have different priorities and want to take their own specific path to NFV, based on their business priorities and the state of their network and operations readiness.

“Building on our strong IP foundation, we have pioneered an open SDN and NFV architecture that combines the best of IP with the best of IT, to create a truly carrier-grade cloud network solution.

“Our accelerated investments in virtualised telecom applications, our CloudBand 2.0 platform and our Nuage Networks SDN venture are clear proof points that we have all the elements to help operators create an open agile, efficient cloud environment at a speed that meets their individual needs.” 

Visit Alcatel-Lucent at Mobile World Congress at booth 3K10 in Hall 3 of the Fira Gran Via, Barcelona from 24th to 27th February.

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