How to implement and leverage virtualized Evolved Packet Core (EPC) to maximize LTE revenue

Aricent recently hosted a webinar on “Network Function Virtualization (NFV) for EPC” In this webinar our experts discussed how NEMs can leverage the concept of cloud to develop and deploy multi-tenant, virtualized EPC solutions and also provided exhaustive insights into the various possible architectures, how to implement network routing for cloud and how to develop software based solutions that can be upgraded without downtime.

R Ezhirpavai, AVP, Technology and Rajat Kapoor, Senior Product Manager, at Aricent answered some of the questions asked during the webinar.

When do you expect carriers to deploy cloud EPC in live network?
Many carriers in US and APAC regions have already floated RFI for cloud based EPC deployment. Network equipment manufacturers are actively developing and testing cloud based EPC solution, and we feel that deployments can happen as early as the latter half of the next year.

Can the speakers comment on the performance of the cloud EPC, taking into account that hardware is always faster
Yes, we feel that even though dedicated hardware is always faster, the gap in performance is fast diminishing.Cloud EPC offers elastic scalability. Dedicated hardware based solutions have an upper limit on their performance, however, due to the elastic scalability the overall performance with higher number of servers is better in cloud based EPC as compared to a non-cloud based solution.

Will your solution support Openflow?
General cloud based solution will support open flow for handling virtualized systems. our cloud EPC solutions can be integrated with Openflow as well.

Can “caching” take place in your scenario, if so, how and where?
Yes, there are multiple level of caching – caching for data takes place when tunnels are reconnected. Caching is also done for recently used subscriber data and for DNS queries during selection process.

At what stage is your cloud EPC solution?
Our cloud EPC software solution is ready to be deployed; some NEMs are already using Aricent cloud based EPC in their labs for testing. Any NEM wishing to develop a cloud EPC solution can leverage our offering as a solution accelerator. We also provide complete product engineering services encompassing consulting, development, integration, testing and support.

Are there any live deployments of Aricent’s cloud EPC?
Not yet, but one of our customers will deploy it soon

In your view, operators from which countries can take advantage of this concept?
Any operator can take advantage of this concept, but given its multi tenancy and multi country reach it is also very well suited for those operators that cover a wide geography which includes many countries.

According to your experience, where is the bottleneck commonly found? Is it in the EPC, the backhaul, or the RAN?
Bottlenecks can occur anywhere in the network, and it is a constant endeavor by NEMs to address and reduce such bottlenecks. To that end, innovative technologies such as Cloud EPC, SDN/Openflow and Cloud RAN/baseband pooling etc. have been developed to not only ensure that there are no bottlenecks but to also keep costs and complexity at a minimum.

There are different technologies being discussed e.g., WiFi based solutions for removing access side bottleneck. Solutions for offload are discussed for backhaul bottlenecks. For core network bottlenecks, cloud based EPC is being considered.

Assuming a similar hardware footprint between bare metal and virtualized deployment scenarios, what is the performance impact (% decrease) on the virtualized scenario?
The percentage decrease would depend on various factors – technology or implantation form used for virtualization, virtualization middleware used, hardware etc. So it is not defined value, but with various advances made in this area, the performance impact has been contained to very minimal.

What’s your competitive advantage over big NEMs?
We don’t compete with NEMs; our offering is meant for NEMs. Our software framework can be leveraged by NEMs to develop highly differentiated products quickly and cost effectively.

Any actual study on CAPEX savings compared to traditional EPC hardware?
The CAPEX saving is not just realized in terms of saving on hardware cost but also the savings accrued by eliminating the need for managing operational sites. Savings can also be realized by optimizing hardware, for e.g. if an operator migrates to high end routers, switches and servers when shifting to cloud, the total number of equipment required would reduce drastically. Thus huge savings can be realized, but the exact details vary from one deployment to next.

What is your business model (for offering this type of solutions)?
We offer tailor made engagement models based on the customer requirements. Our software framework can be licensed outright or through a risk/reward model. For our product engineering services we offer both source code and binary model.

How does your cloud EPC framework interwork with orchestration domain of the virtualized network, if it does at all?
For virtualized domain orchestration is done for various needs like startup, re-organization of virtualized nodes etc. These are also done for the EPC solution offered by Aricent.

Why did you pick cloud EPC first rather than other part of the network such as IMS?
We have comprehensive offerings in the IMS space and we are also investing in IMS cloud. Given the extremely rapid proliferation of LTE, we see a clear need in the market for a cloud based EPC solution.VoLTE is still picking up, but demand for high bandwidth data is increasing every day. Hence immediate need for operators is cloud based solutions for data access before addressing cloud based voice call support. Operators and NEMs are always looking for new ways to reduce the cost and complexity of deploying a LTE network. This not only helps in maximizing revenue but also helps in enhancing customer experience.

Do you provide some mechanism to track the EPC entities when they migrate in cloud?
This would be based on specific NEMs solution for tracking it and Aricent works with NEMs to offer the kind of customization required for tracking EPC entities.

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