Rise of software-driven networks

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
24 Feb 2014

With the rise and rise of CES as a mobile event, the focus of Mobile World Congress, less than two months later, has shifted somewhat. Yes, Samsung will spend the GDP of a small country to show off the Galaxy range, and Nokia promises a last hurrah as a device maker, in the arena which it once dominated.

But the huge stands and barrages of announcements will throw the spotlight keenly on the major network OEMs. Once far shy of sharing their secrets - when networks were mystical proprietary platforms - now they have to fight almost as hard as the phonemakers for attention, as they battle to broaden their product ranges and customer bases, and adapt to the world of the all-software, all-IP network.

Last year, we wrote the following headlines about the large OEMs' main areas of focus in Barcelona:

  • Big vendors ensure SDN remains tied to their routers
  • Mobile giants focus on customer experience tools
  • Battle against data deluge moves to the network edge
  • LTE old hat already, at least in marketing terms

This year, we expect the vendors to enlarge on those themes rather than changing them significantly – 2013 was definitely a year of big conceptual shifts in network architectures and software, while 2014 is more about roadmaps to turn those shifts into commercially profitable platforms.

The four general topics which shone through last year will certainly still be on center stage:

  • Real roadmaps for SDN
  • A new-look BSS/OSS layer to deliver improved quality of experience and therefore competitive edge
  • New network topologies to support highly distributed data usage
  • The further enhancement of LTE to underpin all those new trends.

But there will be important progressions too. Vendors may still be seeking ways to tie operators into their SDN platforms, but they accept they must develop far more open and sophisticated offerings if their power is not to be destroyed by virtualization and general purpose hardware. And the approach is moving rapidly, under operator pressure, from theory to deliverable reality.

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