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Vodafone and VimpelCom prepare global NFV projects

Telefonica and AT&T have gained a great deal of attention for their comprehensive virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN) strategies, but they are being joined by a growing band of operators which are coming near the end of their 4G RAN roll-outs and are turning moving their investment priorities to software.

Vodafone is an example. Its $27.6bn Project Spring project to upgrade and expands its LTE and fiber networks is just about complete, and its successor is Project Ocean. This is the top priority in the firm’s network strategy now, and focuses on virtualizing a large number of network functions over the coming few years.

The head of the NFV/SDN program, David Amzallag, told LightReading: “We have made a lot of progress and are working very differently within Vodafone to make this strategy work,” including new levels of collaboration between operations, engineering and technology teams, and a new approach to vendor relationships.

At a LightReading conference in London last year, Amzallag was critical of vendors for not taking more initiative in developing open interfaces to support multivendor NFV. “We will not be able to wait a year or two years for interfaces after investing in NFV technology – buying technology and waiting two years to start using it is ridiculous,” he said.

Project Ocean will be planned and procured at global group level within Vodafon”ae, as will the tender for virtualized networks at another major operator with an outspoken man in charge – VimpelCom group CTO Yogesh Malik is calling for “a whole new relationship with suppliers” for the virtualized world.

The company is preparing to hold a global tender following preliminary work with ZTE in five central and south east Asian markets – it will now go ahead and roll out the Chinese vendor’s virtualized EPC in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Laos this year. However, the tender will go a lot further than that and focus “not only on vEPC but the whole virtualization concept”, according to Malik. The firm is likely to look for multivendor platforms and to adopt the increasingly popular OpenStack approach to orchestration.

VimpelCom’s biggest market is Russia, and NFV will soon be deployed there too, particularly to increase the operator’s flexibility when introducing services, making it easier to target specific groups or time zones. It will also extend its NFV platforms to its emerging markets, such as Algeria and Pakistan, and to new functions such as media gateways and USSD signalling. “My view is that the cost comes down dramatically because you can reuse elements across geographies,” Malik told LightReading.

VimpelCom serves more than 200m customers across 14 markets (Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia, Italy, Laos, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.)

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