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26 February 2015

Telekom Austria becomes a virtualization frontrunner

Telekom Austria has become a rather unlikely poster child for the go-ahead mobile operator, taking a front-rank position in many new technologies, including virtualization in many areas of its network.

Once a slow-moving incumbent in a second tier market, it is now seen as a pace-setter, and it will be demonstrating some of its trials and innovations at Mobile World Congress. Telekom Austria Group, which covers 23m customers in eight countries in central and eastern Europe, is taking a centralized approach, providing the results of its trials to all its operating companies for potential adoption – a similar pattern to that seen at another major virtualization triallist, Telefonica.

One of its announcements is the completion of a trial of virtualized CPE, working with Japan’s NEC and its NetCracker subsidiary. The system included the vCPE plus SDN controller, service and network orchestration, and virtual network functions (VNFs) from multiple vendors. It instantiated, orchestrated and controlled the VNFs for on-demand applications such as parental control, firewall and DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) media sharing.

The vCPE a single point of delivery for at-home media and entertainment content and the SDN elements support more intelligent and automated traffic routing for applications.

The operator said it validated the NEC/NetCracker solution’s ability to migrate complex IP functionality from residential gateways to the operator cloud, which could reduce time-to-market, capex and opex for new services in future. Such trials give the operator “great confidence knowing that the opportunities presented from this sophisticated vCPE trial will translate into real deployment in the future,” said the carrier’s CTO, Guenther Ottendorer. That deployment could support new services such as allowing users to control usage and set parental controls via a self-care portal.

“The next phase of the network virtualization opportunity is operationalization, the ability to transition a lab environment into a live deployment of virtualized network functions, such as those addressed in the Telekom Austria Group vCPE trial,” said Sylvain Seignour, VP of global sales at NetCracker.

Also working with TAG is OpenCloud, whose virtualized VoLTE application server was used by TAG’s Serbian subsidiary Vip Mobile in a demonstration. Running on handsets on a live network, the demo relied on OpenCloud’s Rhino Sentinel VoLTE app server plus a virtualized packet core (Connectem) and IMS (Metaswitch’s Clearwater IMS Open Source).

Phillip Stubbs, CTO at OpenCloud, said in a statement: “Open, virtualized service layers provide a platform for sustainable and competitive innovation. Using cloud-based VoLTE gives operators the advantages of reduced cost and agility to deliver new services that are unique to them and valued by their customers.”

Connectem was also involved in a related trial by Vip Mobile, which also included Procera, and extended to a fully virtualized LTE stack delivering data, voice and IMS services. This trial, in a live network, used Procera’s Network Application Visibility Library (NAVL) software engine, to deliver application identification, traffic visibility, intelligence and control for the EPC. Intel, VMware and Red Hat are other partners in TAG’s variegated trials.

NAVL is a deep packet inspection software engine that provides real time, Layer-7 classification of network traffic.