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Feb 2017 - Market Perspective - Doc # US40780716

5G-Ready Core — The Next Step in Mobile Network Transformation

Authors: Rajesh Ghai, Sathya Atreyam

This IDC Market Perspective looks ahead at the ongoing service provider network transformation journey. While the initial focus of service providers in their ongoing network transformation journey has been to virtualize the network edge via initiatives such as SD-WAN and virtual CPE (vCPE), we see the focus expanding to the core network and eventually to the radio access network in the time frame of 2017–2018. The catalyst for this expansion will be the service providers' desire to build the requisite flexibility across their end-to-end networks to support more diverse mobile use cases beyond the ubiquitous mobile handset. Emerging mobile use cases such as IoT, VR/AR, residential broadband wireless, and video span the spectrum of bandwidth, latency, and device/connection possibilities, which mobile networks in their current architecture are not designed to address with the desired degree of effectiveness. Service providers will be compelled to begin building out some of these capabilities in the 4G/LTE world ahead of the switchover to 5G radio access in 2020 to support customer demand for greater network flexibility, agility, and scalability. Key to building out these capabilities is the concept of "network slicing," which we see manifesting end to end across the radio access and core networks. We expect network slicing to be a key area of focus at MWC as a critical enabler of 5G networks in a few weeks.

"With leading service providers relatively satisfied with their edge network virtualization efforts, the significant strides made by network equipment providers to overcome challenges in core and radio access network virtualization/slicing, the progress made by the NFV ISG in defining NFV specifications and, above all, the customer demand for support for new use cases provide fertile conditions for the adoption of end-to-end network virtualization (aka network slicing) to drive the necessary service agility, flexibility, and scale in telco networks over the next couple of years," says Rajesh Ghai, research director, Carrier IP Networks and Virtualization.

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