velcom: An Innovative Telecom Operator
Velcom, the second largest branch of Telekom Austria Group (TAG), is one of the three mainstream mobile operators in Belarus, with a market share of more than 40% and about 5 million mobile users. In recent years, the telecom industry of Belarus has developed well, with a total of 13.6 million mobile users and a penetration rate of 143%. According to Ovum’s prediction, the number of mobile users will keep increasing in the next five years.
With the growing demand for data and multimedia services, 4G has risen in Belarus and operators have enabled 4G service development plans. As the first deployment and development of 4G services is of great significance for future market share improvement, velcom has begun to consider service development strategies: how to deploy EPC services quickly and inexpensively in 2016? how to enhance velcom’s market competitiveness and obtain a dominant position? and how to reduce the high cost of equipment upgrade and reconstruction? Legacy network equipment has operated for a long period of time and the equipment failure rate has shown a rising trend, so velcom needs to pay a high cost for equipment upgrade and reconstruction. velcom has also observed that the adoption of NFV/SDN to promote network transformation is increasingly recognized by operators around the world. NFV/SDN will not only shorten the service deployment time of operators, but also improve basic resource usage efficiency and help operators reduce the TCO effectively. As a result, velcom who focuses on innovation has started the virtualization strategy practice trip.
Working with ZTE to Commercialize 4G Services within 4 Months
TAG is a long-term strategic partner of ZTE in many fields. ZTE has won recognition from velcom in the NFV field. After in-depth discussions and exchanges with ZTE in the NFV field, velcom finally chose ZTE to deploy a fully virtualized commercial core network to meet the growing demand for telecom services.
ZTE signed a purchase order (PO) with velcom and began to implement delivery plan in April 2016. Having overcome the difficulties of delayed procured hardware arrival and a large number of network elements (NEs) to be swapped, ZTE took only four months to complete USPP deployment and swap, indicating that the commercial use of velcom’s 4G services had started. In the following three months, velcom and ZTE worked together closely and completed the swap of vEPC, vIMS and other services with a total of over 20 NFs and 45 NEs and put them into operation, completing ahead of time the plan developed by velcom: the services shall be all put into operation by the end of 2016 (Fig. 1).
Building a Fully Virtualized 5G-Ready Core Network
velcom decided to work with ZTE in this project not only because ZTE’s rapid delivery capability can help velcom achieve the commercial use of 4G services ahead of time, but also because ZTE NFV-based full cloud core network solution can help velcom maximize return with the smallest investment.
ZTE’s cloud core network solution based on the ETSI reference architecture uses open source technologies to achieve software and hardware decoupling and provide carrier-class enhancement. The highly-reliable, easy-to-manage and easy-to-integrate full range of core network solution, which covers 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G core networks, takes the leading position in the industry. In this project, the solution involves all core network elements such as vEPC/vSDM/vIMS/vCS. The NEs are deployed in three DCs in load sharing mode (Fig. 2).
COTS Hardware Resource Pool
The project uses COTS hardware such as HP C7000s to reduce costs and power consumption. All HP C7000s are deployed in three DCs to achieve load sharing and enhance reliability.
Carrier-Grade Cloud Platform
Based on open-source OpenStack, the cloud platform (ZTE TECS) integrates the NFV architecture and implements centralized scheduling and management through a unified interface for computing, storage, and network resources of the three DCs. Through the virtual DC capability, the complexity of management and operation is reduced and network-wide resources can be coordinated.
Most Complete Range of vCN
The project contains more than 20 NFs such as vEPC, vIMS, vSDM, and vCS, and 45 NEs, allowing the functional modules of different NEs to be combined flexibly based on the sharing of DC infrastructure. This meets velcom’s requirements for fast service deployment.
Easy Evolution to 5G
The maturity of virtualization is the basis of 5G evolution. The fully virtualized core network of velcom adopts network virtualization to achieve three-layer decoupling and prepare for the evolution to 5G. When combined with distributed DC, edge computing and containerized deployment, ZTE’s cloud core network solution can also provide cloud-native service-based architecture, stateless design, and control and user plane separation (CUPS) to support eMBB, mMTC, URLLC and other vertical industry applications. This promotes 5G business innovation and evolution. MANO (ZTE CloudStudio) is also used in the project for flexible NF orchestration and management, and it will be upgraded to support end-to-end network slice orchestration and management during the evolution to 5G.
Through the close cooperation with ZTE, velcom successfully built Belarus’s first, and even the world’s first, complete virtualized 5G-ready core network. This not only helps velcom become the market leader in Belarus, but also plays a pioneer role in network transformation for global operators.
velcom builds a simpler, more cost-effective, more reliable, and more open core network with ZTE’s cloud core network solution. The network can be compatible with the future-oriented 5G core network architecture:
●Automatic NF orchestration and flexible resource allocation can greatly improve the release efficiency of new products and new services by 42%.
●Infrastructure virtualization and resource sharing by multiple DCs greatly increase the flexibility of resource allocation, and also bring a twofold increase in resource use efficiency.
●After technological innovation, total cost of ownership (TCO) can be saved by more than 50%, mainly in hardware procurement cost, power consumption, land occupation, and O&M.
“With this major step towards the next generation network architecture we are able to significantly reduce our Opex spending, benefit on massive economies of scale for further growth and provide highest flexibility and service value to our customers on the way towards a fully cloud-based network architecture,” says Sascha Zabransky, Director Technology of TAG.
Christian Laqué, CTO of velcom stated, “We were able to set up a cutting-edge technology as an open standard by implementing a flexible solution. Now we are ready to face upcoming requirements for future 5G applications by marginal upgrades. Therefore we will continue to be at the edge of innovation. This outstanding achievement is only feasible with a reliable and strong partner.”
Christian Woschitz, COO of ZTE Austria added, “5G is a significant game-changer technology, which will have a revolutionary impact on the society. Our fully virtualized architecture implemented in velcom ensures a seamless evolution towards 5G as one of the first projects globally. I very much appreciate our strategic partnership and I am looking forward to further cooperation with velcom.”