How NFV can unlock backhaul capacity and drive new revenues
With mobile penetration seemingly reaching saturation in many markets, operators are confronted with the prospect of slowing revenues and declining margins; according to Ovum, more than one-third of the 67 countries they track will experience some margin decline by 2019. This means that forward thinking operators are looking to alternative business models to create new, monetisable services.
Providing fixed broadband to under-served areas creates one such opportunity for growth. However, the extensive CAPEX and OPEX of developing new infrastructure means operators often struggle to make a business case for investment. Increasingly, operators are turning to innovative methods like network functions virtualisation (NFV) to generate new revenues and unlock the potential of their existing assets. In a recent Arthur D. Little and Bell Labs report, it was predicted that NFV and software defined networking (SDN) could produce €39 billion in savings for European operators; given these findings, it is unsurprising these methods are gaining traction, says Dr. John Naylon, founder and CTO, CBNL.
Adopting NFV within a network can be transformational, as CBNL has seen through our own work with seven of the world’s largest top ten mobile operators. In a recent project for a global operator in an African OPCo, CBNL used its point-to-multipoint (PMP) microwave backhaul technology to pioneer a new NFV technique that unlocked spare capacity on the mobile backhaul network for fixed broadband services. The core of this strategy was the multiplexing of different traffic classes over shared physical infrastructure, creating multiple virtual networks. This innovative strategy enabled the operator to widen coverage of its carrier-class enterprise access services, offering up to four times faster broadband to businesses in under-served areas.
Prior to this project, the operator had largely used point-to-point (PTP) infrastructure, however this no longer provided a universal business case to invest in new services. The operator required a more cost effective and flexible strategy. Advances in PMP microwave and the fact it offered 50% total cost of ownership savings compared to fibre or PTP made this the technology of choice.
Unlike PTP, that requires two radios for each link, PMP microwave creates sectors of coverage that connect multiple end points via a single ‘hub’ radio. With the latest CBNL solution offering up to 1.2 Gb/s per sector, PMP microwave provides significant cost savings over PTP whilst offering the same high capacity and guaranteed of quality of service (QoS). This highly flexible approach also unlocks the huge potential of NFV.
By utilising NFV within a PMP microwave sector, the operator was able to deploy multiple virtual services over the same physical network. PMP microwave’s NFV software enabled the operator to offer custom QoS levels for each traffic type, for example stipulating dedicated capacity for mobile backhaul sites and premium enterprise access customers, while simultaneously being able to offer a service with a defined overbooking rate to more cost-sensitive customers. Once the sector was in place, it also enabled the operator to be highly responsive to market demand and connect new enterprises with fixed services in a fraction of the time taken when using PTP microwave.
By providing a flexible multi-purpose network such as this, the operator was able to deploy the wide-scale backhaul infrastructure that supported the launch of their new LTE mobile services, whilst unlocking spare capacity to grow their enterprise access customer base. The new enterprise access services had the added benefit of acquiring and retaining a new portfolio of large multinationals – attracted by the higher capacity and QoS the network could provide.
This project is an important case study for the practical deployment of virtualisation in backhaul and how it can provide a more cost effective and agile way for operators to address new markets. It demonstrates how modern carrier-grade network architectures, like PMP microwave, are facilitating adoption of NFV and providing operators with business models that can open up a host of new revenue prospects and the commercial benefits they bring. Innovative strategies such as this demonstrate the potential of advanced wireless technology and will play a leading role in unlocking the full potential of NFV in the years ahead.
The author of this blog is Dr. John Naylon, founder and CTO, CBNL.
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