From Virtualization to the Edge: 2018 Predictions

Consumer demand for data is skyrocketing, and new applications are continually being developed that push current networks to the limit
In 2018 and beyond, operators will begin to gradually adopt best practices to achieve web-scale-enterprise-like cloud operations (e.g. Google, Netflix, etc.). Only after making these changes will they begin to reap the benefits of virtualization and realize the true potential of carrier clouds.

The Necessity of AI in Increasingly Complex Networks

Though obvious, artificial intelligence (AI) usage will continue to increase as it becomes necessary for the successful management of complex networks. As operators move their networks to the cloud, AI will be vital for the creation of autonomous, self-healing networks.

Technological advances in computing, with an emphasis on purpose-built chipsets aimed at mobile edge, and user equipment computing have now progressed to a point where AI is operationally feasible. AI algorithms, especially machine learning, are compute intensive operations that threatened to dilute their value by exacting too high a cost to run in micro-cloud, a challenge we continue to see addressed through hardware design and proliferation of open source AI with a considerable community behind it.

If you need to look for expertise in AI, there is a lot more talent available today than there used to be—the difference compared to even just 10 years ago is staggering. Combined with the now widespread availability of data and a willingness to use that data, we will begin to see AI embedded in more and more areas of telecom. 

ONAP to Manage Virtual VoLTE

The progress of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) continues to accelerate. The project was formed in spring of 2017, with the aim of advancing the development of a vibrant ecosystem around a globally shared architecture and implementation for network automation. After months of hard work, Amsterdam, ONAP’s first united platform was release on Nov 20th to deliver a unified architecture for end-to-end, closed-loop network automation. As such, we believe that there will be several attempts to deploy ONAP-based orchestration next year. For that reason, it feels safe to predict that we will see at least one operational deployment.

Through Amsterdam, ONAP provided blueprints for two initial use cases, VoLTE and residential vCPE. And, during the next year, we believe that the industry will see virtual VoLTE managed by ONAP. While "regular" VoLTE is already in widespread use, operators who hope to capitalize on virtualization benefits may start to virtualize VoLTE.

But don’t expect to see a mainstream VoLTE deployment—those have happened already, and those operators won’t feel a need to virtualize yet.  More likely, we will see a virtual VoLTE deployment managed by ONAP from an operator with an IoT infrastructure or in a greenfield deployment from a small operator. This could be an operator that is starting up in 2018, or perhaps one who is just deploying VoLTE in a limited area—in which case they may decide to virtualize VoLTE. Finally, another potential deployment could be in remote locations where local communication could potentially be offered even in cases of network failure.

Looking Towards the Future

2018 will be a year of progress as the telecommunications industry continues to transform. Consumer demand for data is skyrocketing, and new applications are continually being developed that push current networks to the limit.  For society, this progress will begin to enable technologies and applications that can improve everyday life via advances in emergency responses, telemedicine, or autonomous driving.

The industry as a whole must adapt, grow, and evolve as it seeks to keep up with the ever-growing consumer demand for connectivity. Edge computing will make high-demand, low-latency applications feasible. With careful planning, virtualization, whose benefits have already been widely known, will hopefully start to deliver on the ROI that many operators were hoping to see. We may even see virtualized VoLTE, which is another step towards making services more widely available for customers.

This will all be tied together by the increased adoption of AI. No longer just a futuristic concept, AI is real, and it will see some successful applications in supporting network operations—paving the way for the key role it will play in future large-scale deployments. Automation through intelligence is essential to allow the telecom industry to respond to demand and continue to expand. The more it grows, the more AI will be needed.


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