The 5G North American Event 2016 in Dallas drew a lot attention from Operators, OEMs, Tools vendors and services providers. During the event, the technology demonstrations and presentations in the area of RAN, IOT, Tools and processes made clear that the 5G development is moving forward steadily. But there was a little mention of end-to-end voice and video deployment over the anticipated 5G network. We know that the Voice and Video services are transforming from two dimensions -one that is the codec technology (HD, VHD and etc.) and the second is the underlying infrastructure that is used to deploy the services. There are many operators who have already deployed Voice over LTE (VoLTE) across the world over the traditional network infrastructure and they are facing a lot of interoperability, roaming, service continuity across different technologies, and many other operational challenges. In addition, VoLTE/ViLTE on SDN/NFV environment brings another set of new challenges.
Because of all these challenges, Network Operators must continuously evaluate, design and optimize all layers of their network architecture to provide end-to-end high performance (provide much more data rates and faster accessibility) and better quality of service to the end customer. Here are some of the challenges the service providers need to address to successfully deploy VoLTE/ViLTE in an efficient and cost effective manner:
- Service Continuity – Current Service Providers networks are complex and contains a mix of 2G, 3G, 4G and small cells. Providing service continuity (call handover between different technologies without call drop) and preserving consistent Voice/Video quality during the call is the biggest challenge in moving to 5G. Especially, in HetNet (small-cells in different technologies and sizes) environment, service continuity will become very complex if service providers don’t manage this complexity at the early stage of the design and planning.
- Interoperability and Roaming between Service Providers – 3GPP and GSMA have outlined this in detail but a practical implementation of this is yet to be seen. So at present, we only know that VoLTE/ViLTE with QoS works within the same network.
- SDN/NFV – This area is going to be a mess for a while and here are some of the reasons:
- Creating a common OEM independent VNF infrastructure (MANO, Automation, deployment tools and etc.). As there are so many solutions (OpenStack, VMware, OEMs solutions and etc.) in the market, it is very crucial for Service Providers to baseline the infrastructure that is cost effective and easy to maintain.
- End-to-End Test Strategy – End-to-end test cases must be created and tested (Hypervisors/containers, vSwitch, VMs, VNFs and etc.) in a lab environment.
- Common Test tools for development, testing, deployment and operation (DevOps approach) is needed. Using the same tools for development, testing, deployment and operation minimizes potential network failures in operation. As Service Providers are dependent on vendors for their applications and services, their ability to develop and acquire skills, tools and processes required for efficient DevOps implementation will be a challenge. As the vendors use their own set of tools and processes that are mostly inconsistent with Operation (Operators) tools and processes, it becomes all these more a difficult proposition
- Network Reliability (geo-red, disaster/failure recovery mechanisms and etc.) – Providing 99.999% service accessibility and maintaining reliability of the complex network, especially on SDN/NFV environment, requires a lot of architectural evaluation and TESTING to provide services end-users require in a consistent qualitative manner.
- IOT integration – As some of IOT applications require voice and video integration, the Service Providers need to re-think how new services deployment impacts existing or traditional services such as voice and video.
In addition to all these technological challenges, one of thing TATA Communications Transformation Services (TCTS) has experienced when providing transformational services to Tier 1 Operators across the globe is that “People/Employee Strategy”, which is fully aligned with new processes and tools will continue to play a crucial role in this 5G journey. TCTS has always highlighted the importance of people, processes and tools transformation in the new disruptive technological era. People need new skills in technologies, processes and tools to be able to manage and operate both legacy and 5G networks. As we all know, 2G/3G and 4G will co-exist with 5G for many years to come. As this co-existence of legacy and 5G networks will pose new management and operational challenges, a mix of new and legacy skillsets will be more important than before.
TCTS is well equipped to provide transformation services to the Operators in planning & designing, testing, implementation, management and operation areas to mitigate Service Provider challenges. TCTS is committed to make the services widely available to operators in order to advance the technology. To learn more about TCTS services, please visit ….www.tatacommunications-ts.com