“Five-9s reliability must be the minimum acceptance for the networks of the future,” says GSMA

China Mobile, the GSMA and Huawei announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that they are working together on a joint project to build an assessment framework for achieving carrier-grade Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) reliability across the whole of the telecommunications industry.

The project aims to combine industry efforts to construct a scalable and comprehensive framework that will enable proactive, flexible and analytical network maintenance for telecoms operators in a virtualised world. This will eliminate potential network risks and help to build a network with higher reliability, increased stability and better connectivity for the delivery of digital services.

Speaking at the announcement attended by senior representatives from all three organisations, Lily Kong, NFV Project Manager for China Mobile, told attending media from across the world that reliability has historically focused almost totally on the actual hardware equipment. But, she added, “after introducing NFV there are more layers to the network and therefore more challenges. Operators need more technical skills from hardware to software and they will have to take this into account as they have to improve reliability across the whole solution and for the whole industry.”

She continued: "Network quality and reliability are core defining principles for China Mobile. The evolution of network virtualization has introduced new challenges for carriers in building an ultra-reliable network. There is a need to get the industry to team-up and jointly develop an assessment system to create higher efficiency and more intelligent network maintenance.”

The three organisations have defined six assessment dimensions, where the industry needs to work closely together to overcome challenges that will emerge during the move into virtualisation and a network requirements definition is expected to be published by the end of March. Operators, vendors and all interested parties were encouraged to get on board and support the initiative.

Representing the GSMA, Technical Director Michele Zarri pointed out that GSMA had more than 800 operators and partners as members and it wanted to do everything possible to create the right framework for new technologies that will succeed in the market. The gap analysis would highlight what challenges operators can expect.

“The movement to software is the most revolutionary challenge that operators will face and through it all reliability is important. Five-9s is the norm, not the exception and operators will not expect less performance than today,” he said.

Zarri went on to say there would be numerous business opportunities and challenges in the 5G era and pointed out that the GSMA would work to define network requirements and formalise the assessment framework including metrics and measurements for achieving carrier-grade NFV reliability.

Co-hosting the announcement, Huawei had highlighted how difficulties can arise in locating network faults when complex network technologies are adopted, such as NFV networks, which can potentially have a huge impact on services. To resolve this, Huawei’s Customer Support Department has seen operators moving to proactive network maintenance to eliminate potential network risks and issues before user services are affected, improving efficiency and building a reliable network. This is critical as the network evolves and takes on 5G technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Fred Zhao, Head and General Manager of Customer Services at Huawei, said that the company already managed more than 1,500 networks globally.

“We are responsible for ensuring the secure and stable operation of these networks and we want to consolidate industry efforts to explore the new digital technologies and carry out joint-innovation to create tomorrow’s proactive intelligent network maintenance system, which will be real-time, intelligently perceptive and will have preventative measures to meet increasing ultra-reliability network requirements,” he said.

He too stressed that carrier-grade NFV reliability was a critical aspect of the deployment of network virtualization in a mobile network environment and would need to be in line with the GSMA’s 5G Network Virtualization project.

The discussions during the announcement also covered the likelihood that a more complex layered NFV network would mean more vendors would be involved and so common accepted global standards were once again vitally important. And through it all, security constantly needed to be addressed.

The Assessment Framework is certainly an initiative for the industry to consider and the Gap Analysis is already eagerly awaited.


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