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Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) and Software Defined Networks (SDN)

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NFV is a network architecture concept that enables the separation of hardware from software or ‘function’, and has become a reality for the mobile industry due to the increased performance of ‘common, off-the-shelf’ (COTS) IT platforms. SDN is an extension of NFV wherein software can perform dynamic reconfiguration of an operator’s network topology to adjust to load and demand, e.g. by directing additional network capacity to where it is needed to maintain the quality of customer experience at peak data consumption times. A number of operators have built or are building part or all of their LTE networks using NFV and SDN as the basis. These technologies in combination can potentially reduce operator CAPEX as they offer a cheaper and simpler network architecture that is easier to upgrade, while OPEX is also reduced through power savings as network capacity is only provided when and where it is needed. However, shifting from existing structures to IT-based soft functions will bring new complexities for operators in terms of network provisioning and management, as well as requiring a new skill set within operator staff.

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