sprintNetwork functions virtualization (NFV) will be an “essential building block” as Sprint makes plans to deploy gigabit LTE and 5G wireless capabilities, said a Sprint technology executive in a blog post today. The Sprint NFV strategy will enable “more efficient scaling of core network capabilities to handle the dynamic flow of data requirements among our customers” associated with gigabit LTE and 5G, wrote Gunther Ottendorfer, Sprint chief operating office, technology.

NFV replaces purpose-built hardware with generic equipment running software that provides the same functionality. The goal of Sprint’s NFV strategy is to reduce infrastructure and operating costs, while also supporting services that will enable customers to “do more with the devices they depend on at home and at work,” said Ottendorfer in the blog post.

Sprint is one of numerous carriers — including AT&TVerizon and others – that have embraced the NFV concept.

Sprint NFV Strategy
Elements of the Sprint NFV strategy include:

  • Deploying a nationwide NFV OpenStack cloud
  • Creating and deploying common infrastructure in more than 30 data centers around the network
  • Capping expansion of legacy core network hardware and growing new functionality and capacity on the company’s virtualized platform
  • Building on the company’s C3PO open source NFV and software defined networking-based mobile core reference solution announced several months ago
  • A new virtual core that will replace stand-alone platforms with a single NFV infrastructure on which evolved packet core and IP multimedia subsystem platforms reside as virtual network functions (VNFs)
  • The company already has virtualized 100% of IP short message traffic. SMS will be fully virtualized by the end of 2017. The multi-media messaging service VNF will be deployed onto the virtual platform during the first half of 2018.

Sprint also revealed two vendors that will support its NFV strategy. Metaswitch will provide session border controller, call session control and breakout gateway control functionality. Mavenir will provide telephony application server, media resource and policy diameter routing agent functionality.

One of the most interesting aspects of Ottendorfer’s blog post was what Sprint is doing culturally to support NFV.  The company conducted an ongoing series of internal “Open Door Day dialogues,” with the goal of “creating passion amongst our key technology teams for the paradigm shift to a virtualized world.”