Ravi Mali, a director at Ciena, makes his predictions for 2018.
If 2017 was exciting for our industry, we expect 2018 will be unlike any other. Service providers continue to face rapid innovation, as the network moves towards automation and becomes intelligent enough to make decisions on its own – a key requirement to handle growing bandwidth demands. In 2018, the fundamental drivers for more bandwidth – continued growth in Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, cloud and other high-bandwidth services – will remain strong.
Below are some areas we predict to dominate our industry as the autonomous, programmable network takes root in 2018:
5G will be THE topic in our industry in 2018. The pathway to content and applications is increasing via a mobile device that is predominantly based on 4G technology. 5G will increase access speeds by 10x to 100x when compared to 4G resulting in an enormous impact on the entire Internet infrastructure from wireless cell sites to data centres, and everything in between.
As certainty around 5G builds, we can expect to see carriers ramp up network investments to enable the technology. As with pre-5G, we can expect to see a wide-ranging use of SDN and NFV to virtually ‘slice’ the network to provide appropriate service performance for various new high-bandwidth services, not least the region’s growing smart city applications.
5G will soon become standardised and we believe it will be the hottest topic in the regional telecoms industry for years to come.
Bandwidth demand will continue to surge
Demand for bandwidth availability is exploding rapidly across the globe. Both network operators and Internet content providers are seeking cost reductions as their customers demand more bandwidth, at higher densities and at lower costs.
According to a report by ACG research, peak period bandwidth requirements continue to grow at 52% CAGR, making operator management of bandwidth a continued focus. Operators will still be responsible for ensuring that the network can support the amount of data traversing the network as use of advanced applications by users continuously increases. We will continue to see the development of new technologies that get us closer to virtualised, demand-driven networks with the potential to reshape whole industries from anywhere on the planet.
Service orchestration and network virtualization
In 2018, we will see an acceleration of service provider networks reducing dependency on hardware as they take advantage of open APIs and agile programming tools to deliver new services faster.
There is huge pressure on the CTOs of various Integrated Operators to reduce OpEx and introduce automation and service orchestration in their networks. Since most CTOs control a large part of the CaPeX budget, there is a huge opportunity for CTOs to focus on investing in open multivendor automation and service automation software within their network domains and transform their OpEx budgets that is being challenged by the board.
In the Middle-East most operators have kicked off automation programs and are incentivising their design teams to focus in this direction. We predict that the top tier-1 operators in the Middle-East will implement various automation and service automation projects over the next few years to simplify multivendor service provisioning and be able to provide the CIO and IT departments with a flexible network domain to help roll out cloud based dynamic NFV services.
We also expect that collaboration between the CIO and CTO within the operators will improve however will not merge in the short-term. They will continue to operate as two separate departments but with virtual teams spanning both domains for specific automation projects.
One of the reasons is that implementing virtualised services with VNFs has been really challenging for the CTOs and the desired operational KPIs have not been achieved. Integrating virtualised services with present OSS/BSS systems has complicated and most CTOs have now realised that they need to first automate their network services and only then stitch it to virtual services to experience the full benefit of virtualisation and automation.
We expect providers to continue to face challenges with the deployments of virtual network functionality (VNF). Currently, there is a lack of commercial incentive among technology vendors to collaborate on VNFs because of the extensive operational challenges of deployment – including everything from operations, administration, maintenance (OAM), ownership of failure modes, and managing unique software licensing solutions per vendor.
Yet a cohesive infrastructure is required to deliver solutions to the service provider industry. If the industry wants to get serious about virtualisation, then collaboration and standards (de facto or otherwise) will have to be developed that take into account practical deployment challenges.
A need for a demand-driven infrastructure to support 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT)
In 2018, a new driver will emerge in multi-layer integration – virtual network functionality integrated with transport layer agility. Providers will need to adopt a demand-driven network where bandwidth is supplied based on real-time customer requirement, rather than on a planned view of what should be required. We expect a demand-driven infrastructure will be a requirement to support high bandwidth consumer applications like 5G as well as massively distributed IoT networks.
The proliferation of more advanced applications in increasing use by customers in 2018 will require network operators to infuse even more intelligence into the network to support the new levels of demand – never before seen in previous years.
Developing increasingly intelligent networks, deploying advanced software solutions and the quest to accomplish this at a fair price will be the name of the game for network operators in 2018.
The region has a shared economic vision based on these key enabling technologies and so the broad adoption and successful application of these building blocks will play a vital role in transformation and success in 2018 – and beyond.