Over the last several years, 5G has been a cornerstone of the telecommunications industry technology development – defining a radio air interface and technology architecture for the core network. Now that the promise of 5G is becoming a reality, industries looking to transform are implementing new use cases for 5G that are defining new network “edges” that foundationally change traffic flows and data analytics pipelines in Telecom networks.
The snowball effect of the NFV transition started in 2012 with a focus on 4G core networks. There is now growing interest in the containerization of virtual functions led by Kubernetes. There is also significant focus on the separation of control and user plane functions with user planes utilizing various forms of accelerators, such as FPGAs, SmartNICs and GPUs, to reduce latency and improve bandwidth.
NFV is also being extended to the Radio Access Network (RAN). RAN implementations have traditionally been proprietary bundles of hardware that are expensive to build and maintain. A recent paper by ACG Research entitled, “Economic Advantages of Virtualizing the RAN in Mobile Operators’ Infrastructures” shows that centralized vRAN architectures enable up to 44 percent lower TCO than conventional distributed RANs in 4G networks. The use of vRANs in 5G networks will provide the operational and capital efficiencies required to support smaller deployment models required for private and enterprise networks as well as the increased radio density to support higher bandwidth.