Vodafone's RedStream journey takes it to Blue Planet

Vodafone U.K. continues to upgrade its optical transport network. (Getty Images)

Vodafone is making progress on its efforts to upgrade and modernize its RedStream optical transport network, which has roots in the company’s 2012 acquisition of legacy telco Cable & Wireless, and nine years later has become the backbone for Vodafone’s telephony, video and data services, as well as its evolving 5G and IoT deployments.

The fiber network, consisting of 526 geographic aggregation zones covering all of the U.K., features IP and optical switches, routers and other gear from a variety of vendors, such as Cisco, Ciena, Juniper and Nokia, according to a Vodafone blog post. Its core is a web of interconnected data centers and network operations centers, with its fiber lines running through facilities owned by BT Openreach.

The RedStream network is fully converged and evolving toward SDN-driven programmable, automated support of scalable on-demand services and new network use cases, such as network slicing. Most recently, Vodafone has taken up efforts to ready RedStream for the major architectural shift of services to the network edge.

With all that in mind, RedStream’s latest evolution involves the deployment of Ciena’s Blue Planet software, to be used as a transport domain orchestrator (TDO) that can communicate with both the underlying IP and optical network transmission equipment. This essentially enables RedStream to become an automated network platform that can streamline processes for embedding connectivity in end user products and services, according to a Ciena statement. This in turn can grant Vodafone more flexibility and agility to leverage the multi-layer transport network to offer both traditional and consumption-based services depending on customer need.

Vodafone U.K. Chief Network Officer Andrea Dona, quoted in the Ciena statement, said that deploying the Blue Planet TDO will allow the operator to activate and scale-up new services and capacity “at the click of a button.” For example, a 5G network slice could be quickly created as needed, and enterprise customers could get more control to add or scale-down capacity on-demand. “We will also be able to introduce new flexible pricing models,” Dona said. “With a platform layer on top of the network, new ideas do not have to be built from the foundations of the network up, potentially opening the door for new innovators and collaborators.”

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Dona added, “The RedStream Evolution project is a critical element of our long-term strategy to offer simplified connectivity services. The digital economy of tomorrow will partly be defined by how accessible we make connectivity, with a simplified service layer platform sitting in front of the complex telecommunications network… The big picture strategy is to make connectivity more accessible to more people, but this vision does not work without a network that is flexible, adaptable and standardized, as well as edge-based and SDN-enabled.”