The rationale for network functions virtualizaton (NFV) is that downloading software to inexpensive plain-vanilla equipment at user sites will reduce equipment costs and increase service delivery speed and network efficiency.
The advantages suggested by the concept are more potent the closer to the end user that they are deployed. This has led to research and development of universal customer premise equipment (uCPE).
This week, Verizon said that it has added an x86-based white box uCPE to its line. The platform uses the OpenStack open source cloud computing platform. In other words, the customer premise device is a barebones computer that is essentially told what to do and how to do it from a centralized source.
Verizon’s uCPE offering varies in size and features commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. Functions the white boxes can be instructed to perform include software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN), security, routing and WAN optimization.
Orange Business Services is trialing a uCPE with customers. A Light Reading story, written at the MPLS, SDN and NFV World Congress, says that Orange has raised the possibility of using it to replace the 400,000 CPEs it has in the field.
If the Orange experience is any indicator, Verizon has its work cut out for it. The story says that what initially emerged from vendors was too expensive and didn’t meet expectations on its virtualized capabilities. The carrier issued a request for information at the beginning of 2017 and is speaking with about 20 vendors. A key point is that the market is complex, according to Orange Network Architect Stephane Litkowski. He is quoted in the piece as saying that “there are lots of vendors and lots of ways of thinking about this.”
AT&T tested a uCPE of its own last in April. A SDxCentral story, based on an interview with Shawn Hakl, the carrier’s vice president of new products and innovation, suggests that the carriers are taking significantly different approaches.
The piece references a study released by IHS Markit in January that predicted that 85 percent of operators plan to deploy uCPEs. The study points to five drivers: extension of on-demand services, advances in NFV and software-defined networks (SDN), expectations of positive revenue from uCPE, popularity of SD-WANs and the desire to push edge computing.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.