Automation and 5G network slicing will create opportunities for operators and end users
Orange Poland, a subsidiary of French multinational telecom operator Orange, was the first of the service provider’s national businesses to test open source network management and operations software, and is building the foundation for a virtualized 5G network “brick by brick,” as Krzysztof Kozlowski, managing director of Orange Labs International Poland, explained in a recent interview with RCR Wireless News.
He said the operator’s path to 5G is based on pragmatism, and he highlighted that while the emphasis on 5G discussion largely relates to how the end user will benefit, there are major benefits to the operator in terms of lowering data transport costs and reducing network opex. “It’s a way to cope with increasing traffic and increasing cost of network infrastructure.” Network slicing and the “automation it brings will really limit the costs from the operator point view. The same for the IoT piece. For IoT now we built a dedicated network while with 5G it will be native.”
As it moves toward a virtualized infrastructure, Orange Poland got an early start on testing of software control, working with Amdocs to trial the Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy software developed by AT&T. That began in February 2017; since then the Linux Foundation worked with AT&T and Huawei, which developed the Open-O orchestration software platform, to combine the two into what’s called the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) and make it available as open source software.
Kozlowski described testing ONAP as “the first step” toward full virtualization and automated network slicing. “We’ll have to walk before we run. This is exactly what’s happening with virtualization. Virtualization is kind of the first step in terms of architecture. We are going brick by brick and trying to come up with a virtualized solution. Really, we are not able to virtualize all of our networks in one shot. It would destabilize the network and, from the cost perspective, it is very difficult. When this critical mass of virtualized bricks reaches a certain level, we will start looking for a kind of economy of scale or additional elements in our business case, which will make virtualization more attractive from the cost perspective.”