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Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) for Mobile Carrier Networks

May 06, 2016

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) for Mobile Carrier Networks

NFV is used when applications and services are deployed in a carrier network. Traditionally, network functions such as firewalls, routers, 4G baseband units, deep packet inspection and session border controllers were implemented with dedicated network appliances.

Using many appliances has the following disadvantages:

  • Many pieces of equipment need to be maintained.
  • Expensive.
  • Long deployment times.
  • Required upfront capacity difficult to determine.

NFV's aim is to solve these challenges by using software to implement network functions and then deploying them on common hardware.

This eliminates the requirement for specialized appliances, similar to how smartphones replaced a number of specialized devices including cameras, calculators, game computers and watches. These were replaced by apps that share the same storage, computing power and screen of one device. Installing new applications and switching between them is easy and fast. The pace of innovation and development has also increased dramatically with hundreds of new apps being released daily.

Operators are looking at NFV to achieve the same benefits - bigger agility and flexibility when deploying new services, and faster innovation due to not having to develop new dedicated appliances.

When virtualization is applied at the scale of a big network, it also brings flexibility by the ability to shift workloads and pool common hardware, especially when it is used together with Software Defined Networks (SDN). One example of this would be a sporting event where heavy mobile traffic could use up to 80% of CPU capacity one day, while that night the same hardware uses a different app to defend against a hacker attack.

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  • Is network function virtualization still used today? It sounds like it was a major breakthrough back in 2016 but I’m wondering how much it’s used today as technology continues to grow. 5 years can be like a generation when it comes to technology. Just look at how cell phones have jumped from 3G to 4G to 5G.

    Christopher Deberry on
  • How to check the signal strength on an Android or iPhone? You’re right about signal bars being an unreliable indicator of signal strength. The better way to check things is to run a field test mode. In most Androids, you go to settings and find About Phone-Status or Network. On iPhones, you’ll go to Field Test Mode and “view a signal strength reading.” Signal strength is measured in decibels (dBm). These are normally in negative i.e. “-“ and range from -30 to -110. The higher the reading, the worse your signal strength. Thus -60 is a stronger signal than -80.

    Robert Lowell on
  • This is more of a basic question. I’ve heard signal bars are unreliable indicators of signal strength. If so, how to check the signal strength on an Android or iPhone?

    Raymond Thompson on
  • It must be a nightmare for mobile carrier networks when they try to figure out how to maximize the power of their cellular network with ever-increasing demands for data and data speeds. What has been the track record of this Network Functions Virtualization software? I know my cell phone gets erratic signals and occasional dropped calls. I’m thinking about a cell phone booster to eliminate dropped calls, but I want to know what networks are doing to help.

    Marshall Wyndom on
  • Network Functions Virtualization sounds like a real advancement for mobile carrier networks. The explanation was simple and showed how it could be a big leap for mobile carrier networks. Any idea what kind of power you need to run network functions virtualization software? Any idea what it costs to purchase the software compared to running different machines for various applications such as security, etc.?

    Johnnie Nguyen on

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