Service providers are experiencing tremendous growth in traffic. They feel pressure to scale their networks to meet demand while maintaining a profitable business model. As the networks scale up and out, operators face increasing security threats.

A February 2016 survey and subsequent report on The Future of Mobile Service Delivery, authored by Jim Hodges, senior analyst for Heavy Reading, reveals the priorities and concerns of global service providers.

Service Delivery Priorities

Service providers’ top service delivery priorities include the following:

  1. Three-quarters plan to optimize video service using TCP/IP video optimization.
  2. Half have implemented VoLTE service, and this number is expected to reach 90 percent within the next 18 months.
  3. More than half of those surveyed expect to see an increase in Internet of Things (IoT) related traffic, while 80 percent expect to see IoT traffic on their networks within two years.
  4. Service providers believe that the IoT will have a major performance impact on their network, and 50 percent believe it will accelerate IPv6 adaptation. Close to 50 percent are concerned with the increase in signaling load.
  5. Although 5G is a long way from commercialization, operators already see several areas in their networks where they will need to invest before they can roll out 5G. These include RAN capacity, improvements to lower latency, and increases in EPC capacity and throughput.

Services Delivery Challenges

Service providers say they feel pressure to improve service delivery. They perceive a formidable number of service delivery challenges, including:

  1. Time to market for new services and applications.
  2. Customer experience management (CEM).
  3. CapEx for bandwidth and infrastructure.
  4. Profitability and efficiency.

Solutions

Network functions virtualization (NFV) is viewed as critical for dealing with challenges in service delivery and to lower overall costs. Service providers are overwhelmingly committed to virtualization, with 9 out of 10 of them planning to implement NFV in their networks. They expect NFV to deliver service agility and speed time to market as well as scale up to support high connection rates and concurrent connections.

Survey respondents said they are most likely to virtulize and optimize the application layer, including video and VoLTE. They will then virtualize content delivery, followed by more basic network services such as DPI, load balancers, DNS, DHCP, firewall, IMS, and EPC core services. Service providers’ choices of these functions are not surprising, given that these areas are perceived to be easier to virtualize.

Service providers see that there are several NFV implementation concerns that must be immediately dealt with, but the clear concern is security, at 65 percent. They believe that the increasing number of applications and services will open up new and unknown threat vectors that could expose their assets, degrade service availability, and most importantly, damage their reputations and brands. Read the next article detailing security challenges that service providers face. In addition to security, when it comes to NFV, over 40 percent of survey respondents are concerned with the integration of OSS/BSS, the scalability of commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, and orchestration and management.

See a snapshot of additional survey results, view Hodges’ full Heavy Reading report, or find out how F5 helps service providers prepare for the future by simplifying and virtualizing the network, delivering greater scalability, and enhancing performance.