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Published: October 13th, 2020

Telecom is the largest non-virtualized industry, says VMware, but the company is determined to bring it into the virtual fold. This year’s VMworld conference highlighted what’s on offer and featured discussions with customers who are already seeing the benefits of a virtualized telco world.

To begin with, VMware chief executive office Pat Gelsinger announced that Dish Networks had selected the VMware Telco Cloud as the platform for its 5G, cloud-native Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN). Dish says that it’s the first network of its kind in the U.S. At the heart of the Telco Cloud is VMware’s NSX software-defined networking solution.

“Many thought that Open RAN was not possible,” Gelsinger said. “All that changed when VMware and Dish joined forces. Together we’re building the world’s first Open RAN software-defined and cloud-native network, bringing 5G speed and performance to the majority of the U.S. population. The starting point is Open RAN for the U.S., and we believe the rest of the world will follow.”

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VMware executive vice-president and general manager, Telco Edge Cloud Shekar Ayyar added that 5G gives communication service providers a chance to reinvent themselves, with new customer relationships, new partnerships, new business models and revenue streams, and the opportunity to become leading innovators of technologies of the future. To do so, he said, requires a virtualized telco cloud architecture.

As part of this future, Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höllges is seeing a disaggregation of the telecom infrastructure, moving from expensive specialized boxes to more open software-defined systems in the cloud. He said that allows providers to offer services at a significantly lower cost while improving the quality of service and time to market.

“What we need for that is an open ecosystem,” he said. “It makes us even more independent from specific vendors; it makes us independent from any kind of vendor in the future. We will have more control over the software and the quality ourselves, and at a lower price, this is what we are driving with Open RAN, which is helping us to have more an open-source approach to the technology than the black box.”

Rogers Communications is another Telco Cloud customer, and although chief technology officer Jorge Fernandes predicts that over the next three years, 4G will continue to dominate (he expects 85 per cent of traffic will continue to flow over its 4G network), Rogers is building out its 5G network. In fact, he said, the company is upgrading its 5G non-standalone core to a 5G standalone core to enable additional capabilities such as low latency, network slicing, and service ability millions of IoT devices.

“As we move towards a software-enabled network and IT, we’re required to expose the network as a platform,” he said. “When we talk about enabling these new capabilities, we think about them as currencies that need to be enabled through a flexible and agile software environment, and these network capabilities will be exposed as APIs so microservices that will then be consumed by new applications of the future.”

“We won’t stop until everyone is connected,” said Höllges. “For us 5G is the next big opportunity. Everything which can be connected will be connected and 5G is the enabler for that. 100 times more speed, dramatic increase of capacity, and this coming at real-time low latencies below 10 milliseconds. This is what we are talking about.”