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Brazilian telecoms operator TIM aims to have 80% of its network functions completely virtualized within three years and 35% by the end of this year, according to Marco di Costanzo, mobile network director at TIM Brasil.
Costanzo participated in a panel on network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networks (SDN) during ICT congress Futurecom 2016, taking place this week in São Paulo.
He said TIM started virtualizing the functions of its network two years ago with a two-sided focus: business agility and cost sustainability. The goal is to have 15 network functions fully virtualized this year, starting with control functionalities and networking aspects such as roaming and operation support systems (OSS).
For 2017, TIM will start working on the virtualization of roaming systems and package inspection, among others. "Eventually, we will virtualize the entire database of our users." Constanzo said.
Brazil's fourth mobile carrier, Oi, is working with proofs of concept on control structures for IP and optical transport networks, though it has not begun any large-scale deployment yet.
Ultimately, Oi plans to virtualize other elements of its mobile network, said its CTO and services platform director, Mauro Fukuda.
"SDN will truly be a major network transformation to deliver new services, new value added services and enable additional efficiency gains," he said.
At market leader Vivo, whose parent Telefónica is relatively well-advanced on virtualizing parts of its network, the process began a couple of years ago and involves market suppliers such as Ericsson and Huawei.
"Vivo believes NFV is the way, but a path still being trailed," Vivo's engineering director Werner Weller said.
According to Renata Marques, networking sales engineer at Dell EMC, from an industry standpoint it is key to have distinct strategies for NFV and SDN. He said providers need to ensure the development of solutions that effectively allow the carriers to deliver services with greater capacity, demand and agility.
Marques was echoed by Márcio Zara, south Latin America sales director of NFV/SDN at NetCracker, who believes it is pointless to implement such powerful solutions if the carriers do not deliver services rapidly and with agility.
In the opinion of Hector Silva, CTO for the CALA region at Ciena, among the main challenges for telecom carriers is "operationalizing" and orchestrating a virtualized environment.
Sandro Tavares, Nokia's marketing director for core solutions, said 2016 was a year for the consolidation of the NFV, with the development particularly of carrier-grade openstack platforms.
"We evolved from a situation in 2015, when companies were still discussing how to use the technology, tapping the ground, to having carriers with some very solid plans and some with effective implementations," he said, adding that the next challenges involve having these solutions totally developed on the cloud, in addition to orchestration and lack of standardization.