Half of mobile operators expect to deploy software defined networks (SDN) within two years to cut operating costs and improve network flexibility, according to research.
The "Mobile SDN - the Future is Virtual" report from Informa says SDN is likely to be deployed initially to make networks more scalable and flexible, in line with sustained demand for data-intensive applications, such as mobile video.
It suggests that in the longer term, however, the emerging technology can enable new revenue and business-model opportunities among mobile operators, such as the ability to bring lucrative new mobile applications and services to market in a fraction of the time and at lower costs.
Informa's paper identifies three distinct areas in mobile operators' architecture where mobile SDN is materialising: separation of the control and data planes, virtualisation of network components, and service exposure via APIs. "These three areas address challenges and pain points faced by operators in both developing and developed markets," said Informa.
Informa said mobile SDN can help operators develop "agile, programmable networks that operate dynamically", as opposed to legacy networks, which are "inherently static and complicated to provision and manage". This means "faster time-to-revenue and an infrastructure that is simpler to operate", Informa said.
A survey of mobile operators for the research, which drew 130 responses, found that 93 percent of operators expected SDN to be implemented in mobile environments within five years, and half expected it to be implemented in the next one to two years.
Dimitris Mavrakis, an analyst at Informa, said, "Cost savings and network flexibility are arguably the first benefits to be considered, but providing a platform for new service-revenue opportunities and network exposure can help operators combat competition both within and outside the mobile value chain."
Juniper Networks sponsored the research. Brad Brooks, vice president of business strategy and marketing for software solutions at Juniper Networks, said, "SDN is a major shift in the networking industry that can remove the challenges of scalability and agility and provide mobile operators an opportunity to deliver anytime-anywhere data services to customers."