Are NFV and 5G incompatible?

An interesting discussion on Twitter this morning asked if 5G requirements could be incompatible with virtualised, cloud-based core and radio network elements.

  1. It began yesterday with a standard, "I'm about to host a conference panel session" tweet from Informa T&M analyst Dimitris Mavrakis
  2. In response, GSMA Technical Director Dan Warren saddled up a horse called Pragmatism and took it once round the paddock. How does a virtual cloud core match up to proposed 5G latency requirements?
  3. So Dimitris did, and this morning he was back with the following answer.
  4. Mr Warren was back with a reply to that. "Distributed" may not be distributed enough. 
  5. C-RAN, of course, is the architecture that sees pooled and virtualised baseband units (BBUs) directing resources to remote radio units (RRUs). These terms are relevant for later.
  6. Then Rupert Baines, of wireless tech consultancy Real Wireless, chipped in from his seat in Milan at the Small Cell Forum's plenary session...
  7. How close to the cell? At the BBU or actually at the site? 
  8. This introduces a new element - that content (as well as core functions) must be locally stored/cashed. At the mast, according to Warren. Which means...
  9. ...which means that instead of NFV being a part of 5G, or a 5G use case enabler, in terms of the radio network performance it could be an inhibitor. Right? Certainly mobile tech expert Kit Kilgour, of small cell company ip.access, thinks there are going to be some challenges (LI = Lawful Interception, I think) with the local content model. (BTW I know this aspect isn't explicitly related to NFV although virtualisation is seen as key to the sort of vendor model seen, for example, in Nokia's Liquid Radio/ Apps/ Core).
  10. And roaming and interconnect may have issues as well...?
  11. So, with thanks to those involved - I'm aware these were thoughts dashed on to Twitter not fully worked out thesis - I thought this an interesting discussion that should give pause for thought as to how these two strands, 5G use cases and requirements and virtualisation, go forward together.
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