Mobile World Congress 2017: It’s 5G on NFV or Bust

We’re back from another busy, successful week at Mobile World Congress and the jet lag is just about gone, thankfully. Now that the fog has lifted, I have the internal processing power to look back at all the frenzied activity for us and the telco industry as a whole at this largest annual gathering anywhere in the world. It’s not surprising that 5G was THE buzz at the show again, even though the standard has still not been finalized yet and commercial deployment seems to be still at least a good year away. 5G trials, however, are going on in earnest in select cities lucky enough to get an advanced kicking of the ultra-broadband tires.


The lack of a formal standard did not deter mobile device vendors from announcing a bunch of new products that support 5G. In addition to the many different phone models that will be 5G-compliant was the 5G home router by Samsung that will be offered as a next-gen customer-prem equipment through the major carriers, as soon as the end of this year.

Samsung introduced a spate of 5G products for both home and data center at MWC 17 last week including a home router that will be capable of 1 Gbps downstream performance, which may even convince the still 2 million+ dial up users in the US to go broadband finally.

For the carriers themselves, the one overarching question remains as to how they plan to deliver 5G network services in terms of the infrastructure used. If you follow, you know our stance on this topic already. We are joined by like minds such as Tetsuya Nakamura who wrote this in a recent blog:

We believe the evolved 5G network will be characterized by agile resilient converged fixed/mobile networks based on NFV and SDN technologies and capable of supporting network functions and applications encompassing many different networks and services domains. The breadth of foreseen 5G use cases and environments implies high scalability, ultra-low latency and ability to support a massive number of concurrent sessions, as well as ultra-high reliability and security. To achieve these ambitious goals, Network Slicing, Cloud-native design principles, End-to-end Service Management, Edge Computing, RAN Cloudification, Multi-site/domain Services, NFV License Management, Security, Reliability, and Scalability are important enablers.

Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, was far less polite during his keynote session:

We believe there are going to be two types of 5G developments: one that is built on NFV and one that isn’t successful.

It’s a bold statement to an audience who are still likely to be largely unfamiliar with him or the company, though the company is making significant strides in building awareness among telcos with significant deployment successes to speak of. Of course is largely agnostic to the host mechanism for VNFs as our solution is designed to instantiate, automate and scale VNFs on the optimal networking and compute infrastructure, whatever that might be. As for 5G over NFV, we did more than merely declare our support for this model; we showed how this works in action as one of seven different real-world solution demos we either created or participated in with our broad and growing partner ecosystem:

Overall, it was a very productive week for us in the numerous meetings and conversations with had with operators, partners, influencers, etc. There’s been a common theme that emerged in these conversations: Any VNF can be deployed in a silo but that is not what the service providers want. Instead, they’re demanding a common MANO framework for all VNFs, a message that these vendors are hearing loudly and clearly. This is even helping resuscitate conversations with VNFs providers that had stalled in the past. For us, that is very good news as it shows that the market is indicating that it’s or bust.