Heavy Reading conducted a survey on network operators’ plan for disaggregation in December 2020. Respondents had to work for a verifiable network operator and be involved in network planning and/or purchasing network equipment. There were 82 qualified participants that were counted in the results. Volta was pleased to be a sponsor of this project and a full copy of the report by Heavy Reading’s Sterling Perrin is available here. In addition, the results were the basis of a webinar (available on-demand) which included presentations by the operators Telefonica and MTN.
This represents a timely and meaningful look at how operators view disaggregation. Heavy Reading defines disaggregation as:
“The separation of networking equipment into functional components and allowing each component to be individually deployed. Ideally, provided in the smallest form factor capable of delivering a specific function. Equipment should be self-contained, require no additional common equipment to operate, and incorporate open APIs to enable software-defined networking (SDN) control.”
Operators are still early in deploying disaggregated networks. 55% of respondents reported being in the education/pre-proof-of-concept (PoC) and PoC stages with 45% being in the more advanced stages of trials and commercial deployments. 27% reported that deployments have begun.
Faster innovation and flexibility in adopting the latest technology is the top driver for leading operators to adopt disaggregated networks according to 51% of respondents. This is closely tied to the second most common answer which was the ability to launch new services and increase revenue and CapEx reduction. Faster innovation plays a crucial role in launching new services. It is notable that while important, CapEx reduction is not the main driver for operators to pursue disaggregation.
Global interest in white box routers is high. Hardware and software disaggregation allows operators to source their switching hardware and their network operating systems software from separate suppliers. This approach yields key benefits in eliminating vendor lock-in, increasing agility in responding to network change, speeding innovation to market, and reducing CapEx—all of which are consistent with operators’ stated goals for disaggregation.
This approach has become particularly important in IP routing. The DCSG segment, promoted by TIP, is one prominent example of the hardware and software disaggregation model, but the NOS/hardware separation model extends to other segments as well, including edge and core routing. However, this application is still emerging. 20% of respondents reported DCSG deployments today (the lowest percentage of any segment) with an additional 26% expecting DCSG deployments in 2021.
We will look at the responses on RAN splits and virtualization which are major drivers for DCSG in our next post.