Back in the “3G era” the Packet Core sat alongside the Voice Core, and was considered an adjunct to the Radio Access Network. The traditional RAN vendors would often bundle the core as part their end-to-end contract. Since initial data services where Mobile Broadband, and monetisation was just based on volume, 3G Packet Cores were all about “feeds and speeds”.
With 4G/LTE the all-IP nature makes the Packet Core the heart of service creation. Now data intelligence, QoS and policy enforcement, security and multi-access convergence are key requirements for monetisation. In this 4G era Service Providers have therefore changed their approach, looking for a “best of breed” IP expert to provide the core and Radio expert for the access. This is reflected in ACG’s view on EPC market share in the APAC region over the last few years, where Cisco despite not having a LTE Macro RAN solution has become the leader in EPC (Evolved Packet Core).
Source: ACG Research: Market Release: Mobile IP Infrastructure 2Q 2015 Regional.
So what about the next evolution of the Packet Core? Do service providers need to look for new expertise in their vendor partners?
The next evolution of the Packet Core we know is all about virtualisation and “Telco Cloud”. Another report just out from Infonetics, asked service providers what they need from their vendor partners in this area. In the report, SDN and NFV Vendor Leadership, Global Service Provider Survey, 18 August, 2015, they noted that “Carriers envision a multi-supplier SDN and NFV world with centralized control mechanisms, orchestration of services and equipment, and new network architectures. This is a move toward a more software-centric and automated environment with services driven by customer “self-care” portals.” So the 4G+ evolution for the Mobile Packet Core is all about control and orchestration, implemented with software. These are exactly the areas Cisco has been investing in, e.g. in Data Center with UCS, and in Orchestration through the Tail-f acquisition, to ensure we are ready to lead the next technology evolution. At least according to the Infonetics survey Service Providers seem to recognise this.
Extract from: Infonetics Research: SDN and NFV Vendor Leadership, Global Service Provider Survey, 18 August, 2015.
So the Packet Core has evolved in to the Service Core as the critical heart of the Service Providers business. At the same time Service Providers have partnered with the IP experts to build that core. Now comes the evolution to be more agile in a Telco Cloud environment, requiring new attributes from this generation of technology leaders.