Huawei and China Mobile are set to launch a fully virtualized mobile network trial in Xi’an, China.

This network will rely on Network Function Virtualization (NFV), with dedicated, proprietary telecommunications equipment replaced by software running on both standard and carrier-class servers made by Huawei.

The pilot project will be based on the company’s virtualized IP Multimedia Subsystem (vIMS).

“As a strategic partner, Huawei has long-term and stable cooperation with China Mobile. Huawei will make every effort to ensure success for the cloud-based core network pilot deployment of China Mobile and to explore a better way to implement telecom cloudization together with China Mobile,” said Long Jiping, general manager of Huawei cloud core network business.

Mobile network tower
– Thinkstock / FactoryTh

Virtualization for telecoms

NFV is an approach to network management and orchestration similar to software-defined networking (SDN) in IT. It separates the control and data planes, with the core of the mobile network essentially located in the data center.

Virtualization of the core network enables easier new service deployment and rapid upgrades to network functionality - as easy as spinning up a virtual appliance. Network operators are counting on this technology to help them meet the capacity challenges of the future. NFV-enabled networks are also expected to be cheaper, since they rely on inexpensive, widely available hardware.

Huawei has been an active proponent of NFV for years, having conducted VoLTE trials in partnership with Deutsche Telecom, Vodafone and Telefónica. Now it will test the technology by building its first cloud-based core network in China.

Huawei says that the first trial is small-scale, but it will help to verify technical specifications, service capabilities, maintenance, and lifecycle management for NFV-based networks and pave way for large-scale trials and eventual commercial use of the technology.

“The pilot deployment is of great significance,” said Shaanxi, Zhang Zhendong , deputy general manager of China Mobile.

Huawei competitor Alcatel-Lucent is running similar NFV trials in Korea, in partnership with KT - the country’s largest mobile network operator.