Vodafone has demonstrated the potential of automated control and network programmability of microwave backhaul in a live commercial network in Italy using Software Defined Networking (SDN). This is an important milestone in the transformation of the operator’s transport networks.

5G promises to be a huge change for our business customers, enabling faster telecoms connections and reducing the time it takes to get new services to market.

That requires a highly efficient and powerful transport network. SDN technology drives this change, allowing automated operational processes and simplifying the control of the underlying network, by applying a centralised software control layer.

We tested Siae Microelettronica’s Domain Controller (SM-DC) on Vodafone Italy’s live network. The trial demonstrated the capability to introduce automation in existing microwave infrastructure. That in turn will extend the lifetime of existing equipment in the transport network.

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The SM-DC supervised the physical infrastructure of microwave backhaul and interacted with a set of applications to deliver four use cases:

  • network topology auto-discovery - with open protocols between the node and controller, the network was immediately discovered, geo-referenced and dynamically updated;
  • end-to-end service provisioning - the SDN application automatically configured new services reducing time and the number of errors;
  • energy efficiency: when the network traffic load is low (e. g. overnight) we showed that energy consumption can be lowered by entering low energy mode. This feature is confined to a certain period of the day, when traffic is normally below a safe threshold. The SDN controller can adapt the activation period to the actual traffic profile thanks to its continuous monitoring of link utilisation; and
  • automated network device software update: we obtained a 90% reduction in the time to update software on the transport network.  

Having successfully completed this pilot project our next aim is to set up integration of this technology into the full controller/orchestrator chain.

Eva Rossi is responsible for defining Vodafone’s end-to-end transport architecture and select transport technologies, as well as for defining the transformation towards an SDN-based transport network. Eva is a Distinguished Engineer who joined Vodafone in 1998 and has held a number of technology roles in relation to transmission and transport networks.

Giulio Quario is responsible for Vodafone’s Access and Backhaul Product Acceptance and Design for Europe. Giulio joined Vodafone in 1996 and has held many different roles in relation to mobile access and transmission and transport networks.

 

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