NFV and SDN – virtual neutrality?

Written by on March 4, 2015 in BillingViews, Opinion with 0 Comments

Elephant Blocking the RoadThe hype is unrelenting. Conferences, papers, webinars and bars are buzzing with the answer to everyone’s problems. NFV. The arguments are compelling, there is no doubt about that. There is evidence that money is being put where mouths have been. MWC is wall to wall NFV. The impact on cost is clear enough, as is the effect it will have on agility. The time to market for many, if not all, products will shrink dramatically. Essentially, the ‘business’ can run the network.

And the business is getting quite excited. With NFV and, as importantly a virtualised BSS environment, there is potential for real progress towards operators being able to offer relevant products at exactly the right moment. Partnerships, the essential building block of the next era of communications, will be easier to manage. Quality of Service (QoS) deals, where companies and consumers can be offered a guaranteed quality will be…..Ah.

Wait just a second.

Will that benefit of NFV have to be discarded now that President Obama, er, Tom Wheeler’s net neutrality regulations will become law? If the internet becomes a Communist Utility, where the law says that broadband speeds start at 25Mbps, then it is not possible. Presumably Mr Wheeler’s witty retort will be that at 25Mbps, there is no need to differentiate anyway. This only leaves millions of square miles of rural areas basically without ‘broadband.’

If you are not allowed to offer differentiated quality of service, then you are not allowed to offer many of the products and services that are being dreamed up by Marketing as we speak. Sponsored data? Sorry. Facebook Zero? Nope. A Netflix bundle with a guaranteed…..? ’Fraid not.

Of course, there is a lot of arguing left to do in the net neutrality debate. And a lot of political postering. Appeals will be made and blocked. If it passes, the people of emerging economies will have to pay for the internet like everyone else.

The arguments for NFV and SDN are probably strong enough, even if the ‘extra revenue’ part of the argument is removed. Once the initial investment has been absorbed and operators who adopt it have changed the culture and processes (no easy feat), the opex savings will be significant.

Still, it would be sad if the platform that enables the agility that fosters great products was not able to launch them.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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