Cisco inks deals with Verizon, Sprint, KT, Rakuten, Softbank and Airtel

BARCELONA–Cisco kicked off Mobile World Congress by touting its 5G prowess, both in terms of technology and operator contract wins. Cisco said it has 40 service providers actively trialing and deploying its 5G offerings, and its MWC announcements included new or expanded deals with half a dozen global network operators.

The vendor said that it will deliver what it claims is the world’s first “end-to-end fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network, ready for 5G” to new Japanese mobile entrant Rakuten, which is slated to launch service in October of this year. Rakuten will “extensively use Cisco software and services, and routing and switching hardware” in its network and telco cloud, Cisco said.

U.S. operator Verizon said it will use Cisco’s software-defined wide area network platform to support mobile 5G devices, an extension of Verizon’s Virtual Network Services’ relationship with Cisco for SD-WAN for campuses and branches. The two companies said that the Mobile SD-WAN service “sets the stage for enterprises to use Verizon’s future 5G network as an extension of their campus and branch infrastructure and enable more control of the application performance on mobile and IoT devices.” The companies outlined use cases including improved security for mobile workers and IoT devices.

With Sprint, Cisco will be providing its network convergence system 540 routers, which the company said are capable of tripling backhaul network capacity and providing 100G connectivity into a core transport network. The new routing technology, in addition to Cisco’s network service orchestrator and streaming telemetry for automation mean that Sprint is “better positioned for 5G capacity demands in targeted locations,” the two companies said. Greg O’Connor, VP of network core and access for Sprint, said that Cisco’s routing technology, running traffic over dark fiber and supported with automation software, boosts its backhaul network and will support both Sprint’s LTE Advanced network and its 5G network.

Cisco is also providing a 5G mobile network platform for Korean operator KT that includes automated and virtualized technologies on a “mobile edge cloud”, including the mobile packet core, network slicing, segment routing and control and user plane separation (Remote-CUPS). Cisco said this is the first deployment of its kind and is designed for flexible, low-latency services and remote management of traffic at scale and accelerated packet processing to support commercial 5G. Cisco’s tech will be used in KT’s 5G routing backbone and at its distributed data centers.

Indian operator Airtel is relying on Cisco to extend its IP network, add automation, segment routing and traffic engineering and prepare for 5G roll-outs. Cisco said that the network architecture is based on open network standards to “simplify adoption by other operators” and enable broader mobile access across India. Meanwhile, the vendor is supporting Japanese network operator Softbank’s first deployment of Segment Routing IPv6 (SRv6) networks across Japan to improve scalability and reduce costs. Cisco said that because current mobile network are “deployed as divided networks, with several layers and complicated control plane processing,” that makes it difficult to provide the quality of service demanded by 5G. SRv6 deployments in a 5G environment simplify the network layers and integrate user plane functions end-to-end with the IPv6 protocol, the company said.

Junichi Miyakawa, representative director and CTO for SoftBank, said in a statement that converging 5G features into the IPv6 layer with segment routing capabilities is “the key to embodying 5G in a simple, scalable architecture.”

Cisco noted that its recent Mobile Visual Networking Index forecast projects that the average 5G connection in 2022 will generate nearly three times as much traffic as the average 4G connection — a jump from 8 GB per month to 22 GB per month. Cisco also said that it plans to commit $5 billion in financing over the next three years to help support its customers’ network transitions to 5G.


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