Verizon, T-Mobile executives eyeing ONAP, but haven’t embraced it

SAN FRANCISCO—Top executives from T-Mobile and Verizon said they continue to evaluate the ONAP open source platform for virtualization that was initially created in part by AT&T, but neither company said it plans to openly embrace the platform.

“ONAP is an interesting project,” said Rick Hornby, Verizon’s executive director for core network technology planning. Hornby explained that Verizon’s own approach to SDN, NVF and service virtualization has largely followed ETSI’s specifications for MANO. He said that Verizon has employed that platform and has made some of its own tweaks to the platform, which it has then pushed on to its vendors and partners so they can support it.

Hornby added that “it’s becoming easier over time to orchestrate applications,” but he said that the entire process of virtualization is still complex and challenging, and “it’s still not fast enough.” Hornby made his comments here at the FierceWireless “Telecom Transformation” event, held on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress Americas trade show.

T-Mobile’s Karri Kuoppamaki, for his part, said that the carrier continues to evaluate ONAP and other platforms as something that the carrier may embrace if it becomes necessary. Kuoppamaki, T-Mobile’s VP of network technology development and strategy, explained that T-Mobile monitors SDN and NFV technologies through its partners and its parent company, Deutsche Telekom.

“We don’t directly participate in these forums. We keep an eye on them,” Kuoppamaki said. “We haven’t seen the need yet to do that ourselves directly.”

AT&T initially developed its ECOMP platform as what it described as the “operating system” for its move to virtualized, software-powered services. The company subsequently released the platform into the open source community through the Linux Foundation; today the platform sits in the Linux Foundation’s ONAP association.

AT&T, for its part, has credited ONAP as a major pillar of its move to SDN and NFV technologies. The company said it is on track to virtualizing 55% of its services by the end of this year, and plans to virtualize 75% of its services by 2020.

“So far we have over 55% of the global mobile market represented by operators that have signed on to ONAP,” boasted Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and the company’s CTO. He pointed out that Vodafone recently joined the group.

“We also have a lot of interest from the internet web-scale companies,” Fuetsch added, explaining that Microsoft joined a few months ago and is considering adding ONAP to its Azure cloud platform so that it can sell the offering to smaller service providers that might want to run ONAP in Microsoft’s cloud.

While AT&T has been vocal about its move to SDN and NFV, T-Mobile and Verizon haven’t released similar virtualization targets.

“We kind of feel like, what’s the big deal?” T-Mobile’s Kuoppamaki said. He explained that T-Mobile is moving to virtualized services with its partners, particularly for the EPC, but that “it’s not yet everywhere.”

“It’s a natural process to evolve in that environment,” Kuoppamaki said of virtualization, but he said T-Mobile plans to continue to focus not on its internal operations but on the services and features it offers to its customers.

Meantime, Verizon’s Hornby explained that the carrier too has been moving toward SDN and NFV, and that “we’ve seen clear benefits of virtualization.” He said the company is working to move to virtualized services as it launches new features and functions.

“We aren’t buying new purpose-built hardware,” Hornby said, noting that all of Verizon’s new efforts are based around virtualization.

Article updated Sept. 14 to correct information about ONAP's origins and membership.