Telefonica and NEC want to take virtualization all the way to the set-top box

Telefonica and NEC are to work together on developing network virtualization technologies, the companies have announced.

The Spanish telco and Japanese vendor have a fair amount of history together, with NEC providing the platform underpinning Telefonica’s small-business software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. Now that relationship is being extended to co-develop software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NVF) technologies.

The precise direction of that collaboration is a mystery for now, but here’s the background. Like other carriers, Telefonica is keen to re-engineer its networks to reduce management complexity and allow the rolling-out of new services that can only work across a virtualized, software-centric network. And along with its rivals, Telefonica is involved in a global specification-setting group for this very purpose – after all, interoperability is essential when you’re designing the telecoms networks of the future.

However, when specifications are being set, it helps to be in the driving seat; hence Telefonica’s new partnership with NEC.

“Our idea is to have some kind of standardized solution, not just for Telefonica but for the rest of industry,” Enrique Algaba, Telefonica’s director for network virtualization, told me this morning.

All this plays into an evolving conception of SDN, which sees the technology as applicable to entire telecoms networks, not just to data centers (Ericsson is particularly keen on this interpretation, as it reiterated in a whitepaper yesterday). This already goes beyond the original purpose of network virtualization, but Telefonica appears to be taking the concept even further, all the way to the set-top box.

“We’re thinking these technologies could be applicable to access – also in the fixed line,” Algaba said. “There are some interesting use cases in virtualizing home equipment, to simplify the architecture we have in the home network.

“From the Telefonica point of view, this is something new so we are pushing this in the market. We think we have to be here in order to steer in some way this new approach, in order to have our requirements included.”