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EPC Virtualization Is Already Driving Big Changes in Mobile Networks, Heavy Reading Finds

The Evolved Packet Core has emerged as a leading candidate for network functions virtualization (NFV), which has the potential to drive major change to the classic 3GPP functional architecture

NEW YORK, March 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The 3GPP Evolved Packet Core (EPC) has emerged as a leading candidate for network functions virtualization (NFV), and progressive operators are already starting to deploy virtual EPC in their networks, according to a major new report from Heavy Reading (, the research division of Light Reading (

The Rise of Virtual EPC: A Mobile Packet Core Forecast & Analysis examines virtual EPC from the perspective of the operators that will deploy the technology and the vendors that design the products (software and systems). It identifies the biggest opportunities and challenges in this market transition, and explores how to best address these. To provide context to the industry's virtualization efforts, the report also discusses the broader mobile packet core market and analyzes today's commercially available products and vendor roadmaps to software-only EPC products.

The report also examines 11 leading EPC technology vendors, detailing their virtual EPC strategies, technologies and timelines.

"Part of the rationale for NFV is to reduce costs through centralized data centers," explains Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst with Heavy Reading and author of the report. "However, it would be wrong to say that virtual EPC is simply about finding a cheaper way to support the same services on the same access networks. Mobile operators also associate virtual EPC with new monetization opportunities and greater flexibility in creating and offering new services. To be successful, NFV – including virtual EPC – will have to be much more than a cheaper replacement for the classic networking model."

"Virtual EPC should be more flexible to deploy and integrate with other network services and should be much faster to scale out and in to match revenue and demand," Brown says, adding that virtual EPC should make it faster to create new service profiles through service chaining. "It also should support legacy access networks as well as emerging features in LTE Advanced, as well as enable new opportunities such as network slicing," he notes.

Key findings of The Rise of Virtual EPC: A Mobile Packet Core Forecast & Analysis include the following:

The overall mobile packet core market, of which EPC is the most important part, grew strongly from $2.5 billion in 2012 to $3 billion in 2013. The market is driven primarily by the deployment of new LTE networks around the world and the ongoing growth in LTE and 3G subscribers and usage. EPC spending will continue to grow faster than the overall mobile infrastructure market and is expected to surpass 3G packet core spending in 2014 – although by some estimates, it might already have done so.

Virtualization of the EPC has the potential to be very disruptive over the longer term and might eventually drive change to the classic 3GPP functional architecture. A software-only mobile core offers tremendous opportunities for more flexible network services, and has far-reaching implications for the design and operation of mobile core networks.

Initial deployments of virtual EPC will start in 2014 but will address parallel "overlay" deployments targeting enterprise customers and M2M services. Deploying a virtual EPC in parallel to the main production EPC for mass-market smartphone services considerably reduces the risk of catastrophic service disruption. The overlay approach allows operators to experiment with the technology without putting critical services at risk.

Leading operators are targeting complete virtual EPC replacement by the end of 2016; however, this represents the ambition of a small group of very progressive operators, not the mass market. The investment cycle is a critical driver of the industry schedule. Many advanced operators – the ones most likely to be interested in virtual EPC – have only recently deployed new EPCs and do not expect to revisit that investment in the next few years.

The Rise of Virtual EPC: A Mobile Packet Core Forecast & Analysis costs $3,995 and is published in PDF format. The price includes an enterprise license covering all of the employees at the purchaser's company.

For additional information, or to request a free executive summary of this report, please contact:

David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
Heavy Reading
[email protected]

About Heavy Reading
Heavy Reading (, the research division of Light Reading, offers deep analysis of emerging telecom trends to network operators, technology suppliers, and investors. Its product portfolio includes in-depth reports that address critical next-generation technology and service issues, market trackers that focus on the telecom industry's most critical technology sectors, exclusive worldwide surveys of network operator decision-makers that identify future purchasing and deployment plans, and a rich array of custom and consulting services that give clients the market intelligence needed to compete successfully in the global telecom industry.

About Light Reading
Light Reading ( combines its research-led online communities and targeted events portfolio to help those in the global communications industry make informed decisions. is the ultimate source for telecom analysis for more than 350,000 subscribers each month, leading the media sector in terms of traffic, content, and reputation. Light Reading produces targeted communications events and focused one-day conferences each year for cable, mobile, and wireline executives across five continents.

SOURCE Heavy Reading

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