Why is Verizon Wireless Interested in uCPE?

By Tomas Hedqvist

Lanner L-1515 with Enea NFV Access Certified by VerizonVerizon Wireless recently certified a universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) solution based on Enea NFV Access and Lanner's L-1515 white box . Why is the world's largest mobile operator interested in enterprise networking equipment such as uCPE? What is the connection with mobile services?

Just the fact that Verizon has certified this solution tells us something about the adoption of uCPE: more and more systems integrators and service providers discover the benefits of virtualizing customer premises equipment such as SD-WAN, routers and firewalls and consolidate them on a single whitebox. The uCPE is flexible and open, making it easy to update, change and modify the functionality through centrally managed software. No rip-and-replace or re-wiring to install a new appliance or add a new service, just automation and on-demand deployment. What's there not to like? Verizon obviously sees a bright future for the uCPE and an opportunity to add more subscribers to its mobile services through uCPE, but how?

To understand that we need to start with the use case. While any kind of customer premises equipment including firewalls, routers, and load balancers can be virtualized on a uCPE, the application behind most uCPE deployments so far has been SD-WAN. Without going into detail over SD-WAN, one of its many benefits is that it lets us use a mix of transport links, replacing (or at least reducing the dependence on) expensive MPLS with broadband connections and 4G LTE. Using intelligent traffic steering, the SD-WAN application dynamically uses the available transport links to ensure consistent performance and availability to business applications.

So there you have it: 4G LTE adds an omnipresent and reliable link to the WAN transport mix, connecting uCPE-enabled branches to an enterprise network and to the Internet.

We can see two main scenarios for when we should consider 4G LTE. The first is when we need a back-up link for failover. While we can arrange redundancy through multiple wired connections, a 4G LTE mobile link is more resilient. Besides providing failover, the back-up link can also provide extra capacity during peak-hours.

White box uCPE with 4G LTE and broadband connection to core network and then to SaaS and data center
4G LTE can be used as a backup link to provide redundancy and extra capacity to a broadband link

The second scenario is when we don't have a wired connection available at all. 4G LTE provides enough bandwidth to support small and even mid-sized branches, and since most 4G LTE modules have two or more SIM slots, we can still have redundant links.

But why 4G LTE and not 5G then? 4G LTE already reaches 80 percent of the world's population and is believed to reach 90 percent in 2025, while 5G is only beginning to be deployed and will reach 55 percent that same year (according to Ericsson Mobility Report ). 4G LTE is by no means an old technology; it continues to evolve and increase its bandwidth. That said, 5G will definitely be an option for enterprise networking in locations where it is available, for example to replace cables with fixed wireless access (FWA) and leverage the speed and low latency 5G is meant to provide.

Verizon focuses on the technology with the largest reach and availability in their certification program. 4G LTE-enabled equipment can be certified through Verizon's "Open Development" program to ensure it is "network ready", e.g. meets Verizon's standards and requirements. By working with already certified equipment, system integrators and service providers can drastically reduce both certification costs and the time it takes to get a solution ready for deployment.

When Verizon Wireless opens up for certification of uCPE solutions, they do it in hope of adding more subscribers to their mobile services. And as uCPE is rapidly being recognized as a future-proof and flexible bridgehead at the customer premises, they for sure want a piece of that pie.