Ericsson and Nokia have announced fresh deployments and products in virtualisation ahead of Mobile World Congress.
Ericsson has introduced a new virtualised environment to Softbank's network, allowing the operator to scale its capabilities and flexibility.
The Swedish vendor deployed a virtual Mobility Management Entity (MME), its Openstack-based Cloud Execution Environment (CEE) and its Cloud Manager for Orchestration (ECM).
The company said this was the first time a Tier One operator had conducted a widespread deployment of virtual MEE within a native MME pool.
Softbank said it would benefit from the ability to upgrade software and roll out expansions quicker. It added it would also be able to launch services faster and with shorter lead times.
Yoichi Funabiki, Director Mobile Network Planning Division, Core Network Department, SoftBank, said: "It is a huge benefit to operate NFV to deploy new services quicker while maintaining superior network quality. This is a very important first step toward launching our virtualised core network."
Meanwhile, Nokia has introduced a new Shared Data Layer product, which it said acts as a central storage point for data, such as subscription or session information, created by virtualised network functions (VNF).
The vendor said this creation of "stateless" VNFs means if one fails, it can be reactivated and allow operators to access the relevant data and ensure a seamless service.
These VNFs can also share more data across the network with reduced signalling, lowering opex and removing data duplication.
Gabriel Brown, senior analyst with Heavy Reading, said: "Abstracting subscriber and state information from individual network functions, can simplify the design, deployment and operation of cloud-hosted mobile networks. The stateless network will generate new, cloud-optimised architectures that can help operators deliver diverse applications at a significantly lower cost-of-production."
Michael Clever, Head of Converged Core, Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: "The Shared Data Layer is a milestone in the evolution of telco networks as we head towards 5G. Operators will be able to innovate faster while retaining telco grade reliability and benefit from unlimited scale and elasticity to cater to the demands of even the largest next generation converged networks.
"And all this will come with substantially lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). With the Shared Data Layer at its heart, the new programmable network will give operators the agility they need to ensure sustainable business in a rapidly changing world."