As mobile data traffic continues to grow at an explosive rate, service providers have responded by adding capacity to their wireless-packet-core networks. According to a new report from Dell’Oro Group, telecommunications equipment vendors have enjoyed major growth as a result. In the “Wireless Packet Core” five-year forecast, analysts predict that the wireless-packet-core equipment market will grow by almost 60%—exceeding $6 billion by 2018.

This growth is expected to be mostly seen in the evolved-packet-core (EPC) market segment. EPC is defined by four functional entities: the serving gateway (SGW), the packet data-network gateway (PGW), the mobility management entity (MME), and the policy charging and rules function (PCRF). Separating these functions allows for more flexibility than what is provided by existing 2G/3G core networks.

The Dell’Oro report forecasts that the PCRF market alone will exceed $900 million by 2018. The Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions are expected to be the largest buyers in that segment, as vendors begin to offer systems based on network function virtualization (NFV). NFV uses a building-block approach to producing complex networks that can be connected or chained together.

In the Alcatel-Lucent blog post, “Evolved Packet Core: at the heart of LTE’s global momentum,” Pat McCabe and Dave Nowoswiat describe EPC as “the workhorse of the [Long Term Evolution] LTE network since it must have the capacity, performance and scale to handle the new data processing and signaling requirements of LTE. In addition to Alcatel-Lucent, other major players in the wireless-packet-core market include Ericsson, Cisco, Huawei, Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN), and ZTE. The full report includes an overview of market trends broken down by technology and region.