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AI/Automation

Leading Lights 2021: The Big Recap

The 17th edition of Light Reading's Leading Lights Awards is officially done and dusted. We'll be back in 2022 with new categories and more chances to get your company and its executives some hard-earned recognition for their contributions to the global communications industry.

The post will recap this year's Leading Lights winners, in addition to reminding you what we said about each group of finalists along the way. Please do review our previous post in this series – Leading Lights 2021: The Finalists – to see just how fierce the competition was for this year's contest.


The Winners

Best Deal Maker

Awarded to the company that has consistently demonstrated good timing, judgment and execution in high-profile acquisitions, partnerships, joint ventures and other multi-company financial or strategic arrangements.

Winner: Juniper Networks

Juniper wins after completing three strategic software acquisitions over the past 12 months (128 Technology, Apstra and Netrounds) – all done remotely via videoconferencing because of the pandemic – and each of which significantly accelerated the business as a whole.


Best New 5G Core Product

Awarded to the vendor that has launched the most innovative 5G core product during the past year.

Winner: NEC Corporation

NEC wins for the design of its core, which sports all the cloud-native containerization technologies that are all the rage these days, as well as for the market traction it has gained with customers including Rakuten and DoCoMo.


The 2021 Leading Lights Awards Video

In case you missed it, here below is the video presentation where we announced the Leading Lights winners on October 8:


More Winners

Best New Cable Tech Product or Service

Awarded to the vendor or network operator that has launched the most innovative cable technology product or cable-powered service during the past year.

Winner: Harmonic

Harmonic's CableOS Cloud-Native Core Platform wins because it represents a way for operators to make the critical and necessary shift to cloud-native systems that support the virtualization of the access network, and the support of multiple types of access networks, including hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) and fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP).


Best New Cloud Product or Service (Network Operator)

Awarded to the network operator (telco, cloud, cable, etc.) that has launched the most innovative cloud-native product or service during the past year.

Winner: Cox Communications

Cox Communications' Cox Cloud Edge got the edge in this category with a new cloud compute product and platform that focuses on the support of a class of low-latency services and applications spanning virtual machines, distributed databases and managed Kubernetes systems.


Best New Open RAN Product

Awarded to the vendor that has launched the most innovative open RAN product during the past year.

Winner: NEC Corporation

NEC Corporation's 5G Radio Unit (RU) met the O-RAN Alliance's O-RAN fronthaul interface specs and has been deployed by Tier 1 service providers, including Rakuten, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom.


What the editors said

Here's the first in a three-podcast series where Light Reading's editors discussed the Leading Lights finalists and what they learned during the judging process for Best New Open RAN Product, Best New 5G Core Product, and several more categories.


More Winners

Best New Optical Networking/IP Product

Awarded to the company that has launched the most innovative optical networking or IP product during the past year.

Winner: DriveNets

DriveNets wins because its product set shows that networks for modern service providers and hyperscalers can be built more efficiently by replacing a mass of routers and servers with modular white boxes running cloud-based, distributed network software.


Company of the Year (Private)

Awarded to the privately held firm that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, makes investors proud and makes employees happy.

Winner: Altiostar

During this contest period, the RAN software vendor was purchased by one of its customers – and investors – Rakuten. As such, the company goes from being one in a competitive field of open RAN suppliers to the engine helping drive Rakuten's network-as-a-service aspirations. In a year that included a flurry of high-profile customer activity, Altiostar's exit proved well-timed as the industry is still waiting to see open RAN's long-term impact.


Best New Video/Media Product or Service

Awarded to the company that has launched the most innovative streaming video or other media product or service during the past year.

Winner: Qwilt

Qwilt wins for its Open Caching-based CDN platform, which, combined with Cisco’s edge compute and networking infrastructure, eases the strains on content delivery networks and boosts their performance in the face of growing consumer use of streaming video.


Company of the Year (Public)

Awarded to the publicly listed firm that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, makes investors proud and makes employees happy.

Winner: Marvell Technology

Marvell Technology wins after a strong year in which it has completed a $10 billion takeover of Inphi, strengthened its portfolio of 5G and other product offerings and seen its share price rise more than 40%.


Most Innovative 4G/5G Business Service

Awarded to the company that has launched a leading, innovative service delivered on 4G or 5G networks for business customers during the past year.

Winner: Cradlepoint

Cradlepoint wins for the breadth and depth of its 5G business-focused product portfolio, offerings, which are given plenty of weight following Ericsson's recent purchase of the company.


What the editors said

Here's the second episode of our podcast series discussing the Leading Lights finalists. This time around, in addition to some cable tech categories, Jeff, Phil and Alan covered some of the "use case" entries focusing on customer experience and private wireless networks.


More Winners

Most Innovative 4G/5G Consumer Service

Awarded to the company that has launched a leading, innovative service delivered on 4G or 5G networks for consumers during the past year.

Winner: Casa Systems & Telus – 5G Multicast Demo

Casa Systems and Telus win for their joint submission detailing the 5G multicast technology they developed to support the efficient delivery multimedia content.


Most Innovative Hybrid Networking Strategy

Awarded to the company that has outlined and clearly communicated an innovative, market-leading hybrid networking technology strategy during the past year.

Winner: Amdocs

Amdocs wins for Most Innovative Hybrid Networking Strategy for its End-to-End Service and Network Orchestration (E2ENSO) platform, which supports the management of physical, cloud and virtual network functions and assists operators in providing enterprise services such as edge computing and private network deployments.


Most Innovative SD-WAN Product/Service Evolution

Awarded to the company that has outlined and clearly communicated how its SD-WAN product or service has improved and kept changing in the past year to help deliver a superior SD-WAN experience to its customers.

Winner: Juniper Networks

Juniper Networks wins for Most Innovative SD-WAN Product or Service Evolution. Juniper acquired 128 Technology in 2020 and has integrated the Session Smart Router technology into the Juniper WAN Edge portfolio, adding its own WAN Assurance and the Marvis Virtual Network Assistant technologies to the tunnel-free SD-WAN service.

In an ultra competitive year, Silicon Valley stalwart Juniper Networks defied the odds with three Leading Lights honors. Photo credit: Sundry Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

In an ultra competitive year, Silicon Valley stalwart Juniper Networks defied the odds with three Leading Lights honors. Photo credit: Sundry Photography / Alamy Stock Photo


Most Innovative Service Provider Cloud Strategy

Awarded to the network operator or service provider that has outlined and clearly communicated an innovative, market-leading cloud strategy during the past year.

Winner: Deutsche Telekom Technik

Deutsche Telekom Technik wins in part because its approach is not just a one-off implementation, but the successful culmination of a full cloud transformation strategy and the fulfillment of a vision to automate and cloudify Deutsche Telekom's infrastructure and business.


Outstanding Digital Enablement Vendor

Awarded to the next-generation OSS/BSS/CX, analytics or digital commerce systems vendor that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, helps set the industry trends, makes investors proud and makes employees happy.

Winner: Amdocs

Amdocs takes home this award for completing several important takeovers, landing some major customer deals and reporting record revenues.


Outstanding Test & Measurement Vendor

Awarded to the communications networking test and measurement, monitoring or assurance systems vendor that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, helps set the industry trends, makes investors proud and makes employees happy.

Keysight Technologies

Keysight Technologies collects this award for its launch of the N9042B UXA X-Series, a signal analyzer that has helped companies tackle some of the complex test challenges that come with the use of millimeter-wave spectrum.


Outstanding Use Case: Customer Experience

Awarded to the company that used its communications technology or network to deliver a superior customer experience, bringing value to individuals or communities in the past year.

Winner: Spectrum Enterprise

Spectrum Enterprise wins for its Hosted Call Center solution, which has enabled Premier America Credit Union (PACU) agents to serve members seamlessly and safely from home, work more productively and deliver a better customer experience.


Outstanding Use Case: Edge Computing

Awarded to the company that can articulate a compelling example of how it delivered edge computing solutions – either network or customer-facing – that helped make a difference in a customer's business during the past year.

Winner: American Tower

American Tower wins for the edge computing work it conducted with Villa-Tech, which resulted in a 60% growth Villa-Tech's edge business in less than six months.


Outstanding Use Case: Private Wireless Networks

Awarded to the company that can share the most compelling example of building and/or operating a private wireless network on behalf of a corporate or municipal customer during the past year.

Winner: Federated Wireless

Federated Wireless, together with partner Cambium Networks, wins because their CBRS deployment in McAllen, Texas, with an independent school district represents a novel and important way private networks made a difference early on in a pandemic that shined the light brightly on the need to keep K-12 students connected and able to go to school remotely. More than a one-off to support a temporary need, the resulting private network is a permanent solution for the city's neighborhoods.


Outstanding Use Case: Service Provider AI/Automation

Awarded to the company that is using automation and/or artificial intelligence in an innovative way to improve network performance, customer service or business operations.

Winner: Juniper Networks and Orange Poland

Juniper Networks and Orange Poland win after the deployment of Juniper's Paragon technology led to improvements in customer experience and service quality as well as a sharp reduction in outages and faults.


Outstanding Use Case: Service Provider IoT

Awarded to the service provider or other company helping customers change the way they do business with innovative Internet of Things devices and services.

Winner: Cognitive Systems

Cognitive Systems wins for their WiFi Motion technology. Currently in use as a home safety monitoring solution, service providers can harness routers and smart devices in the home to monitor the movement of the elderly or vulnerable while respecting their privacy.


What the editors said

Here's the third and final episode of our podcast series discussing the Leading Lights shortlist. Joining host Kelsey Ziser are Fiona Graham and Iain Morris, who tackle a few of the more hotly contested categories, including Company of the Year (Public) and Outstanding Digital Enablement Vendor.


More Winners

Outstanding Use Case: Service Provider Security

Awarded to the network operator, cloud provider or other service provider that can articulate a compelling example where they helped provide exceptional security products or services to a customer during the past year.

Winner: Open Systems

Open Systems wins for Outstanding Use Case: Service Provider Security (can include SD-WAN) for updating the College of Southern Nevada (CSN)'s cybersecurity services with features such as endpoint detection and response, network detection and response sensors, firewalls and secure web gateways for students, teachers and staff working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Person of the Year

Awarded to the communications industry individual, at any corporate level, who made an unmistakably big difference in your company's performance, character, community or culture in the last 12 months.

Winner: Charlie Vogt, President and CEO, DZS

After joining DZS in August of 2020, Charlie Vogt has helped lead DZS to a year of record performance, solidifying and better defining the company's position in access-powered technology areas like 5G xHaul and O-RAN network enablement, WiFi 6 and more. Vogt has also overseen two acquisitions – Optelian and RIFT – that look to pay dividends in the company's portfolio.


And that's it!

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners and thank you to everyone who entered the Leading Lights.

Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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