Elephant Talk has some earned some early validation for SDN and NFV and its own virtualized platform, as it announces Wednesday that it is fully managing Vodafone Spain's new mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), Lowi.
Managed SDN platform specialist Elephant Talk Communications Corp. (NYSE MKT:ETAK) has built up a platform -- ET Software DNA 2.0 -- that includes a fully virtualized evolved packet core (EPC) with NFV from Affirmed Networks Inc. and an HLR/HSS (Home Location Register/Home Subscriber Server for subscriber data management) from HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ). The combo was chosen by Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) in Spain to power its new MVNO, Lowi, which launched in December to provide low-cost, postpaid mobile data with data rollover. (See Affirmed & Elephant Talk Build a Virtual EPC .)
Elephant Talk says it installed, tested and launched the 3G service in just three months, down from the traditional year-long process an MVNO launch requires. The key is that its platform is entirely software based, including the HLR\HSSs, upgraded IP systems, GGSNs, provisioning, postpaid billing system and backup systems in two colocation data centers in Barcelona and Madrid -- all of which were installed new for Vodafone.
By managing everything except the radio access network (RAN) on software, it's able to move quickly, as well as let Lowi continue to introduce new services and billing changes at a rapid clip. Steven van der Velden, chairman and CEO of Elephant Talk, says the signaling box is the only piece of hardware left but that will soon also be totally driven by software and fully integrated into its main computing platform.
This virtualized platform based on commercial off-the-shelf hardware is what many operators are working towards with their SDN and NFV strategies. It's also what their big vendor partners like Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. are helping them to explore. Van der Velden sees these big names as its prime competition, as well as piece players like Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), but the company is finding its sweet spot with the smaller operators.
And, unlike most of the big guys that are in the trial stages, it already has successful deployments under its belt, with Vodafone for its wholesale business and Lowi, as well as Zain Group in the Middle East and Grupo Iusacell S.A. de C.V. in Latin America, now owned by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). Van der Velden says it can scale up to supporting 20 million customers, which might rule out the very biggest of mobile operators, so right now it's targeting the 800 or so operators that have fewer than 20 million customers.
"We're a small company in an early phase with a few main customers, but we're building up references and going through a steep learning curve," van der Velden says. "Ultimately we believe these kind of platforms will become mainstream for future mobile operators. Legacy systems are running out of service life."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading