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Leading Lights 2019 Finalists: Telco Cloud Strategy

Mitch Wagner
4/23/2019
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"Cloudification" is an ugly word, but it describes a transition that's essential for telcos and other service providers that want to remain relevant.

Coudification is also a cliche, repeated many times at conferences and here on the pages of Light Reading. But that doesn't make it any less important.

Enterprise and consumer customers have been trained for immediate gratification by the likes of Amazon and others. Customers can spin up cloud services as fast as they type in a credit card number. That means they won't stand for network services requiring weeks or months to come online.

To meet the demand for cloud-like agility, telcos and other service providers need to configure their networks to use cloud software, rather than purpose-built appliances. It's a transition that has been difficult for many service providers.

But a few operators stand out as ahead of everybody else in making the cloud transformation, and they are the finalists for this year's annual Leading Lights award for Telco Cloud Strategy (Network/Data Center Operator), "awarded to the technology vendor that has devised the most innovative telco cloud (virtualization, SDN/NFV) product strategy during the past year." The finalists are:

The Leading Lights Award winners, as well as this year's inductees to the Light Reading Hall of Fame, will be announced at the spectacular Leading Lights dinner and party at the Pinnacle Club in Denver, Monday, May 6, following a day of workshops preceding our Big 5G Event. The Big 5G event opens on Tuesday, May 7. For more info, and for tickets to either or both events, please visit the Leading Lights Awards 2019 page.

Let's talk about the shortlisted companies:

Boing Wireless
Boingo is a leader in cloud services, running next-generation telco networks that connect more than a billion people annually. Its Self-Healing Access Point Management Strategy, introduced last year, is integral to keeping its services up and humming.

Boingo's proprietary cloud strategy is centered on a virtualized framework. Boingo is a pioneer of network functions virtualization (NFV) and leverages the technology to power wireless networks with more control, scalability and flexibility. The company uses NFV to upgrade equipment, including servers, switches and routers. NFV helps deliver different tiers of service and increases data visibility across the company's large network footprint. NFV integration brings functions to the edge of the network, saving costs and increasing deployment flexibility.

In 2018, Boingo advanced its cloud portfolio even further by launching a self-healing access point management strategy, made possible through machine learning ML capabilities. Using automated intelligence, the new system continuously scans Boingo's entire network footprint to detect operational degradation in real time. If a problem is detected, machine learning helps automatically remedy the access point and reports on the workflow and executed action. Scheduling ensures actions are handled outside of peak hours at each venue location to reduce customer impact. Everything is automated, replacing a manual process that previously required network analysts to review each issue individually and then schedule a fix.

Using this cloud solution, Boingo has improved connectivity for customers, reducing AP overload and outages. With self-healing ML features, Boingo has created a next-generation, rapid response network that is highly scalable; reduces capex and opex; improves network management efficiencies; enhances performance and uptime; and increases customer satisfaction.

The cloud strategy helped lead Boingo to record revenue of $250.8 million in 2018, an 22.7% increase over 2017.

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Epsilon
Infiny by Epsilon is a software-defined networking (SDN) platform that provides enterprises and service providers with a suite of high-performance connectivity and communications services at the click of a button. Infiny customers can choose from a range of Ethernet and enterprise voice services, and order, activate and manage local, regional and global services via a web-based portal, mobile apps and APIs.

Users of Infiny can now connect to over 100 data centers in Asia Pacific, North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa with on-demand access to a growing list of Internet exchanges and direct connection to cloud service providers. In May 2018, Epsilon began deployment of 100G services across Asia Pacific, Europe and the United States to increase business scalability and agility. Infiny is now deployed in Europe and the United States and will be available in Asia Pacific by the end of the second quarter of 2019.

Epsilon broke new ground in cross-carrier automation in a partnership with DCConnect, a leading Chinese SDN provider. The partnership is the first time two SDN platforms have been interconnected in China via bi-lateral API integration. Infiny customers gain on-demand connectivity into major business hubs in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, with extended access to over 118 data centers and 11 cloud providers through DCConnect's network infrastructure. Likewise, DCConnect's customers can access Epsilon's global network fabric on demand on their own platform.

Infiny customers can use APIs to integrate Epsilon's solutions on their platform and rapidly expand their service portfolio. Epsilon also offers a white-label option for Infiny customers looking to generate revenue from their networking.

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Rakuten Mobile
Rakuten Mobile, Japan's newest mobile operator, embraces a 5G systems architecture from inception. Rakuten boasts it's the world's first cloudified mobile network, fully virtualized from the RAN to the core with end-to-end automation for network and services. Radio access will initially be 4G LTE and WiFi; with 5G radio to be added in early 2020. This disruptive architecture enables Rakuten to deliver a broad suite of services, including consumer mobile, NB-IoT, rich media and low-latency services including AR/VR. All services benefit from an innovative software-defined architecture enabling a differentiated user experience.

The Rakuten Mobile Network is built on three principles: software-defined programmable infrastructure; zero-touch, end-to-end automation and assurance; and distributed, common-carrier-grade telco cloud. Rakuten partnered with Cisco to develop and deploy this revolutionary telco cloud solution, including a highly distributed common NFVi management layer across thousands of locations from the edge to centralized data centers supporting all telco network functions and IT workloads. This converged infrastructure results in high efficiency, reduced cost, operational simplicity, service delivery speed and optimal scale-out capability.

Virtualized packet core functions leverage control and user plane separation (CUPS) as a key enabler, providing scalable mobile edge computing (MEC) capabilities, including the flexibility to scale functions independently while laying the foundation for an easy migration to a full 5G systems architecture.

Zero-touch end-to-end automation enables dramatic opex reduction. For example, cell site auto-provisioning, which normally takes several hours or even days, can now be accomplished in just a few minutes. Rakuten estimates it reduced total cost of ownership by 35% by deploying an open cloud platform architecture.

Rakuten claims this is not only the industry's first fully software-defined mobile network, it will the fastest ever built -- a very rapid implementation completing work in less than 12 months. Rakuten conducted the first end-to-end test on February 3, 2019 and the network will be commercially deployed October 2019.

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— Mitch Wagner Visit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on TwitterJoin my Facebook GroupRead my blog: Things Mitch Wagner Saw Executive Editor, Light Reading

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