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Light Reading's Leading Lights 2023: The WinnersLight Reading's Leading Lights 2023: The Winners

Light Reading is delighted to announce the winners emerging from hundreds of entries and dozens of finalists in the 22 categories that make up this year's Leading Lights Awards program.

The Leading Lights is Light Reading's flagship awards program, returning for its 19th year to recognize the industry's top companies and their executives for outstanding achievements in next-generation communications technology, applications, services, strategies and innovation. This year, we've also rewarded more efforts related to digital equity and solid approaches to helping ease the digital divide.

Our judging panel for the finalist round did a fantastic job and we're really fortunate to benefit from their experience and insights during this process. The judges included Dell'Oro Group's Jeff Heynen and Jimmy Yu; Tantra Analyst's Prakash Sangam; our Omdia colleagues James Crawshaw, Roz Roseboro, Pablo Tomasi, Ian Redpath, Sameer Malik and Jaimie Lenderman; Rosenblatt Securities' Mike Genovese; US Ignite's Mari Silbey; Vertical Systems Group's Erin Dunne; and our Heavy Reading colleagues Sterling Perrin, Jennifer Clark and Gabriel Brown.

After each winner was listed, we summarized what stood out in the entries that won. We won't be able to provide individual feedback on all entries or privately rehash our rationale for any other contest decisions. But reaching the shortlist is a big deal, too, so we're mentioning those companies, projects and individuals again here.

Related:What's the Story? These tech MVPs eat R&D for breakfast

And now, here are the winners of the 2023 Leading Lights:

Wireless

Most Innovative 5G Core Deployment

Awarded to the vendor or service provider that has launched the most innovative deployment of a 5G core in a live network with real subscribers during the past year.

Finalists

  • Hughes, an EchoStar Company

  • Cisco Systems

  • SK Telecom

  • KT

Winner

KT 

KT wins for its 5G Convergence Core, providing services from "enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) to enterprise connectivity." The carrier said it provides enterprise-only services that combine public 5G and multi-access edge computing (MEC) to about 50 customers nationwide.

Most Innovative RAN Product or Solution 

Awarded to the vendor that has launched the most innovative radio access network (RAN) product or solution during the past year.

Finalists

  • Samsung

  • Intel

  • Cohere Technologies

  • Juniper Networks – with Vodafone, Parallel Wireless and Aira Technologies

  • Marvell

  • Red Hat – with NVIDIA

  • Freshwave – with The City of London

  • ZTE

  • Netcracker

  • Jio Platforms

Winner

Freshwave – with The City of London

Freshwave's neutral host network wins for its innovative, shareable 4G and 5G multi-operator network pilot in London. UK mobile operators, including EE, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone, can provide service and handle their traffic on this shareable outdoor small-cell network without having to spend the time and money to build this capability themselves, which would add more complexity and street furniture to an already crowded city.

Related:What's the Story? 'Brainless robots' are smarter than you think

Outstanding Use Case: IoT 

Awarded to the service provider or vendor helping change businesses and improve customer experiences with innovative Internet of Things devices and services.

Finalists

  • Comcast's MachineQ

  • 6D Technologies

  • Mavenir – with Deutsche Telekom IoT GmbH

  • Singtel

  • Keysight

Winner

Comcast's MachineQ

MachineQ wins for detailing an IoT use case that provides a practical solution now and a platform that could unlock more innovation in the future. By automating digital temperature sensing across 9,500 stores for a major US company, MachineQ provided a reference for how IoT and service provider networks can combine to improve businesses.

Outstanding Use Case: Networked Edge 

Awarded to the company that can articulate a compelling example of how it delivered edge computing solutions – either network or customer-facing. For network service providers, this category includes any distributed and dedicated edge solutions in collaboration with hyperscalers.

Finalists

  • Nokia

  • Spectrum Enterprise

  • SK Telecom – with BICS, Samsung Electronics and AWS

  • ZTE – with Wuhan Iron and Steel Corp. (WISCO)

  • World Wide Technology

Related:What's the Story? Banking on AI to boost network efficiency

Winner

World Wide Technology

WWT wins for taking a portable version of its converged edge platform and building an augmented reality fan experience for a NASCAR Cup Series race at the World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. The platform could open up new revenue opportunities for venues and service providers, using edge networking to even out the latency demands of AR, even in sprawling venues with connectivity challenges.

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.

Finalists

  • Celona

  • China Telecom Americas

  • BICS – with Airbus

  • ZTE – with Wuhan Iron and Steel Corp. (WISCO)

  • Boldyn Networks – with Moray East Offshore Wind Farm

Winner

ZTE

ZTE wins because of its detailed use case with China's Wuhan Iron and Steel (Group) Corporation. The project has been going for longer than our contest period, but the entry focused on measurable change in the past year with this deployment – one of China's largest 5G enterprise campus networks. In this phase, industrial control private networks have been (and are being) built in different factories according to their specific production needs and service scenarios.

Wireless Technology Vendor of the Year 

Awarded to the wireless technology vendor or software provider that is a standout example of all-around excellence.

Finalists

  • AMD

  • Extenet

  • Amdocs

  • Tarana Wireless

Winner

Amdocs

Amdocs had a killer year and carefully described its momentum in a very detailed entry. According to one of our category judges, the company had impressive financial results and "expanded its market presence and product offers in an ambitious way, without being reckless."

Overall Excellence

Light Reading MVPs 

Awarded to the communications industry individuals, at any corporate level, who made an unmistakable difference in their company, community, culture – or all three.

Finalists

  • Maryam Rofougaran, CEO, Movandi

  • Carl Guardino, VP of Government Affairs and Public Policy, Tarana Wireless

  • Jezzibell Gilmore, Chief Commercial Officer, Connectbase

  • Mattias Fridström, Chief Evangelist, Arelion

  • Dr. Loi Nguyen, EVP, Optical and Copper Connectivity Group, Marvell

  • Mike Finley, CEO, Boingo

  • Jack Raynor, Co-chair, Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenWiFi

Winners

  • Maryam Rofougaran, CEO, Movandi

  • Jezzibell Gilmore, Chief Commercial Officer, Connectbase

This panel of excellent finalists was narrowed down to two winners that our judges felt stood out as innovative technologists, effective leaders and excellent communicators. 

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.

Finalists

  • Celona

  • Zayo Group

  • MATRIXX Software

  • IP Infusion

  • Cohere Technologies

  • Federated Wireless

  • Tarana Wireless

  • World Wide Technology (WWT) 

  • Arrcus

  • ATX Networks

Winner

Tarana Wireless

Tarana Wireless is our pick this year because of the technology, market timing, management team and revenue traction. Several companies stood out in this category – WWT and Celona, to name a couple; they're ones to watch. Tarana, though, in 2022, showed impressive revenues during its first year of availability for its flagship product. The company also announced a $170 million funding round and reached a billion-dollar valuation as it pushes to own the next-generation fixed wireless access market.

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.

Finalists

  • RADCOM

  • Amdocs

  • Tejas Networks

  • Keysight

  • SiTime

  • Vecima Networks

  • Fortinet

Winner

Tejas Networks

India's Tejas Networks wins for all the reasons the company highlights in its annual report – deep technology expertise, a strong balance sheet, a long-term investment outlook and deep customer relationships. It's a growth company with scale in an exploding market, but it has a longer-term outlook than what you'd typically find in Silicon Valley. The company's investment in R&D and strategic acquisitions also put it over the top in a competitive field.

Outstanding Use Case: Customer Experience 

Awarded to the company that used its communications technology or network to deliver a superior experience to business, consumer or government customers.

Finalists

  • 6D Technologies

  • Optiva

  • Mirada

  • Lifecycle Software

  • JMA Wireless

  • Whale Cloud – with DITO Telecommunity

  • Sandvine

  • Freshwave – with Three UK

Winner

Sandvine

Sandvine wins for its customer experience efforts with Telenet, which helped the operator proactively find and fix issues, reduce inbound calls and truck rolls and increase customer satisfaction. Many claim to do this, but Sandvine documented how it helped the operator act on the right data at the right time, with verifiable results. 

Best Public-Private Partnership 

Awarded to the organizations working together to expand broadband access and other technology services to help narrow the digital divide for municipalities and community institutions, including school districts, nonprofits and other public sector organizations.

Finalists

  • Consolidated Communications and the Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA)

  • Cradlepoint and The City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia

  • Cradlepoint and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT)

  • Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenWiFi – with Dublin City Council, ThinkWiFi and Mawingu

Winner

Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenWiFi – with Dublin City Council, ThinkWiFi and Mawingu

According to one of our judges, this TIP project stands out because OpenWiFi "makes it possible for communities to deploy Internet service based on their specific business model and equipment needs." With a well-written entry detailing two examples – in Europe and Africa – this novel approach to connectivity shows how TIP partnerships are bringing greater choice and control for public sector deployments than traditional Internet service offerings. 

Digital Equity All-Stars 

Service provider, vendor or technology company working to broaden access/reduce barriers to connectivity, devices and services for hard-to-reach and otherwise marginalized communities. We're looking for any effort (one-off, recently started or ongoing) that demonstrates a drive to both increase access to connectivity and reduce barriers to affordability and/or education using digital tools and services.

Finalists

  • Calix

  • World Wide Technology

  • Ribbon

  • Tarana Wireless

  • Ookla

  • Render Networks

Winner

Tarana Wireless

This was surprisingly one of the most difficult categories to judge because the entries were so strong across the board, and each company/project is worthy of more coverage. Tarana has a slight edge because of its success in taking to market a focused, innovative approach to quickly providing real broadband connectivity in the most difficult-to-reach areas.

Broadband

Broadband Service Provider of the Year 

Awarded to the network operator or other broadband service provider that had the best year ever.

Finalists

  • Frontier Communications

  • Ogi – with Nokia

Winner

Frontier Communications

Our judges' comments highlighted Frontier's fiber-first investment and dedication to serving small businesses with world-class connectivity. They're providing an oft-overlooked customer segment with a better experience and that's rubbing off on Frontier's other customer segments as well, giving the company real momentum with fiber-fueled revenues. 

Most Innovative Broadband Access Solution 

Awarded to the company that has launched the most innovative product or service to deliver high-speed broadband access via fixed wireless, satellite, fiber or cable.

Finalists

  • Infinera

  • Kontron

  • DZS

  • Vecima Networks

  • Mavenir – with Quickline Communications

  • Radisys

  • Calix

Winner

Infinera

Infinera wins here for its combination of technologies targeting lucrative business services and 5G mobile transport use cases over existing PON infrastructure. As one of our judges noted, this offering "allows operators to deliver true business-class speeds and SLAs using existing PON networks but with an overlay of coherent optics."

Outstanding Use Case: Consumer Broadband Deployment 

Awarded to the company that has delivered an exceptional high-speed broadband access experience in the past year – via fixed wireless, satellite, fiber or cable.

Finalists

  • Render Networks

  • Juniper Networks – with NEC and Tele Columbus AG

  • Zyxel Communications – with DIGI Spain

  • LotusFlare – with Globe Telecom

Winner

Render Networks

Render wins for its use case featuring the Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation (STEMC). Using software and AI tools to facilitate the deployment of broadband networks to rural and unserved areas, Render offers a concrete example of how service providers of all types can meet their national broadband goals on time and within their allocated budget.

Outstanding Use Case: Home Network Intelligence 

Awarded to the company that offered superior Wi-Fi management, home security, ad blocking, entertainment or other digital experience used to enhance home broadband.

Finalists

  • CUJO AI

  • DZS – with TalkTalk Group

  • Nokia

  • Incognito Software Systems

Winner

DZS – with TalkTalk Group

DZS wins for providing a compelling overview of its deployment with TalkTalk, which used its DZS Expresse and CloudCheck WiFi management and service assurance solutions for end-to-end visibility into the subscriber experience. By solving customer problems, upselling upgrades when needed and proactively addressing network problems, DZS said it has helped TalkTalk increase the ARPU for its fiber products.

Digital Transformation

Outstanding Use Case: AI/Machine Learning 

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

Finalists

  • ZTE

  • Plume

  • Cox Communications

  • EnterpriseWeb

  • P.I. Works – with Turkcell

  • RADCOM

  • Juniper Networks

  • Mavenir

  • Comviva

Winner

EnterpriseWeb

EnterpriseWeb wins for its telco-grade generative AI for intent-based orchestration. The use of generative AI to allow automation to handle the implementation and management of network services is an interesting, complex challenge. In collaboration with Microsoft and KX, EnterpriseWeb has shown a real use case where a developer can express their intent in an informal, natural language conversation with an interface that creates the capabilities for real network automation. 

Outstanding Use Case: Network and Service Automation 

Awarded to the company that uses new technology to reduce the time it takes to set up, deploy, integrate, scale or secure network infrastructure, network services or applications. This category can include uses of SD-WAN, SASE and SSE, if relevant.

Finalists

  • MYCOM OSI

  • Console Connect

  • Amdocs – with VodafoneZiggo

  • EnterpriseWeb

  • TransUnion

  • IBM – with BT Business

  • Federated Wireless – with California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly)

  • stc (Saudi Telecom Company)

Winner

stc (Saudi Telecom Company)

With assistance from BSS vendor ZIRA, stc wins for detailing its wholesale network upgrades, referred to as its trading and routing solution. These enhancements allow the operator to select preferred routes using customer-configurable algorithms. Traffic moves across its network as efficiently as possible, and the operator can set pricing based on SLAs and network conditions. The carrier said it can now "operate more efficiently" and "strengthen [its] position in the highly competitive industry."   

Most Innovative Cloud Product or Service 

Awarded to the service provider, cloud provider or vendor that has launched the most innovative cloud-native, communications-focused product or service during the past year.

Finalists

  • Witbe

  • Netcracker

  • Mavenir

  • A10 Networks

  • Juniper Networks

  • Rakuten Symphony

  • Amdocs

Winner

Juniper Networks

Juniper wins for its Paragon Automation-as-a-Service product, which lets technicians onboard network devices and automate every aspect of their usage. The cloud-based service also uses AI to help network operators make sense of network data and dramatically cut the service introduction time.

Fixed Telecom and Cable Infrastructure

Most Innovative Optical Networking Product 

Awarded to the optical systems vendor or optical components vendor that has provided the most innovative optical networking solution for service provider customers.

  • Fujitsu Network Communications

  • CommScope

  • Ciena

  • Marvell

  • Infinera

  • Nokia

  • Ribbon

  • Radisys

Winner

Fujitsu Network Communications

Fujitsu wins for the latest update to its 1FINITY Ultra Optical System. There are several excellent optical transport platform entries this year. Still, this one stands out for its ability to provide terabit speeds on a single wavelength and its transponder technology, which features a closed-loop liquid cooling system to keep energy costs in check. Our judges agree that the system is an innovative alternative for network operators, offering capacity, reach and energy metrics that hold up well in a competitive market. 

Most Innovative Routing and Switching Solution

Awarded to the vendor that has launched the most innovative hardware- or software-based routing and switching solution for network operators.

Finalists

  • Nokia

  • Cisco

  • Ciena

  • Arista

  • Juniper

  • KYRIO

  • Lumentum

  • DriveNets

  • Arrcus

  • Varnish Software

Winner

Ciena

Ciena's WaveRouter wins this category for combining flexible IP routing and coherent optical networking to allow service providers to add capacity as needed. "It marks the start of Ciena's real competition with industry-established Tier 1 routing and switching system vendors in the next five years," one of our judges noted.

Most Innovative Cable Network Technology

Awarded to the company that has developed innovative products or solutions that help network operators extend the life of their hybrid-fiber coaxial networks as they compete with or transition to all-fiber networks.

Finalists

  • Vecima Networks

  • ATX Networks

  • Technetix Group Ltd

  • OpenVault

Winner

Technetix Group Ltd

Technetix wins for its One Touch amplifiers that allow cable operators to realize more throughput, save power and reduce the cost of future upgrades. The focus on giving operators upgrade flexibility and the best possible spectrum efficiency caught our judges' attention and helped the European supplier edge out some other notable entries.

That's all, folks!

Congratulations to all our finalists, and again, thanks to everyone who entered the Leading Lights.

About the Author(s)

Phil Harvey

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading, Light Reading

Phil Harvey has been a Light Reading writer and editor for more than 18 years combined. He began his second tour as the site's chief editor in April 2020.

His interest in speed and scale means he often covers optical networking and the unsung technologies powering the modern Internet.

Harvey covered networking, Internet infrastructure and dot-com mania in the late 90s for Silicon Valley magazines like UPSIDE and Red Herring before joining Light Reading (for the first time) in late 2000. After moving to the Republic of Texas, Harvey spent eight years as a contributing tech writer for D CEO magazine, producing one-off columns about everything from supercomputing startups to nanotech discoveries.

Harvey is an avid photographer and camera collector, an art-forward spin on his proclivity to walk slowly, look up at tall buildings and wear bulky jackets with a confounding number of pockets.

Pierre Landriau

Video Producer and BBQ Expert, Light Reading

Pierre Landriau, a.k.a. "Le French Producer Extraordinaire," knows his way around B2B video marketing after working at three major UK publishing companies: Haymarket, UBM and now Informa. Pierre edits and produces all of Light Reading's podcasts, maintains that he's listed on IMBD, and claims he once wormed his way into MTV for a day or two.

Pierre is based in London and can be reached at [email protected].

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