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CL's Walker: Telecom Needs Cooperation Revamp

Carol Wilson
9/14/2016
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DENVER -- The telecom industry needs to revamp its business practices and internal processes to make it easier for network operators to buy and sell services and virtual objects to each other in an easier, standard fashion, CenturyLink's Bill Walker said here today. Telecom operators also need to be ready to partner with web-scale companies such as Amazon and Netflix, to improve content delivery.

"We need comomon APIs, common frameworks, common architectures to allow us as an industry to integrate for our customer's benefit," said Walker, who is director network/cloud architecture for CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL). He pointed to the Next Generation Enterprise Network Alliance (NGENA) as one way of tying together telecom operators more efficiently. NGENA is uniting CenturyLink with Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom and Reliance in an effort to create seamless interconnectivity for international services.

"NGENA is the first of many opportunities for the operators to work together, to have APIs [applications programming interfaces], and standardization of what we sell," he said. That should include network services, such as MPLS and Carrier Ethernet, but also virtual objects, he said.

"We can trade each other those network capabilities as an object, and I should let you sell more objects -- if someone is willing to pay me money to host something inside a virtual machine, why shouldn't we do it?" Walker commented. "It's like an IP exchange -- a telco exchange -- there is a cost but we'll exchange the things we need in a standard fashion."

The rich content that exists today -- think augmented reality such as Pokemon Go, 4K video and more -- is often seen more as an over-the-top threat than a potential opportunity in telecom. Walker sees it differently.

"I tell my [IT team] that next year or three years from now, I want to see 11 guys in West Monroe High School, which is by my house, and 11 guys from Sterlington High School across town -- they are big rivals -- to play Madden EA sports football, 11 on 11 live and never have the traffic leave the CO," he told a packed house. "I want to have no latency, I want none of the traffic going back to the Xbox network or the Playstation network. I think the community can benefit from having those resources and those capabilities down in the CO level, at the metro level, even in the regional level. That is the challenge I give people."

Being able to partner with an Amazon or Google or Xbox to host their content at the edge of the network and deliver it over a local connection with no latency becomes a value-added business proposition for CenturyLink, that is a cut above the commodity pipe, he said.

Walker also called on the telecom industry in general to tackle rules and regulations that were sacrosanct to the telephone industry but are standing in the way of today's more IT-based infrastructure, namely things like NEBs, or National Electric Board Safety standards. He admits to asking vendors for "NEBS boundaries" that would allow him to deploy non-NEBS compliant gear in the Central Office space bound by those safety standards.

"We are a slow-moving industry and while I appreciate NEBS, fire and safety, unions and standards bodies, we really need to rethink things," Walker said. "We need to work with the folks who do NEBS, labor unions and all about what we need from them in the future."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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