Etisalat goes big on OpenRAN with Parallel Wireless

Operator group Etisalat is trialing OpenRAN tech across its markets in Middle East, Asia and Africa in partnership with ORAN specialist Parallel Wireless.

One of the reasons for this sudden keenness on ORAN, which seeks to unbundle the components and software inside the radio access network with a view to making it cheaper and more flexible, is apparently the concept of ‘All G’. That refers the convergence of all generations of cellular technology onto a single software platform, which would both save cash and simplify network management.

“Today’s announcement is a global achievement setting a technological benchmark across our markets,” said Hatem Bamatraf, CTO of Etisalat International. “This is in line with our long-term strategy and vision of ‘Driving the Digital Future to empower societies’ that has translated to provide the best-in-class customer experience and deliver best value to our shareholders.

The global trials of OpenRAN with Parallel Wireless reiterate Etisalat’s commitment to our vision encouraging us to take the lead in OpenRAN by conducting field trials with various leading technology partners to create an innovative ecosystem in all of our markets. This is also the world’s first ‘All G’ OpenRAN set to provide efficiency and cost benefits for 4G and 5G in addition to setting a roadmap for the next generation of telecom networks.”

This looks like a significant win for Parallel, which is all-in on ORAN. Most of the telecoms industry (bar, maybe, the big RAN vendors) is keen on the concept of commoditising the RAN such that you can pick and choose your components and software. But we still seem to be some way from ORAN being able to support commercial mobile networks, so the key for companies like Parallel is to maintain momentum and interest while the technology evolves.

“As one of the leading communication providers in the emerging markets, Etisalat understands the true potential of greater leverage to their business, in both high end and low-end markets with a greater buying power by shaping the telecom ecosystem and embracing new network architectures, such as OpenRAN,” said Amrit Heer, Sales Director, MENA at Parallel Wireless.

“We are proud to have partnered with Etisalat for these engagements to deliver coverage and capacity without making extensive capital investments associated with legacy network deployments. We are proud to have been selected to support Etisalat in reimagining wireless infrastructure to be much lower cost ensuring access to innovative digital services in the region.”

ORAN is one to keep an eye on in the coming months and years. It represents a significant threat to the business models of the big RAN vendors, who sell ‘closed’ RAN solutions that require you to go all-in with them. At the very least the prospect of ORAN is a useful stick for operators to beat their vendor partners down on price with and we had expected it to be a major talking point at MWC 2020.

Etisalat launches Open vRAN network and promises more

Etisalat has said it has successfully launched what it describes as the first Open Virtual Radio Access Network (Open vRAN) in the Middle-East and Africa.

In collaboration with Altiostar, NEC and Cisco, amongst others, Etisalat has launched the network allowing it to incorporate commercial off the shelf (COTS) hardware from third parties, in an attempt to reduce time to market and cost for its network deployment.

“Keeping in line with Etisalat’s strategy of ‘Driving the digital future to empower societies’, deploying the Open vRAN is vital in enabling digital transformation aimed at increasing efficiencies and the utilisation of AI,” said Saeed Al Zarouni, SVP, Mobile Network at Etisalat.

“Today’s announcement is aligned with UAE’s objectives of achieving digital transformation with the deployment of best-in-class technologies. Etisalat now plans to roll out Open vRAN across the UAE to take full advantage of all the benefits that this new technology offers.”

Etisalat currently uses Ericsson and Huawei as traditional suppliers, though these contracts could be diluted if the telco makes good on its promise to push Open vRAN throughout its network.

The purpose of Open vRAN is relatively straight forward. The initiative, first launched by Cisco at Mobile World Congress 2018, aims to build an open and modular architecture, General Purpose Processing Platforms (GPPP) and disaggregated software. It is a challenge to the network infrastructure status quo, with Open vRAN being billed as cheaper and more time-efficient thanks to the freedom to purchase equipment from wherever and whoever.

Although there are several high-profile initiatives currently gathering steam, Vodafone, MTN and Sprint are three examples, perhaps the most interesting is in Japan.

Over the course of the summer, Rakuten and NEC announced a partnership to deploy what was described as the world’s first 5G open vRAN architecture. Rakuten is in a very interesting position, as thanks to it being an entirely new MNO in the Japanese market, network deployment plans are not burdened by the heavy weight of legacy.

While few telcos have the same opportunity to develop a greenfield network in the same way as Rakuten, the Open vRAN ripples do appear to be gathering momentum.

Etisalat, Singtel, SoftBank and Telefónica become security superheroes

Etisalat, Singtel, SoftBank and Telefónica have teamed up to form the Global Cyber Security Alliance, patrolling the shadowy information highway to protect innocent punters from the evils of Malwareman and Dastardly DDoS.

By pooling resources the new crime-fighting cohorts hope to address one of the biggest challenges in the industry; underinvestment and underappreciation. The new alliance will have more than 1.2 billion customers in 60 countries, 20 Security Operation Centres and more than 6,000 security professionals. Crime won’t stand a chance.

Security is one of those topics which constantly gets mentioned, though prioritization seems to be an issue. This is true for both buyers and sellers, as there are simply more interesting revenue generating or efficiency increasing areas which attract the attention. Looking at it purely from a commercial perspective, security won’t make positive impacts on the accountants spreadsheets therefore is not considered a priority. Some might call this a cynical view on the industry, but we think it is simply realistic.

Pop Art Style Typography“With digital technologies gaining widespread adoption and driving innovation across industry verticals, the security landscape has evolved. Organizations now face a new breed of threats and need to manage digital risks in their environments. Today’s strategic alliance will give us a unique opportunity to work hand in hand with our telecom counterparts and deliver innovative security services for digital risk management.”

Francisco Salcedo, SVP at Etisalat Digital

Comic page template“We need swift and coordinated global responses to defend enterprises that operate across transnational borders as cyber threats are increasing in frequency, scale and sophistication. Singtel and its US-based subsidiary Trustwave are both well-established security leaders across the Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas. The group’s resources, combined with those of its alliance partners, will provide a robust cyber security platform to protect our global customers, allowing them to thrive in the digital economy.”

Art Wong, CEO of Global Cyber Security at Singtel

Pow comic book bubble text retro style“Hackers have well-established and organized communities where they cooperate to produce cyber threats – it’s time that the world’s largest network of operators formed a global alliance to strengthen our defence against these attacks. SoftBank is excited to join the initial alliance partners including Singtel, Telefonica and Etisalat, to offer enhanced security to our customers and advance our cyber defence.”

Andrew Schwabecher, Head of the Cloud & Cyber Security Division at SoftBank

Comic colorful page concept“The Security Alliance will help all its members to deliver disruptive innovation to secure our customers’ digital lives. For Telefónica, it’s a major step ahead in complementing our ability to develop as an intelligent Managed Security Service Provider and to continue to deliver outstanding growth.”

Pedro Pablo Pérez, VP Security at Telefónica and CEO of Telefonica’s cybersecurity unit ElevenPaths

One of the big problems facing security is the complexity of the task. Hackers and nefarious actors are becoming increasingly complex, with new types of threats emerging every single day. This is where such an alliance, with an incredibly large pool of customers becomes an interesting idea. If a new threat is detected on one customers network, it can be identified and nullified, before the insight is passed through the rest of the alliance. Scale and the sharing of insight allows new threats to be minimized.

The attitude towards security is perhaps the biggest challenge organizations are facing today. Most companies will try to keep any breaches or hacks as quiet as possible, however this means the threat is still potent. Should there be greater transparency when an attack has occurred, security parameters can be adapted to ensure potential vulnerabilities are addressed. While this idea of transparency might be unrealistic in a world which is dictated by share price, the alliance means knowledge can be disseminated without executives worrying about huge backlash in the public domain.

Cyber criminals beware, your days are numbered as the wheezy crime fighting alliance of telcos is on your tail, just let them finish this round of Dungeons and Dragons.