Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Vodafone and LG UPlus partner to address South Korea market

Vodafone and LG UPlus have jointly announced a new partner market agreement covering South Korea, marking the first strategic partnership by LG Uplus with a global telecoms company.

Under the new partnership, which commenced in April 2017, Vodafone will leverage its global reach and expertise to support the consumer and enterprise operations of LG Uplus in South Korea. As part of the agreement, Vodafone will share best practices with LG Uplus across all areas of its business, including network strategy and development, with the aim of helping LG Uplus to improve its customer base management capabilities.

Vodafone and LG Uplus will additionally cooperate to enable the delivery of unified communications and enterprise services to multinational companies with a presence in South Korea and internationally.

LG Uplus is focused on providing services comprising mobile, B2B solutions and TPS (triple play service, with broadband, VoIP and IPTV), and at the end of the first quarter of 2017 served approximately 12.6 million mobile subscribers and 3.67 million broadband customers.

Vodafone Group is a global telco with mobile operations in 26 countries, partners with mobile networks in a further 49 countries and fixed broadband operations in 17 markets. At the end of March, Vodafone Group had 515.7 million mobile customers and 17.9 million fixed broadband customers, including India and all of the customers for its joint ventures and associate companies.

In April this year, Vodafone and Proximus of Belgium the renewal of their strategic partnership covering Belgium and Luxembourg for a further five years, building on a relationship that began in 2003. The agreement is designed to enable the companies to offer joint products and services across their networks for consumer and enterprise customers.

Windstream moves swiftly into agile network services

Windstream is a publicly traded telecommunications operator based in Little Rock, Arkansas that has not hesitated to move faster than its industry peers in executing transformative business strategies or in adopting cutting-edge networking technologies. The company has just launched a service called SDNow Waves for data centre cloud applications. While many rivals are rushing to address the pressing need for big-pipe data centre interconnects, Windstream's new service pushed the concept further with SDN controls over an agile optical transport layer. Mike Shippey, president of Windstream Wholesale, puts it this way:

-    "We are investing in strategic technologies that enable us to deliver flexible, on-demand services across our multi-vendor network… providing SDNow services to our customers via multi-vendor service orchestration and automated provisioning truly differentiates Windstream in the marketplace".

Windstream background

Windstream Communications was formed in 2006 when Alltell spun out its local wireline phone business and merged it with VALOR Communications Group. The deal, which was valued at $9.1 billion at the time, created a major wireline operator focused on the rural U.S. market with approximately 3.4 million access lines in 16 states and about $3.4 billion in annual revenues in 2006. Windstream then went on a buying spree. Acquisitions included CT Communications on North Carolina for $585 million, D&E Communications of Pennsylvania for $330 million, Iowa Telecom for $1.1 billion, Q-Comm of Kentucky for $782 million, Hosted Solutions of North Carolina for $310 million, and PAETEC of New York for $2.3 billion.

In November 2016, Windstream announced plans to acquire Earthlink for $1.1 billion. The merger creates an extensive national footprint spanning approximately 145,000 fibre route miles and provide advanced network connectivity, managed services, voice, internet and other value-added services. The deal brings together Windstream's scale in the enterprise segment and EarthLink's newly-launched SD-WAN service. Upon closing of the transaction, Windstream shareholders represented approximately 51% and EarthLink shareholders represented. approximately 49% of the combined company. Earthlink was founded in 1994 and was based in Atlanta, Georgia.

In April 2017, Windstream announced plans to acquire Broadview Networks for $227 million. Broadview operates a regional MPLS backbone serving small and medium-sized businesses in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states.

The REIT Spin-off

In August 2015, Windstream completed a tax-free spin-off of select telecommunications network assets into a new company, Communications Sales and Leasing (CSAL), an independent publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT). This network operations business leases back the physical assets to Windstream through a long-term triple-net exclusive lease with an initial estimated rent payment of $650 million per year. In addition, at the time of the REIT transactions Windstream also announced the near completion of a one-for-six reverse stock split of Windstream's shares. Also, Windstream repaid debt in an aggregate amount equal to $2.4 billion under its outstanding credit agreement.

Recent business highlights

For Q1 2017, Windstream reported total revenue of $1.515 billion, a decline of 7% compared to $1.632 billion a year earlier. The ILEC and Consumer business declined to $391 million from $397 million a year earlier. The Wholesale division business declined $178 million from $196 million a year earlier, the Enterprise division declined to $578 million from $594 million a year earlier, and the CLEC Consumer and SMB division declined to $198 million from $241 million a year earlier. During 2016, consumer households declined 6.3%.

To combat these trends, Windstream has been focused on expanding its network capabilities by adding metro fibre extensions (Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Little Rock and St. Louis) and especially be adding new capabilities via software. This includes a new SD-WAN and the new SDNow Waves launch. For consumers in its ILEC business, Windstream is working to bump up Internet access speeds by expanding the number of markets where it can deliver gigabit service.

More on the SDNow Waves service

Windstream's new SDNow Waves introduces optical wave services based on multi-vendor service orchestration and automated provisioning across the Windstream long-haul core network. It is initially available at five major third-party carrier neutral data centres in Chicago, Dallas, Ashburn, Miami and Atlanta. Windstream plans to expand the service to 50 additional locations this summer. The service is aimed at hyperscale web content and application companies in need of high capacity long-haul transport services. While the company's service launch release does not explicitly state how the multi-vendor provisioning works, below is what has previously been disclosed about the Windstream SDN strategy.

First, Windstream currently offers regional, metro and long-haul optical wavelength services at speeds ranging from 1 to 100 Gbit/s in targeted cities across the U.S. within the Windstream service area. The network reaches enterprise customers, carrier hotels, data centres and POPs with over 60,000 route combinations.

Second, Windstream has been using Infinera's DTN-X platform, featuring 500 Gbit/s super-channels, across its long-haul express network since 2014. In April 2015, Infinera announced an expanded rollout of the Windstream 100 Gbit/s long-haul express network to additional markets across the U.S.  In August 2016, Infinera cited Windstream as a test site for its new Xceed Software Suite (Xceed), which allows service providers to extend SDN automation to Infinera’s end-to-end Intelligent Transport Network portfolio, spanning long-haul, metro and data centre interconnect applications.

Thirdly, in October 2016 Ciena announced that its Blue Planet orchestration software had been selected by Windstream to automate the delivery of managed wavelength services across its multi-vendor optical network. The idea here was to utilise the optical network as a programmable resource to speed the delivery of managed 1, 10 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet wavelength services.

Another significant aspect to Windstream's SDNow Waves announcement is that it takes the carrier another step further down the road to DevOps, removing human touch-points in the service fulfilment process. Windstream says this will bring a better customer experience with improved accuracy through automated standard configurations.

The SD-WAN and Diverse Connect Services

In April, Windstream launched an all-new SD-WAN solution for the reseller community. The service, powered by VeloCloud, uses SDN to dynamically route traffic over a combination of private and public access types to reach multiple locations. The goal is to help customers maintain control over their network from a convenient centralised location rather than requiring them to manage various routers, firewalls and switches. It also simplifies management and monitoring by presenting comprehensive information to the customer in a unified management console a 'single pane of glass'.

Windstream's Wholesale portfolio also includes MEF 2.0 certified Carrier Ethernet, MPLS and Dedicated Internet Access. Also in April, Windstream announced the availability of a new business continuity service designed to ensure reliable connectivity for enterprises that rely on the cloud to support mission-critical applications. Windstream said this new Diverse Connect service helps to keep a customer's network endpoints connected while ensuring the performance of business functions including in the event of a major network issue. Diverse Connect is offered with a 99.999% (5-9s) uptime SLA that covers services from end-to-end, including over the last mile from Windstream's provider service point to the business' internal network.

XKL enables connectivity to DWDM with eVolocity platform

XKL based in Kirkland, Washington, a provider of fibre optic networking systems, announced the expansion of its eVolocity platform via the addition of features that enable connectivity to DWDM networks and lit service handoffs across the same interface, thereby allowing customers to connect physically separate private DWDM networks on a single platform.

XKL noted that the ability to light dark fibre and interface to lit services, including subsea, terrestrial and aerial systems, with a single, integrated platform can enable customers to create more flexible networks.

The XKL eVolocity platform can also serve as a media converter for aggregating 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports for transport over 100 Gbit/s DWDM wavelengths and on LAN-PHY interfaces. In addition, the platform is able to support statistical multiplexing at OSI Layer 1 to enable customers to aggregate more client-side interfaces than the standard 10 x 10 Gigabit Ethernet solutions.

The compact, 1 or 2 RU eVolocity platform additionally offers low power consumption and is designed to further reduce cost of ownership through allowing IT professionals to integrate and operate the system within their networks without the need for optical engineering expertise.

Recently, XKL launched its DarkStar Mux/Demux-Amplifier (DMD-A) optical utility appliance, offering features designed to enable increased network flexibility and manageability. The DMD-A appliance supports a range of filter options including 48- or 96-channel mux/demux and 4- or 6-band combiner filter, and enables point-to-point or east/west configurations. It also provides support for up to four EDFAs and one Raman amplifier, along with dispersion compensation and an integrated optical switch for path protection.

Earlier in the year, XKL introduced its FlexArc solution, designed to enable flexible provisioning and scaling via increased control at Layer 1 and new inline amplifier products for the DarkStar family, as well as the DQT10 transponder with ROADM, extending the DQM10 family of DWDM appliances via support for up to 96 channels and alien wave injection.

TELUS to invest C$4.2nn to upgrade network in Alberta

Canadian operator TELUS announced that it plans to invest C$4.2 billion in new communications infrastructure in Alberta over the period to 2020, including over C$900 million in 2017.

The network expansion program will include extending TELUS' gigabit-enabled PureFibre network directly to thousands more homes and businesses in rural and urban communities across the province, enhancing 4G LTE wireless service and continuing work to develop and test next-generation 5G wireless service, as well as improving support for key sectors such as healthcare and education.

TELUS noted that it recently launched a program to support vulnerable populations in Alberta with the introduction of broadband Internet service for low-income single-parent families receiving income or disability assistance from the provincial government for less than C$10 per month.

The TELUS investment in Alberta forms part of the company's national program to upgrade its network infrastructure. When announcing its financial results for the first quarter, TELUS stated it had invested C$724 billion in its networks in the first quarter and updated its consolidated financial targets for 2017, including revenue and EBITDA following closing of the agreement with Bell under which approximately 100,000 Bell MTS postpaid wireless customers and 15 dealer locations were acquired by TELUS.

In particular, TELUS raised its consolidated capex target to reflect the ongoing fibre network rollout and to support increased wireless network investments in Manitoba, as well as for its small-cell technology strategy designed to improve coverage and prepare for the introduction of 5G technology. TELUS now plans capex of approximately C$3.0 billion, up from the previous C$2.9 billion in 2017.

TELUS also announced it had reached a milestone ahead of Canada's 150th birthday, specifically that by the end of the year the company would have invested over C$150 billion in capital and operations to build and support network infrastructure across the country since 2000.

TELUS generates around C$12.9 billion in annual revenue and has 12.7 million subscriber connections, including 8.6 million wireless subscribers, 1.7 million high-speed Internet subscribers, 1.4 million residential network access lines and 1.1 million TELUS TV customers.

Telstra acquires UK-based Company85

Australian incumbent telco Telstra announced that it has acquired Company85, a UK-based technology services business headquartered in London that offers data centre, workspace, cloud, security and network services.

Established in 2010 and based in London, Company85 has approximately 75 employees and focuses on providing services to major UK-based business and government customers including the BBC, NHS, Royal Mail and London City Airport, as well as multinational corporations including AstraZeneca, J.P. Morgan and Roche.

Company85 CEO Adrian Spink stated that the combination of Telstra's network and global reach and Company85’s technical capabilities and established relationships with CIOs and chief information security officers at large organisations was expected to create significant growth opportunities.

The acquisition aligns with Telstra's strategy of expanding its technology services business internationally, and is expected to significantly enhance the company's service offering for UK and European-based businesses and government sector customers.

Company85 originally operated under the Company-I name as a specialist data centre consultancy. The company became the UK and EMEA consulting arm of Symantec Global Services before a management buyout and in 2013 acquired XOR, a specialist provider of workspace and channel services. In 2015 it acquired DVS Channel Services, providing consulting for data, voice and security services.

Sixbell selects Metaswitch for network transformation in Latin America

Metaswitch, a provider of cloud-native communications software, has announced a partnership with Sixbell, a regional telecommunications systems developer and integrator, through which the two companies will work together with service providers across Latin America to enable network transformation and deliver advanced applications and services.

Under the agreement, Metaswitch and Sixbell will focus on helping service providers in the region to implement new, advanced services including voice over LTE (VoLTE), voice over WiFi (VoWiFi), unified communications and collaboration, (UC&C) and cloud-based messaging. The partnership encompasses Metaswitch full range of applications and network software and targets fixed and mobile operators.

Sixbell is an established systems integrator with extensive experience through supporting major network operators in Latin America as they develop and launch new services and upgrade their networks. The company has local operations throughout Latin America, including in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Chile. The company serves customers including major telcos and large corporations and organisations throughout the region.

In the Latin America region, Metaswitch also works with partners including ATS, BVS Technology Solutions, Codecom, Cesa, Grupo Union, IP-Net, Iquall Networks, MTM Telecom and Switch.

Regarding the agreement, Pablo Pumarino, CEO at Sixbell. Said, "Network operators in Latin America are seeking new services for their consumer and business customers, and many carriers are eager to add VoLTE and unified communications to their offerings leveraging… virtualisation… the partnership with Metaswitch allows Sixbell to pursue new opportunities with its portfolio of cloud native software products and solutions".

ZTE expands partnership with Telenet of Belgium to cover 5G and IoT

ZTE announced that it has signed a strategic partnership agreement covering 5G and IoT technology with Telenet based in Belgium, a national provider of media and communications services, expanding the two companies' collaboration on next-generation technologies.

Telenet is the largest cable broadband service provider in Belgium, offering a range of digital television, fixed and mobile services to residential and business customers across Belgium and Luxembourg.

ZTE noted that in August last year, Telenet selected it to upgrade its national mobile network via the deployment of its Uni-RAN technology. The network modernisation enabled significant improvements in performance and service quality for Telenet subscribers, as well as enhanced management capabilities.

As part of the mobile network upgrade, ZTE helped Telenet replace 2G base stations and optimise 3G and 4G coverage to provide increased network capacity and improve service quality for subscribers, as well as prepare for the migration to future network technologies.

Working with ZTE, Telenet is also exploring technology for IoT services and high capacity solutions using LTE massive MIMO and LTE broadcast solutions.

  • Previously, in December 2016 ZTE and Telenet announced they had completed an outfield Pre5G test. Telenet claimed that it had become the first operator in Europe to achieve 1.3 Gbit/s download speed in live network condition. The Pre5G demonstration also constituted part of Telenet's effort towards the roll-out of 5G technology.
  • The Pre5G demonstration involved the use of four commercial spectrum bands, combined with Pre5G key technologies including massive carrier aggregation, 4 x 4 MIMO and 256QAM and achieved a data rate of 1.3 Gbit/s in real-world conditions.
  • In partnership with ZTE, Telenet stated that during 2017 it planned to deploy Pre5G solutions in urban areas across its service area, as well as for a number of large-scale events, such as Tomorrowland.

ViaWest offers access to NCP U.S.-Asia cable at Oregon data centre

ViaWest, a provider of hybrid IT solutions offering cloud, network, colocation services and security solutions and a subsidiary of Shaw Communications, announced that it to begin offering access to the New Cross Pacific (NCP) subsea cable, which is claimed to be the fastest low-latency, optical cable between the U.S. and Asia.

Directly terminating in ViaWest's Brookwood data centre in Hillsboro, Oregon, the high capacity subsea cable is designed to significantly reduce the latency between the U.S. and Asia, delivering up to 80 Tbit/s capacity between the Northwestern U.S. and East Asia to help improve access to the region that encompasses China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

The 13,000 km NCP cable is intended to enable new bandwidth-intensive services between the U.S. and Asia that businesses increasingly demand. The cable system is owned by a consortium of seven companies, including a large, unnamed U.S.-based company and six Asian telecom providers, namely Chunghwa Telecom, KT of Korea, China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom.

With the U.S. connection point terminating at the ViaWest Brookwood data centre, the cable will utilise the latest optical amplifier technology to deliver high performance and reliability for the transmission of multiple wavelength channels on multiple fibre pairs to mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

The ViaWest Brookwood facility offers over 140,000 sq feet of capacity for colocation, cloud computing and other data centre services and supports private, public and hybrid cloud solutions, including a dedicated cloud node in the Brookwood facility, as well providing managed bandwidth network services. ViaWest operates 30 North American data centres and multiple cloud nodes.
* In late 2016, ViaWest announced an agreement providing connectivity to the optical cables terminating at its Hillsboro data centres with CoastCom, a fibre based service provider on the Oregon Coast and a division of Wave Broadband. The agreement provided ViaWest with shared network access pathways with other Hillsboro-area data centres.

ViaWest noted at the time that CoastCom was operating a submarine cable landing station in Pacific City, and was the owner and operator of redundant path diverse terrestrial fibre backhaul routes to Hillsboro, and had built a fibre ring connecting six data centres in the Hillsboro area to the fibre network.

* In May 2015, TE SubCom announced that it had commenced construction of the NCP cable system with consortium members China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Chunghwa Telecom, KT, Microsoft, SoftBank Mobile. In January 2017, it was reported that the FCC had granted the cable landing license for the New Pacific Cross (NCP) submarine cable system.