Friday, May 5, 2017

Facebook's march to augmented reality

The big theme coming out of Facebook's recent F8 Developer Conference in San Jose, California was augmented reality (AR). Mark Zuckerberg told the audience that the human desire for community has been weakened over time and believes that social media could play a role in strengthening these ties.

Augmented reality begins as an add-on to Facebook Stories, its answer to Snapchat. Users simply take a photo and then use the app to place an overlay on top of the image, such as a silly hat, fake moustache, while funky filters keep the users engaged and help them create a unique image. Over time, the filter suggestions become increasingly smart, adapting to the content in the photo - think of a perfect frame if the photo is of the Eiffel Tower. The idea is to make the messaging more fun. In addition, geo-location data might be carried to the FB data centre to enhance the intelligence of the application, but most of the processing can happen on the device.

Many observers saw Facebook's demos as simply a needed response to Snapchat. However, Facebook is serious about pushing this concept far beyond cute visual effects for photos and video. AR and VR are key principles for what Facebook believes is the future of communications and community building.

As a thought experiment, one can consider some of the networking implications of real-time AR. In the Facebook demonstration, a user turns on the video chat application on their smartphone. While the application parameters of this demonstration are not known, the latest smartphones can record in 4K at 30 frames per second, and will soon be even sharper and faster. Apple's Facetime requires about 1 Mbit/s for HD resolution and this has been common for several years (video at 720p and 30 fps). AR certainly will benefit from high resolution, so one can estimate the video stream leaves the smart phone on a 4 Mbit/s link (this guestimate is on the low end). The website calculates a minimum of 5 Mbit/s upstream bandwidth for launching a video stream with high to medium resolution. LTE-Advanced networks are capable of delivering 4 Mbit/s upstream, with plenty of headroom, and WiFi networks are even better.

To identify people, places and things in the video, Facebook will have to perform sophisticated graphical processing with machine learning. Currently this cannot be done locally by the app on the smartphone and so will need to be done at a Facebook data centre. So the 4 Mbit/s stream will have to leave the carrier network and be routed to the nearest Facebook data centre.

It is known from previous Open Compute Project (OCP) announcements that Facebook is building its own AI-ready compute clusters. The first design, called Big Sur, is an Open Rack-compatible chassis that incorporates eight high-performance GPUs of up to 300 watts each, with the flexibility to configure between multiple PCI-e topologies. It uses NVIDIA's Tesla accelerated computing platform. This design was announced in late 2015 and subsequently deployed in Facebook data centres to support its early work in AI. In March, Facebook unveiled Big Basin, its next-gen GPU server capable of machine learning models that are 30% bigger than those handled on Big Sur using greater arithmetic throughput and a memory increase from 12 to 16 Gbytes. The new chassis also allows for disaggregation of CPU compute from the GPUs, something that Facebook calls JBOG (just a bunch of GPUs), which should bring the benefits of virtualisation when many streams need to be processed simultaneously. The engineering has anticipated that increased PCIe bandwidth will be needed between the GPUs and the CPU head nodes, hence a new Tioga Pass server platform was also necessitated.

The Tioga Pass server features a dual-socket motherboard, with DIMMs on both PCB sides for maximum memory configuration. The PCIe slot has been upgraded from x24 to x32, which allows for two x16 slots, or one x16 slot and two x8 slots, to make the server more flexible as the head node for the Big Basin JBOG. This new hardware will need to be deployed at scale in Facebook data centres. Therefore, one can envision that the video stream originates at 4 Mbit/s and travels from the user's smartphone and is routed via the mobile operator to the nearest Facebook data centre.

Machine learning processes running on the GPU servers perform what Facebook terms Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM). The AI essentially identifies the three-dimensional space of the video and the objects or people within it. The demo showed a number of 3D effects being applied to video stream, such as lighting/shading, placement of other objects or text. Once this processing has been completed, the output stream must continue to its destination, the other participants on the video call. Maybe further encoding has compressed the stream, but still Facebook will have to be burning some amount of outbound bandwidth to hand the video stream over to another mobile operator for delivery via IP to the app on the recipient's smartphone. Most likely, the recipient(s) of the call will have their video cameras turned on and these streams will also need the same AR processing in the reverse direction. Therefore, we can foresee see a two-way AR video call burning tens of mgeabits of WAN capacity to/from the Facebook data centre.

The question of scalability

Facebook does not charge users for accessing any of its services, which generally roll out across the entire platform at one go or in a rapid series of upgrade steps. Furthermore, Facebook often reminds us that it is now serving a billion users worldwide. So clearly, it must be thinking about AR on a massive scale. When Facebook first began serving videos from its own servers, the scalability question was also raised, but this test was passed successfully thanks to the power of caching and CDNs. When Facebook Live began rolling, it also seemed like a stretch that it could work at global scale. Yet now there are very successful Facebook video services.

Mobile operators should be able to handle large numbers of Facebook users engaging in 4 Mbit/s upstream connections, but each of those 4 Mbit/s streams will have to make a visit to the FB data centre for processing. Fifty users will burn 200 Mbit/s of inbound capacity to the data centre, 500 users will eat up 2 Gbit/s of bandwidth, 5,000 20 Gbit/s and 50,000 200 Gbit/s. For mobile operators, if AR chats prove to be popular lots of traffic will be moving in and out of Facebook data centres, and one could easily envision a big carrier like Verizon or Sprint having more than 500,000 simultaneous users on Facebook AR. So this would present a challenge if 10 million users decide to try this out on a Sunday evening. That would demand a lot of bandwidth that network engineers would have to find a way to support. Another point is that, from experience with other chat applications, people are no longer accustomed to economising in terms of length of the call or number of participants. One can expect many users to kick-off a Facebook AR call with friends on another continent and keep the stream opened for hours.

Of course, there could be clever compression algorithms in play so that the 4 Mbit/s at each end of the connection could be reduced, while if the participants do not move from where they are calling and nothing changes in the background, perhaps the AR can snooze, reducing the amount of processing needed and the bandwidth load. In addition, perhaps some of the AR processing can be done on next gen smartphones. However, the opposite could also be true, where AR performance is enhanced by using 4K, multiple cameras per user are used on the handset for better depth perception, and the video runs at 60 fps or faster.

Augmented reality is so new that it is not yet known whether it will take off quickly or be dismissed as a fad. Maybe it will only make sense in narrow applications. In addition, by the time AR calling is ready for mass deployment, Facebook will have more data centres in operation with a lot more DWDM to provide its massive optical transport – for example the MAREA submarine cable across the Atlantic Ocean between Virginia and Spain, which Facebook announced last year in partnership with Microsoft. The MAREA cable, which will be managed by Telxius, Telefónica’s new infrastructure company, will feature eight fibre pairs and an initial estimated design capacity of 160 Tbit/s. So what will fill all that bandwidth? Perhaps AR video calls, but the question then is, will metro and regional networks be ready?

Big shifts in the U.S. mobile market – Part 1

It has been a very eventful start to the year for U.S. mobile operators. As the first quarter financials reports have rolled in over the past two weeks, it is clear the two top tier players, AT&T and Verizon, are increasingly under pressure from the No.3 and No.4 contenders, Sprint and T-Mobile US. All four operators offer virtually the same set of services, delivered to same handsets with roughly equivalent levels of performance in most places. So it is no wonder the battle is now primarily about price.

After years of rather stagnant market positions and services, suddenly a lot is happening in the U.S. mobile market. While there have not yet been any moves this year to consolidate four players to three, nor a full commitment from a cloud company (such as AWS, Google or Microsoft) to enter and lead in wireless, the 2017 battlefield differs from 2016 in the following respects:

·         The move to 'unlimited' data plans.

·         A new regulatory climate and the pending super merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

·         A quickly shifting spectrum map.

·         The FirstNet emergency responder network project finally ready to move ahead.

·         5G trials, setting the stage for the first commercial rollouts starts to take shape.

·         Carriers actively deploying virtualised network architectures, setting the stage for new services.

One could also add the rollout LTE-M to support the first significant wave of connected things to the list, but that is a topic on its own.

The move to unlimited data plans

With reports of mounting subscriber losses to T-Mobile and Sprint, on February 12th Verizon unveiled an Unlimited mobile data plan for smartphones and tablets on its LTE network (the plan also covers HD video streaming, Mobile Hotspot, calling and texting to Mexico and Canada and up to 500 Mbytes/day of 4G LTE roaming in Mexico and Canada, but subscribers may encounter throttling after 22 Gbytes of data usage on a line during any billing cycle). A day after Verizon announced its re-entry into unlimited mobile data plans, T-Mobile responded the addition of HD video and 10 Gbytes high-speed Mobile Hotspot data to its T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan. T-Mobile also introduced a new offer of two lines on T-Mobile ONE for $100.

In turn, this was quickly followed by AT&T, which begin offering a post-paid, unlimited mobile plan to consumers and business customers without requiring a DirecTV subscription. Under pressure from Steve Jobs, AT&T famously offered an unlimited data plan for the original iPhone, but in later years moved to tiered service. On the same day, Sprint fired back with a price cut that it says makes its service 50% cheaper than AT&T or Verizon. Sprint has been advertising heavily that its network quality/performance is 'within 1%' of the industry leader. The Sprint unlimited plan offers four lines for $22.50 each, with HD-quality video, 10 Gbytes mobile hotspot per line and an iPhone 7 lease included.

While the 'unlimited' data plans do not make sense for all customers, they do point to a future market that is quite familiar. Over time, telecom carriers have been forced to drop per-minute charges for voice calling, then for long-distance voice calling, and then for SMS. Some of this can be attributed to over-the-top services like Skype and Messenger, but there is also the case that the overall carrying capacity of the network has increased so much that this is really no incremental burden for carrying an additional text message. There is plenty of bandwidth available for these applications and the cost of billing for each transaction may not be worth while - retaining customers is a higher priority than high granularity billing. So it seems we are moving toward a market where mobile bandwidth consumption for the majority of subscribers will be 'unlimited', even if throttling occurs on some applications during peak hours or busy locations.

New regulatory climate puts media partnerships in play

The arrival of the Trump administration was certain to bring changes to the FCC. This came quickly with the nomination and subsequent confirmation of Ajit Pai as chairman of the FCC. Within 2 weeks, the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau ended its investigation into wireless carriers' free data offerings. The special video bundles, which Pai noted to be popular with consumers, enable smartphone customers to view select content without consuming data allowances on their mobile plans. Net neutrality was concerned that such offerings meant that the preferential treatment of some content would place other content providers at a competitive disadvantage. Mobile operators need not worry about FCC oversight here anymore.

With the move to 'unlimited' data plans, mobile operators will be incentivised to cache preferred content as close to the subscriber as possible. AT&T’s DirecTV content partnerships could prove valuable here, while its pending acquisition of Time Warner, announced in October 2016 at a whopping transaction value of $108 billion, could be a game changer. Time Warner, formed in 1990 through the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications, encompasses several premium media properties including HBO, New Line Cinema, Turner Broadcasting System, The CW Television Network, Warner Bros., CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Adult Swim, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Animation, Castle Rock Entertainment, Cartoon Network Studios, Esporte Interativo, Hanna-Barbera Productions and Interactive Entertainment. It also owns 10% of Hulu.

Two other big regulatory events in Q1 made this the most Significant quarter at the FCC in years: the FCC’s Broadcast Incentive Auction (see below) and Ajit Pai’s decision to reverse the Title II Net Neutrality rules adopted in 2015. Pai described the Title II rules as a 'regulatory mistake' that slowed down telecom infrastructure spending in the U.S. by 5.6% percent, or $3.6 billion, between 2014 and 2016 for just the top 12 Internet service providers.

One of the key Net Neutrality principles was 'no paid prioritisation' for favoured content. With this out of the way, the regulatory environment would also tend to favour operators with media partnerships. No wonder Verizon's CEO Lowell McAdams was quoted in April as saying the company was open to the possibility of transformative transactions. Perhaps there will be other Time Warner-scale deals coming to the fore. However, one should not take it for granted that these mega mergers will clear all regulatory environments even under the Trump administration. The issue could easily get ensnared in Trump's personal war against the media and 'fake news' companies.

There is a counter argument to the idea that paid prioritisation will rule the market. The impact of the cloud company has not yet been fully felt. Clearly, content and applications are consolidating to the big clouds, each of which is highly motivated to ensure the best possible performance. AWS, for instance, runs its CloudFront content delivery network (CDN), which accelerates websites and video content. CloudFront currently has 85 locations, including 74 PoPs, and a long list of top-tier customers and brands. Even if a carrier such as AT&T develops a special set of HBO videos for its customers under a zero-rating plan, it would still have the business motivation to ensure excellent connections with the AWS PoPs.

Part 2 of this article will look at additional forces reshaping the U.S. mobile industry, including the $10 billion broadcast spectrum auction, the big FirstNet project, early moves in 5G, the shift to network virtualisation, and other trends.

IDC reports China smarphone sales up 1%

According to market research firm IDC in its latest Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, 104.1 million smartphones were shipped to China in the first quarter of 2017, up 1% year on year, with the low growth in part due to the high inventory levels from the previous quarter.

IDC notes that the first quarter was also relatively quiet in terms of new products, with few launches aside from Huawei's new P10, P10 Plus and Honor V9, which combined with strong momentum for its Honor brand meant that Huawei reclaimed the top position by market share from OPPO.

The research firm finds that the top five smartphone companies have a dominant 70% share of the market, and predicts that this overall share will continue to increase, together with consolidation amongst the smaller companies, during the year. IDC does not expect any new smartphone companies to have a significant effect on the Chinese market.

In terms of vendor market share, for the first quarter IDC reports that Huawei led the China market with unit sales of 20.8 million and a share of 20.0%, up from 16.8% in the prior fourth quarter. OPPO was the second ranked supplier with sales of 18.9 million units and a share of 18.2%, up from 18.1% in the fourth quarter. The third placed vendor was vivo, with sales of 14.6 million units and a 14.1% share, down from 16.0% in the prior quarter.

The fifth ranked vendor was Apple with sales of 9.6 million units and a share of 9.2%, versus 11.0% in the fourth quarter, and Xiaomi was sixth with sales of 9.3 million units and a market share of 9.0%, compared with 7.4% in the prior quarter.

IDC notes that Android ASPs (average selling price) continued to increase, both sequentially and year on year, mainly due to the top Chinese smartphone companies Huawei, OPPO and vivo increasing their ASPs as consumers purchase flagship models. In addition, these key flagship models from Chinese suppliers offer upgraded specifications leading to higher prices. IDC cites Huawei's Honor 8, the OPPO R9s and vivo X9 as the most popular models from these companies in the quarter.

Commenting on the data, Tay Xiaohan, senior market analyst with the IDC Asia Pacific client devices team, said, "Despite a soft first quarter in China, the second quarter should pick up sequentially given not only's June promotions, but also activity around a number of new products such as vivo with its Y53, Xiaomi with its Mi 6, Meizu with its E2 and Gionee with its M6S Plus".

Nokia selected for digital city project in Chengdu

Nokia has announced a strategic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China's Tianfu New Area Chengdu Administrative Committee under which the parties will collaborate on establishing a new digital city that will include the construction of data centre and related telecom infrastructure.

The new digital city project in the Chengdu prefecture of Sichuan province will also involve the deployment of a trial network for internet of things (IoT), the incubation of IoT applications and devices, big data and the deployment of an optical network to serve the Tianfu New Area.

Nokia noted that in December 2015 it announced plans to establish a global R&D centre in Chengdu that would focus on developing technology for areas including next generation telecom networks, IoT, big data and the cloud. The centre is now operational and houses several hundred of R&D staff.

Nokia added that the digital city agreement for Tianfu New Area is the latest smart city engagement for the company worldwide, and highlights the company's strategy to expand its customer base beyond the traditional telecommunications market. In late 2016, Nokia released its Smart City Playbook, which is intended to define best practices for smart city projects.

Tianfu New Area, established in December 2011, is intended to create a modern urban area for residents, industry and commerce, with a focus on developing modern manufacturing and high-end service clusters. Tianfu New Area encompasses parts of Chengdu High-tech Zone, Longquanyi District, Shuangliu County, Xinjin County, Jianyang City, Pengshan County of Meishan City and Renshou County. The plans include the construction of the New Century Global Centre and Chengdu Tianfu International Airport.

Cisco develops analytics for Mexico's Conectado

Cisco Mexico announced that it has developed the Country Digitization Analytics Platform (CDAP) designed to support the implementation of Mexico Conectado, a program of the Mexican government's Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT).

The Cisco CDAP platform is designed to provide the SCT with analytics information for usage of the initiative, in addition to raw data relating to the usage of the network.

Mexico Conectado is a program initiated by Mexico's federal government that is intended to guarantee citizens constitutional right to access to broadband Internet service by addressing the digital divide in the country. The program was developed by the Mexican SCT and is being implemented through the department Coordination of the Information and Knowledge Society (CSIC, or Coordinación de la Sociedad de la Información y el Conocimiento).

The key objective of Mexico Conectado is to extend broadband Internet access, free of charge, to low income populations via the deployment of more than 100,000 sites nationwide. The system is being implemented across Mexico, primarily in public locations such as schools, health centres, libraries, community centres, public parks and government buildings.

The Country Digitization Analytics Platform is designed to offer an open government analytics and intelligence platform and was developed by Cisco engineers leveraging the cloud-based functionality of Cisco Meraki technology in a multi-carrier and multi-service provider environment.

The CDAP works by collecting data from Mexico Conectado sites and converting it into relevant information that can facilitate measurement of the impact the country digitisation initiative is having. Specifically, the CDAP is designed to provide intelligence relating to the sustainability, social impact and support future fine-tuning of the initiative.

The CDAP enables consolidation and/or correlation of data from a number of different management and use domains and transforms the data into analytics that can be used to measure key usability indicators for the country digitisation program. Analytics data provided includes the number of citizens using public Internet access, external/internal hotspot access distribution, bandwidth consumption and usage of government sites via public Internet.

China Mobile, ARM, Cavium and Enea Validate NFV test cases

China Mobile, the largest mobile carrier in China with over 850 million subscribers, ARM, Cavium and Enea announced an agreement covering collaboration in the China Mobile Open NFV Testlab leveraging Enea's OPNFV-based commercial NFV Core platform and Cavium's ARM-based ThunderX workload-optimised data centre server processors.

Through the agreement, China Mobile's Open NFV Testlab will host the platform as part of the operator's Telecom Integrated Cloud (TIC) initiative. The work will specifically encompass validation of a range of NFV tests cases, including virtualised CPE (vCPE), vBRAS, vEPC and vIMS, while also supporting development and integration within the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) project.

Enea NFV Core is a carrier-grade virtualisation software platform based on OPNFV and OpenStack. It is designed to enable the deployment and management of vCPE network functions in central offices and data centres utilising generic hardware platforms. The NFV Core is optimised for the vCPE use case and central office deployments and is designed to offer the performance, reliability and flexibility required in next generation telecom networks.
Commenting on the agreement, Raj Singh VP and GM, network and communication group at Cavium, said, "(The) collaboration with China Mobile will enable key NFV functionality and drive NFV towards large scale deployment… telco applications with compute, I/O and real time processing requirements demand scalable and optimised processing solutions… advanced COTS hardware such as Cavium's ThunderX server processors… provide scalable NFV solutions using standard software and ecosystems".

While Noel Hurley, VP and GM, networking and servers, business segments group at ARM, noted, "ARM and its ecosystem of partners (are) committed to enabling OPNFV to bring efficient and cost-effective compute power for data networks… the network pipeline must be expanded at scale to support new computing across all markets in the most efficient way... the ecosystem delivers efficiency through integrated solutions that demonstrate the performance-per-watt, density and TCO provided by ARM technology".

Transition Networks showcases fibre-to-the-desk

Minneapolis-based Transition Networks, a provider of data network integration solutions and a company of Communications Systems, announced it is showcasing fibre-to-the-desk connectivity solutions designed for enterprise and government network applications during Dell EMC World 2017 in Las Vegas.

At the event, Transition Networks will introduce a range of new products for implementing fibre into Ethernet networks, including a fibre network interface card (NIC) with PoE+ port, plus fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet fibre NICs that have been certified by Dell EMC, specifically the Scorpion-USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet fibre adapter and an 18-slot mini media converter chassis for consolidating copper-to-fibre media conversion equipment.

Transition Networks will showcase its family of Gigabit Ethernet fibre-to-the-desk NICs that feature both fibre connectivity for linking to a PC, as well as PoE+ to connect to copper-based powered devices such as IP phones. The company will also demonstrate a government use case of a national deployment of a PoE security solution with an intelligence agency.

During Dell EMC World, Transition Networks is participating in the session 'Fiber-to-the-Desk Connectivity Solutions for Dell PCs and Wyse Thin Clients', which will cover its Gigabit Ethernet fibre-to-the-desk NICs. The discussion will also cover its mini stand-alone media converter and chassis options, designed to simplify physical layer applications, and ION platform, which is designed for more complex fibre integration needs.

Transition Networks' ION platform integrates copper and different types of fibre and is designed to enable customers to extend networks, optimise existing infrastructure. The solution also supports navigation of connected network interfaces for network management. Designed for enterprise data centres and core network applications, the ION platform offers flexibility via modular or stand-alone units with 1-, 2-, 6- or 19-slot chassis options.

In addition, the platform offers a range of slide-in interface devices and converter modules enabling support for Layer 1 and Layer 2 Ethernet networks (100Base, 10/100, 1000Base, 10/100/1,000 Mbit/s and 10 Gigabit Ethernet) and TDM networks (T1/E1/J1 and DS3-T3/E3 ).

Viavi enhances CellAdvisor base station analyser with NB-IoT testing capability

Viavi Solutions, a supplier of network and service enablement solutions and optical security and performance products, has announced its CellAdvisor Base Station Analyzer provides support for the signal analysis required for narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) connectivity.

The new test capability is designed to address the needs of service providers seeking to test the overlay IoT infrastructure that must co-exist with the traditional mobile communications network. Viavi is introducing the upgrade to the CellAdvisor following trials with Tier 1 global service providers and collaborations with network equipment manufacturers.

Viavi noted that the IoT will enable billions of smart devices to maintain low-speed and low-latency connectivity to mobile communications networks via narrowband signals. These networks will need to simultaneously support high-bandwidth applications such as video streaming using wideband signals, creating an inherent conflict between the two usage requirements. As a result network operators require solutions to help manage these disparate connection types.

To meet this need, Viavi has developed software-based NB-IoT testing that can be licensed on existing CellAdvisor handheld instruments, which are in use with major carriers worldwide. The new software feature enhances CellAdvisor solution, which supports RF over CPRI and BBU emulation, in addition to LTE testing and automated interference hunting to help improve operational efficiency.

With the new NB-IoT support, CellAdvisor measures the potential interference and performance impact the NB-IoT signal may have on the LTE wideband signal. It also verifies whether the signal has the reach and coverage required to serve the number of devices in the assigned geographic area, including accounting for criteria such as building penetration.

The capabilities of the CellAdvisor with NB-IoT support include analysis of signal power levels, digital demodulation and interference down to the single PRB (physical resource block) for the signal being measured. The measurements provide customers with in-depth data on how the network is operating in terms of performance, coverage and data traffic capacity, also identifying potential issues related to interference or intermodulation.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

AT&T to Move its Databases and App Workloads to the Oracle Cloud

AT&T will move thousands of its large scale internal databases to Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

Under the agreement, AT&T will migrate thousands of existing Oracle databases containing petabytes of data plus their associated applications workloads to Oracle Cloud. AT&T will have global access to Oracle’s cloud portfolio offerings both in the public cloud and on AT&T’s Integrated Cloud. This includes Oracle’s IaaS, PaaS, Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

“This is an historic agreement,” said Mark Hurd, CEO, Oracle. “The Oracle Cloud will enable AT&T to use Oracle technology more efficiently across every layer of the technology stack. This includes AT&T’s massive redeployment of Oracle Databases, which will be provisioned entirely from the Oracle Cloud Platform including our highly cost effective Exadata as a Service.”

The companies noted that AT&T has led the industry when it comes to virtualizing and software-controlling the wide area network. The company’s goal is to virtualize 75% of its core network functions by 2020, hitting 55% by the end of 2017.

“We believe that the future of the network is to be data-powered, to be software-centric, and to be fast and responsive,” said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of AT&T Technology and Operations. “We call this three-pronged approach AT&T Network 3.0 Indigo, and it’s all about enabling a seamless and intuitive network experience for our customers. This collaboration with Oracle accelerates our network transformation and migration to the cloud to expand efficiency, performance, and reduce cost while improving overall customer service.”

Thailand’s AIS expands roll-out of Metaswitch Perimeta for VoLTE

Cloud native communications software company Metaswitch announced that AIS, Thailand’s largest mobile carrier, has extended its deployment of Metaswitch Perimeta session border controllers from its 3G to its 4G network to enable the delivery of voice over LTE (VoLTE) services and to support VoLTE peering between AIS and other network operators.

Serving over 40 million subscribers and with a network covering around 98% of the country, AIS and its subsidiaries operate a high-speed mobile network and offer a range of voice and data services. In addition to the Perimeta SBC, as part of the latest upgrade AIS has deployed the Metaview Service Assurance Server (SAS), designed to facilitate troubleshooting and problem resolution and help ensure SLAs are met, including in a virtualised environment.

Previously, in early 2016 Metaswitch announced that mobile carrier AIS of Thailand has selected its Perimeta SBC to form the basis for a system-wide service modernisation. The project was intended to enable AIS to securely and reliably connect to other operators in Thailand using IP interconnect, as well as allow the adoption of network functions virtualisation (NFV) in the future.

Metaswitch noted that as part of a project designed to cost-effectively address increasing demand for services, AIS had deployed both its Perimeta vSBC and MetaView SAS solutions.

Metaswitch's Perimeta solution supports functions including security, traffic management, protocol interworking and SIP header manipulation, and is designed to scale without affecting network performance or resiliency.

Gamma selects Infinera XTM Series for UK dark fibre aggregation

Infinera announced that Gamma, a provider of communication services to the UK business market, has deployed the Infinera XTM Series platform for its UK dark fibre aggregation network.

The project marks the completion in London of the first phase of Gamma's national network roll-out. Deployment of the Infinera XTM Series and EMXP packet-optical transport switch is designed to enable Gamma to integrate Layer 1 transport and Layer 2 metro Ethernet functionality and enhance control and scalability of its network leveraging a single platform.

Gamma provides voice, data and mobile products and services to small, medium and large business customers, the public sector and not-for-profit organisations in the UK. The service provider's new aggregation network is based on dark fibre from a third party company and replaces previously rented access connections, also extending its network into metro networks across the UK. Based in Newbury, Berkshire, Gamma has six main locations with offices in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Portsmouth, as well as Budapest in Hungary.

The initial phase of Gamma's London metro network, which was implemented in partnership with Xantaro, expands its number of access locations 10-fold and is designed to enable greater control of the growth, management and economics of its infrastructure in key locations.

Infinera's XTM Series platform provides Gamma with 1, 10 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet service capabilities in its metro core networks. The modular and scalable system features pluggable optics offering low power and high density performance for the efficient delivery of Ethernet services.

Using the XTM Series, Gamma is able to interconnect aggregation points closer to end customers, with the platform serving as an access onramp for IP/Ethernet-based services such as Layer 2 and 3 VPNs, VoIP and direct Internet access. The network architecture also supports packet-optical capabilities such as Ethernet Ring Protection version 2 (ERPv2) with multiple classes of service for enhanced resiliency and service differentiation.

Zain Saudi Arabia deploys Nokia MEC in Mecca

Nokia announced that Zain Saudi Arabia has deployed its multi-access edge computing (MEC) platform to support the delivery of smart applications to subscribers around Mecca and help provide improved mobile experience during the Umrah and Hajj pilgrimage.

Nokia stated that following a successful trial during the last Hajj, Nokia and Zain have deployed the Nokia MEC platform, combined with Edge Video Orchestration capability, in the network using both macro and small cell base stations with the aim of enhancing services for Zain's subscribers.

The Nokia MEC solution is designed to improve mobile applications by enabling them to be hosted closer to the edge of the network, and therefore nearer to subscribers. This allows more efficient use of the network resources, as well as enabling the delivery of tailored services in high-traffic locations and conditions.

In addition, by combining MEC with Edge Video Orchestration video feeds can be more efficiently broadcast to multiple subscriber devices simultaneously with millisecond latency. As part of this solution, the Nokia AirFrame data centre technology performs the high levels of data processing that is required. Nokia also provided network implementation, system integration and network planning and optimisation services for the deployment.

Nokia noted that during the Umrah and Hajj, subscribers have access to two site-specific applications over the MEC-enabled network, specifically the Zain People Finder, which provides crowd navigation to help people meet up, and the Live Hajj application, which allows viewing of video streams from the Al Rahmah Mountain in Arafat and the Jamarat area.

  • Previously, in 2016 Zain Saudi Arabia and Nokia announced they had entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering collaboration on a major smart city initiative, designed to transform Jeddah, one of Saudi Arabia's largest cities, into a model smart city by 2018.
  • Under the agreement, Nokia and Zain are implementing advanced networking technologies in the areas of IoT and the cloud with the objective of enabling connectivity and management for an array of devices, vehicles, homes and applications. The initiative is intended to improve municipal services and the business environment in Jeddah, as well as improve the quality of life for its residents. The two-year project also covered the upgrade of Zain's mobile broadband network in Jeddah in preparation for 5G.

Champion ONE launches SDN/NFV-enabled Ethernet Switches

Champion ONE, a supplier of open networking and optical network solutions, has announced a new line of open network Ethernet switches that offer support for software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) functionality.

Champion ONE's new line of Ethernet switches is designed to deliver the benefits of and is based on the principles of an open architecture, eliminating vendor lock-in with proprietary hardware and feature set and offering a solution with fully disaggregated switch hardware and software. The solution allows customers to select from a menu of software options and switch hardware suitable for specific applications.

As part of the switch offering, designed for service provider and data centre markets, Champion ONE has partnered with software vendors including IP Infusion, Pica8 and Cumulus Networks to provide customers with a range of operating systems suitable for their individual requirements. The switches are based on open standards to enable interoperability with legacy equipment and integration with existing infrastructure.

The new Champion ONE switches, available in copper and optical versions, are high-density solutions providing support for up to 54 ports and Layer 2/3 line-rate switching at data rates of 1, 10 and 40 Gbit/s (with 100 Gbit/s solutions planned for mid-2017). In addition, the switches integrate Broadcom chipsets, enabling support for large routing tables, fast forwarding rates, and high switching capacity.

Big Switch BCF certified for Red Hat OpenShift containers

Big Switch Networks, a provider of next generation data centre networking solutions, announced it has received Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform Prime designation, and at the Red Hat Summit demonstrated support for solutions including Red Hat OpenStack Platform, Ceph, Enterprise Linux, Ansible by Red Hat and OpenShift Container Platform.

Specifically, the Big Switch Big Cloud Fabric (BCF) has achieved prime designation for Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, with the integration designed to simplify container networking by enabling unified physical and virtual networking. As a result, BCF can be used to deploy container-based applications without the need to implement detailed networking configurations.

The new capability allows uniform networking across applications running on VMs, containers and bare-metal servers within the same Big Cloud Fabric environment, and is designed to provide benefits including:

1. Fabric automation for containers via auto host detection and LAG/MLAG formation, auto network creation (for vSwitch, leaf and spine) and IPAM and automated container network configuration.

2. Container networking visibility, including for container-name, vSwitch and vNIC, container-to container fabric trace and fabric analytics.

3. Simplified operations via a unified view of physical and virtual switches and streamlined container integration deployment workflows.

Big Switch noted that leveraging the collaboration a major Tier-1 carrier has deployed the BCF and Red Hat OpenStack Platform to create a large-scale network functions virtualisation (NFV) OpenStack cloud.

Red Hat recently released Ansible 2.3, the latest version of the agentless open source IT automation framework that is designed to provide enhanced performance, flexibility and networking capabilities. Big Switch noted that it is a contributor to Ansible to help customers achieve system-wide network automation across SDN fabrics, BCF and Big Monitoring Fabric, plus security using the BigSecure architecture.

Calix introduces AXOS RPm module enabling Layer 3 routing

Calix announced the introduction of AXOS RPm (Routing Protocol Module), a software module that brings Layer 3 intelligence and routing capabilities to the access network that connects subscribers to the content and applications in the data centre and cloud.

Enabled by the Calix AXOS Software Defined Access (SDA) architecture, the new module is designed to enable telcos to transform the physical Layer 2 access network into an always-on, Layer 3-ready network with the ability to efficiently support monitoring, accounting and policy services close to the subscriber.

Calix noted that as the number of subscriber devices connected to the network increases, having visibility into how subscribers are using the network is a key capability for service providers. The new AXOS RPm delivers visibility via Layer 3 routing, including static routing and protocols such as OSPF/IS-IS and BGP, thereby enabling enhanced visibility and control of the access network, from the core to the endpoint.

Additionally, AXOS RPm can be deployed deep in the access network within Calix products including the AXOS E9-2 Intelligent Edge systems, E7-2 Modular Access systems and E3-2 Intelligent PON nodes. Placing intelligence closer to the subscriber is designed to offer service providers greater flexibly in managing and delivering subscriber services.

Enabling the access network with Layer 3 routing capability is designed to allow service providers to simplify their operations by removing the need for the Layer 2 access network between the Layer 3 subscriber network and Layer 3 edge network. Leveraging a single network model from the core to premises, service providers are able to simplify routers deployed in the edge network and eliminate Layer 2 to Layer 3 conversions.

Calix offers a range of AXOS solutions that support anyPHY and anySDN designed to fit into service providers' existing operational models. In addition, the flexible AXOS systems allow service providers to retain a Layer 2 network model until ready to transition to a Layer 3-enabled intelligent network.

Commenting on the new solution, Shane Eleniak, Calix VP of systems products, said, "AXOS RPm and the Layer 3 model provide new levels of intelligence in the access network… Calix customers will… (gain) greater visibility into subscriber behaviours, resulting in significantly more informed and proactive network management capabilities as well as heightened control of the subscriber experience".

MRV expands OptiDriver portfolio with compact OD-4-DCI transport platform

MRV Communications has introduced the OD-4-DCI, its new optical transport platform designed for the data centre interconnect (DCI) market, expanding its OptiDriver family of WDM metro transport solutions.

MRV's new OD-4-DCI solution is designed to enable modular, ultra-high density DCI via a compact 1 RU platform with stackable management functionality providing high bandwidth point-to-point connections between data centres.

The OptiDriver line cards supported in the OD-4-DCI chassis exclusively utilise pluggable optics, designed to enable cost-effective, pay-as-you-grow bandwidth capacity expansion. The use of pluggable optics also means that data centre operators can invest to meet their requirements and upgrade with the latest optical technology. The OD-4-DCI modular design offers flexibility and supports the same optical line cards as other OptiDriver chassis products from the OD-6 to the OD-48 models.

MRV noted that traditionally, data centre operators had the option of either a smaller chassis with fixed optical ports or a large, modular chassis with pluggable optical modules. The OptiDriver portfolio removes this restriction for data centre operators and service providers and allows the use of the same pluggable modules across the OptiDriver range.

In addition, all OptiDriver components can be managed utilising MRV's Pro-Vision life cycle service orchestration (LSO) service management and orchestration software platform.

Regarding the new solution, Adam Scheer, COO at MRV, commented, "By designing the OD-4 DCI as an open and flexible system that can leverage widely available and competitively priced pluggable optics… (it) offers a cost effective and scalable approach… compared with other systems based on a closed or fixed design".

Arista Posts Q Revenue of $335.5 million, up 38.5% YoY

Arista Networks reported Q1 2017 revenue of $335.5 million, an increase of 2.3% compared to the fourth quarter of 2016, and an increase of 38.5% from the first quarter of 2016. GAAP gross margin was 63.9%, compared to GAAP gross margin of 64.1% in the fourth quarter of 2016 and 64.0% in the first quarter of 2016. GAAP net income was $83.0 million, or $1.07 per diluted share, compared to GAAP net income of $35.2 million, or $0.48 per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2016.

“As we kick off 2017, I am pleased with our performance this quarter,” stated Jayshree Ullal, Arista President and CEO. “We continue to experience meaningful relevance as customers shift to cloud networking.”

Commenting on the company's financial results, Ita Brennan, Arista’s CFO, said, “We are pleased with our consistent execution in the first quarter and with our outlook for Q2, reflecting continued strong customer demand for our products.”

Infinera Posts Q1 Revenue of $175.5 Million

Infinera reported Q1 2017 GAAP revenue of $175.5 million compared to $181.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 and $244.8 million in the first quarter of 2016. GAAP gross margin for the quarter was 36.5% compared to 38.1% in the fourth quarter of 2016 and 47.5% in the first quarter of 2016. GAAP operating margin for the quarter was (21.6)% compared to (25.3)% in the fourth quarter of 2016 and 6.1% in the first quarter of 2016.

“We started the year with a solid first quarter, exceeding our financial guidance and moving closer to bringing our new Infinite Capacity Engine products to market,” said Tom Fallon, Infinera’s Chief Executive Officer. “With network architectures and customer requirements evolving rapidly, we are seeing increasing opportunities to deliver scalable network solutions that enable our customers’ go-to-market strategies. As we deliver new products in upcoming quarters and new optical engines every few years, I believe we are well positioned to extend our technology differentiation and return to delivering strong financial results.”

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

T-Mobile US Plans 5G roll-out using 600 MHz Spectrum

T-Mobile US, serving nearly 73 million customers, the U.S. mobile business of Deutsche Telekom, detailed its plans to roll out a nationwide 5G network, in conjunction with expanding and enhancing its LTE coverage, using a portion of its $8 billion portfolio of low-band 600 MHz spectrum acquired in the recent FCC auction.

Under the program, T-Mobile US, the un-carrier, will leverage multiple spectrum bands to deliver nationwide mobile 5G coverage. In addition to its national deployment, T-Mobile 5G will enable high bandwidth and throughput in urban areas employing a combination of mid-band and millimetre-wave spectrum.

T-Mobile's 600 MHz 5G network is designed to enable enhanced radio efficiency, support for greater numbers of connected devices, lower latency and improved device battery life. T-Mobile expects to be able to quickly deploy 5G using its low-band 600 MHz spectrum across its existing macro network, noting that other carriers plan to use millimetre-wave spectrum that will require very large numbers of small cells to provide extensive coverage.

Beyond vastly improved speeds for mobile devices, T-Mobile expects to see a whole new class of innovative mobile applications and solutions emerge, built for broad 5G coverage.

T-Mobile stated that, working with device and infrastructure partners, it will support the 3GPP's certification for 5G in the 600 MHz band. Subsequently, as 5G standards are defined, chipsets developed and equipment becomes available, T-Mobile will aim to quickly deploy 5G nationwide leveraging unused spectrum. The 5G rollout is expected to begin in 2019, with a target of offering national coverage in 2020.

  • T-Mobile US announced earlier in April that it had purchased 45% of all low-band spectrum auctioned, covering all of the U.S. and Puerto Rico. T-Mobile acquired 31 MHz of spectrum nationwide on average, quadrupling its low-band holdings, for a total of $7.99 billion. With the purchase, T-Mobile claims to hold more low-band spectrum per customer than any other major provider, and nearly 3x the low-band spectrum per customer held by Verizon.

Sprint Unveils Magic Box Small Cell

Sprint unveiled the Sprint Magic Box, a new plug–and–play LTE small cell for businesses and consumers that it claims will increase download and upload speeds on average by 200 percent.

The Sprint Magic Box is an indoor, self-configuring small cell, about the size of a shoebox, that is designed for consumer installation. One Sprint Magic Box provides average coverage of 30,000 square feet indoors and can benefit adjacent Sprint customers inside the building. The signal can also extend coverage 100 meters outside a building, benefitting Sprint customers in nearby buildings and improving street–level network performance.

“Sprint Magic Box is going to quickly transform our network, and it is key to delivering an amazing experience to customers today as we build the kind of dense urban infrastructures needed for 5G,” said Dr. John Saw, Sprint CTO. “By leveraging our deep spectrum trove, Sprint has the ability to blanket its network with an all-wireless small cell that delivers this kind of dramatic performance boost with zero backhaul, permitting, and engineering costs.”

Sprint also announced plans to to continue its deployment of three-channel carrier aggregation on 2.5 GHz sites. The company also anticipates leveraging a multitude of advanced technologies including four-channel carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) and Massive MIMO to further enhance the capacity and coverage of its 2.5 GHz TDD-LTE spectrum.