Redefining Today’s Networks and Helping Fuel the Digital Economy

Azz-Eddine Mansouri, the General Manager of Sales at Ciena Middle East, speaks to Arabian Reseller about how Ciena is addressing customer requirements through a range of coherent solutions for vastly improved network economics, reach, cost, power, and footprint

What is the size of today’s market for optical networking technologies in the MEA region?
The optical network market in MEA was $944 million in 2018 according to Ovum. As operators continue to plan for 5G, and with increasing demand for online video streaming, gaming and cloud computing only continuing to grow, network operators and service providers are looking to deliver even more high-quality, high bandwidth personalised services to subscribers in the region, by adding intelligent automation to the network.   

Which service providers does the company currently work with?
Ciena supports 85 percent of the world’s largest service providers as well as cloud and regional service providers, enterprise networks, financial services, healthcare, utilities, media and entertainment, retail, public sector, and all levels of education. In the MEA region, Ciena is proud to work with some of the leading regional providers, such as Etisalat, Batelco, STC, Telecom Egypt, and Mobily among many others.

What differentiates the MEA market from the rest of the world? Are technology requirements different in this region?
The MEA market is very diverse, with countries across the region being in different stages of network development and requirements. For example, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain all have mobile penetration rates of over 200% while at the other end of the scale, South Sudan has only 20% mobile penetration while Eritrea bottoms the list with 7.5%.

The Middle East also has a young and increasingly educated population which drives appetite for new technology and applications. More than 28% of the population of the Middle East is aged between 15 and 29, representing over 108 million young people, this is the largest number of young people to transition to adulthood in the region’s history. Educational enrollment rates are high, with nearly universal access at the primary level and nearly 70% enrollment at the secondary level.

While there are a few advanced telecoms market within MEA that are preparing for 5G, the region as a whole needs to address the broadband deficit, as operators continue to roll out 3G and 4G networks and services, and deploy more fibre for backhaul and access. At the same time, the MEA market is increasingly competitive and sophisticated, with MVNOs and operator sub-brands increasing market segmentation. Service providers need to stay on top of their competitors and retain customers, by introducing innovation and exploring new revenue streams.

You are also present in the subsea optical segment. Has that market improved in recent months? To what extent and for what sort of applications?
The Subsea market remains buoyant, with bandwidth between Europe and Asia via ME continuing to grow, driven mostly by the large global content providers, and now we are also seeing a growth in traffic terminating in the ME region, for example, Microsoft is building two new large Data Centers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Submarine networking operators continue to need new innovations in order to meet the evolving needs of this critical infrastructure.

Following the combined technological innovation related to optical transmission, intelligent protection switching, virtualization, and analytics, the industry is undergoing yet another sea change with the advent of open cables, where the operator can separate the technology and vendor selection of the subsea cable from the terminating electronics at the ends, and thus maximise the traffic carrying capability and revenue generation of the end to end infrastructure at any point in time.

The terminating electronics, or more accurately the Submarine Line Terminating Equipment (SLTE) is an area of rapid innovation and evolution. New modem transmission, power management, and spectrum sharing capabilities are being incorporated at a frenetic rate to maintain pace with ongoing bandwidth demand growth. We’re also witnessing the initial commercial adoption of Spectrum Sharing, which falls somewhere between a wavelength and an entire fiber pair.

What sort of new business and revenue opportunities does WaveLogic technology bring along for Ciena?
With WaveLogic 5, Ciena is once again redefining what is possible on today’s networks and helping to fuel the digital economy. WaveLogic 5 tackles key network challenges both in the core and in the metro/access parts of the network by increasing bandwidth capability, reducing cost per bit and speeding our customers’ ability to turn up services with less hardware, helping service providers scale their networks, from the core to the edge, with the right footprint, power and operational requirements they need for different applications.

For example, WL5 now enables up to 800Gb per wavelength for applications such as Datacenter Interconnect over <200km, 400Gb per optical wavelength across the Pacific or Atlantic oceans, and low-cost pluggable optics up to 400Gb for metro/access applications. With WaveLogic5, Ciena has intensified its investment in key foundational technologies beyond DSP (digital signal processing) to include high-speed electro-optic components based on both silicon photonics and indium phosphide. This gives Ciena full control of the design of its coherent optical solutions to accelerate innovation and deliver significant time-to-market and cost advantages for customers. No one else in the industry can deliver this next generation of optical technology.

What according to you are the challenges faced by service providers in this region and how can Ciena help address those challenges?
One of the biggest challenges network providers in this region face is the need to satisfy subscribers’ voracious and often unpredictable appetite for bandwidth driven by cloud, HD video, 5G, IoT and more, while at the same time keep network costs down. WaveLogic 5 tackles these challenges by helping network providers support this demand and scale their networks, from the core to the edge, with the right footprint, power and operational requirements they need for all these high-bandwidth applications.

As our customers look to differentiate from a service offering perspective, WaveLogic 5 helps our customers achieve the best network operations to support various applications, while streamlining operations and increasing network automation to accelerate service delivery and improve customer satisfaction. This new platform allows operators the ability to tune the optics to achieve that optimal capacity across the network.

Regional operators have started testing and deploying 5G in the region. How do you expect growth to proceed in 5G development across the region?
Operators across the region have started to test and roll out 5G, which promises 100x faster speeds, 100x more devices, 10x lower latency, and 1000x higher data volumes than today’s 4G.  It will be a core enabler of many innovations across a variety of industries such as the automotive industry, smart city management, and healthcare.

The move to 5G is not a simple network upgrade, but a long journey with a high-performance wireline network as the critical component to commercial success for both 4G strategies and the evolution toward 5G. As a result, 4G and 5G networks will continue to coexist for the foreseeable future. Scalability, automation, and openness will help ease the transition to high-performance 5G networks.

Establishing 5G ready networks requires modern network management technologies and capabilities, such as adaptive networking – which uses the power of intelligent automation and intent-based policies to manage specific areas on the network – and bandwidth-on-demand – where real-time data will be used by the automated orchestration and management platform to allocate bandwidth across the network as required.

An Adaptive Network with Intelligent automation will also provide end to end network slicing across both the wireline and wireless networks, which will be critical to delivering on the 5G promise of different service level requirements for different applications.  For example, Augmented Reality (AR) requires short round trip delay (Latency), Virtual Reality (VR) requires very high bandwidth, remote surgery will require very high reliability.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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