‘Use Open Source to innovate new services,’ shares Pradeep Kohli of Mavenir.

Following a history of mergers and acquisitions, Mavenir has always been focused on accelerating software network transformation and redefining network economics for Communications Service Providers (CSPs). From 5G application/service layers to packet core and RAN – Mavenir leads the way in evolved, cloud-native networking solutions enabling innovative and secure experiences for end users. Believing in the strength of Open Source, Mr. Pradeep Kohli,  President & CEO, Mavenir shared that he would like to encourage the Linux foundation and other groups. Below are the excerpts of an interaction with Ms. Beenish, Editor, WhiteNote

Editor: How exactly are you redefining mobile network economics?

Mr. Kohli: It’s simple. Here is what is happening:
The mobile industry is at a tipping point. In the 5G era, status quo network economics are unsustainable. The cost-per-bit models and network architectures that dictated 4G strategies will not support 5G use cases. The next mobile technology generation will unleash peak data rates of multi-gigabits per second,
transmitting significantly higher volumes of data, as well as supporting a myriad of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and new services for massive machine communications and ultra-reliable low latency applications.

The sheer volume and variety of 5G data traffic will break today’s cost-per-bit models as current infrastructure cannot cost-effectively scale to meet demand nor can it provide the flexibility to allow rapid introduction of revenue-generating services. Future demand on mobile networks requires the web-scale capabilities exemplified by new and innovative rivals like Amazon, Facebook and Google. Even now, mobile operators are under pressure to meet capacity demand and grow service revenue while containing costs in highly competitive services markets. According to GSMA, time spent on mobile devices has trebled over the last five years, but mobile operators control only 9% of the services consumed. Operators must also contend with supporting the growing numbers of low-power, connected devices, which are estimated will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Importantly, the decisions they make today for upgrading 4G networks to cope with current demand will ultimately affect their ability to compete, and even survive, in the 5G era.

In response to this, Mavenir has created the industry’s only 100% software, end to end network solution portfolio. Software and Virtualization are the keys to success in a 5G world. Within this portfolio, we have provided solutions and strategies for Cost Reduction – enabling operators to leverage software and virtualization to dramatically reduce cost in the network, as well as creating agility, automation and efficiency. Example is virtualized Radio Access Network (RAN) or virtualized Media Breakout Controller (MBC).
Revenue Generation – enabling operators to quickly and easily launch new services to generate revenue, ideally leveraging existing network investments. Example is RCS Business Messaging and Multi-ID (virtualizing the phone number).
Revenue Protection – after reducing cost and generating revenues, operators need to protect that revenue with advance AI-based machine learning security and fraud management.

Editor: How do you see the challenges and opportunities in the Indian market?

Mr. Kohli: Indian market has its unique challenges but is also experiencing some of the same difficulties that operators around the world are seeing. How to reduce costs in the network? How to support massive data growth? How to generate new revenues? How to compete as technology changes?

We believe that the fundamental key to this is virtualization. As the industry’s only 100% software, cloud-native end-to-end network software provider, we see that once this turn is in motion, many of the challenges actually become new opportunities.

Editor: At the India Digital Summit, you talked about the role of open source innovation in shifting the mobile network paradigm. Can you elaborate!

Mr. Kohli: The issue is how carriers can use Open Source to innovate new services. It’s an interesting topic because carriers have been losing this game for the last 20 years.

And, if you look back, you know when things were very well defined, there was a PSTN phone (plastic), and you had dial tone which carriers offered, and that service worked 100%. You picked up, heard the dial tone, and everything worked. Back then, it was your 1G/ 2G services, it was a feature phone, or it was not even a feature phone, 10-digit numbers, all you could do was make a phone call, maybe short SMS – it worked great.

I think the game started changing when – and until that time of course, the network was smarter than the phone because the network was telling the phone you can only do these five things voice mail, SMS, MMS, make a phone call and that’s it. I guess ten years ago with the iPhone & Android, phones became smarter, and that’s where actually carriers lost the game. Because now, the phone has become smarter than the network.

And, the competition changed. But, it’s actually very difficult now because carriers are regional. For example, Jio is the biggest operator in India, and, still serving the Indian market but is now competing against companies like Google and Facebook who are serving the worldwide market. So, they can take their R&D dollars and spend on services which they can offer to the whole world. And they are adopting Open Source and other new technologies.

On the other hand, carriers like AT&T or Verizon even if they are big, they are still only one hundred million subscribers versus Google and Facebook can do billions of subscribers. But on top of that, we talk about all the analytics foundation and all those open projects, but we have a boat anchor called 3GPP. Where five, six vendors get together (maybe a few thousand people) and determine what is best for all of us. They determine that, for example, 5G should be implemented a certain way and they come together and figure out the 3GPP spec. Which then only they can develop, and only they know how to answer those questions because they are the ones who came up with it. And the rest of the whole world has to follow it. So, in a way, it’s very, very – unopen. Right, there’s no openness about this whole industry because of the way it is constructed.

So, unless we change the game from the very beginning, we will only be playing on the edges. You know you can look at various examples in the industry of success with openness such as an SD-WAN or EPC but the biggest cost in the access/connectivity space is a closed circuit and very difficult to penetrate. So, it will be very difficult for a carrier to achieve the same level of success again.

So, I think about the services part, and I would like to encourage the Linux foundation and other groups. So, what if there was a competing initiative to 3GPP saying, “Let’s open up. Who can come up with the best algorithms for improving the spectral efficiency by five times?” And you’ve made it an Open Source project. And open it up to you know, hundreds of thousands of people. I bet you they’ll come up with better answers, better use of all the machine learning algorithms, all the natural learnings, things which Google or Facebook uses. Just imagine if we opened it all up to scientists and signal processing engineers, PhDs, etc. They would come up with a lot better than what the five or six companies working together can come up with.

I think in general, there’s a lot to be done. What we have been doing so far, is still on the edge, and is still not solving our main problems. And the main problems have been more about how this whole industry is very closed.

Still Indian market is very conservative with the Open Source based solutions? Do you agree or disagree?
We believe that some regions are more ‘open’ to these solutions than others but it’s really a global issue as it relates to industry standards (as referenced in previous response).

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