Cisco Makes Service Provider Push at Mobile World Congress

The networking giant unveils Ultra Services Platform to help telcos more easily create and monetize services and partnerships around 5G and IoT.

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Cisco Systems is making an aggressive push for service providers this week, promising new offerings and partnerships aimed at making it easier for carriers and telecommunications companies to remake their infrastructures to address such challenges as the skyrocketing growth of traffic on their networks and the need to find more revenue streams.

At the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 show this week in Barcelona, Spain, Cisco officials are unveiling multiple efforts that touch on everything from the Internet of things (IoT) to upcoming 5G networks, all designed to help service providers address the issues of growing traffic and flat revenues.

"Traffic is exploding," Rob Barlow, director of market management for service provider cross architecture at Cisco, told eWEEK, noting the rapid rise in the number of connected users and smart devices worldwide.

In its latest study of global mobile traffic, Cisco found that by 2020, mobile data traffic worldwide will hit 366.8 exabytes, up from 44.2 exabytes in 2015. The number of mobile devices and connections will reach 11.6 billion (there were 7.9 billion last year), and 67 percent of those connections will be smarter. In addition, there will be 5.5 billion mobile users with 8.5 billion mobile devices.

Service providers need to create new network infrastructures that can not only enable them to handle the increasing traffic, but also to more quickly spin out new services to customers and generate more revenue. Carriers are under pressure from over-the-top (OTT) application vendors that are grabbing a lot of the revenue, according to Cisco officials.

Cisco is among a large number of tech vendors at MWC offering service providers and telcos a range of products and services to help them manage the increasing digitization of their businesses. The networking giant is taking a three-pronged approach to address service providers, all of which are on display at the show. The company is offering new products, including its Ultra Services Platform, designed to help service providers more quickly launch and deploy new services.

In addition, Cisco officials are touting partnerships with service providers and tech vendors, in particular Ericsson and Intel, as well as customer wins among telcos and service providers, such as Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom.

With the Ultra Services Platform, Cisco is looking to use software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) models to create a mobile services infrastructure that will offer improved agility, flexibility and elasticity, and increase revenue for service providers. They need to be able to make managing the traffic flowing over their networks easier and cheaper, according to David Yates, director of marketing for service provider mobility at Cisco.

It enables an SDN distributed network that separates control and user plane functionality, the latter of which can be run close to the radio access network and driving down backhaul costs by as much as 35 percent. In addition, it centralizes the creation and control of services, and the initial release offers more than 2 terabytes-per-second of traffic capacity and more than 20 million connections.

Ultra Services Platform also automates the deployment of services via a user interface, reducing deployment times from months to minutes and costs by as much as 30 percent, Cisco officials said. It uses Cisco's virtual applications—such as packet core and security—and can be integrated with third-party components. It also can be deployed over public, private and hybrid clouds, and can be combined with Cisco's software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, such as Spark and Infinite Video.

In addition, Ultra helps service providers prepare for the transition to 5G networking, enabling such capabilities as control and user plane separation and network slicing that will enable service providers to offer different networking elements for different services.

On the partnership side, Cisco's Barlow said company officials are giving more specifics about their alliance with Ericsson, which was announced in November 2015. Sales forces from both companies have conducted joint meetings with customers, and at MWC, Cisco officials said they were partnering with Ericsson and Intel to develop at 5G networking router.

In addition, Cisco and AT&T are combining efforts around the Internet of things to enable businesses to more easily deploy IoT applications.