Bob McIntyre, chief technology officer, Cisco, tells CommsMEA why Middle East operators are ideally placed to take advantage of a new breed of bandwidth heavy applications.What are the main challenges your service provider customers face in the region?
I spend about 60-70% of my time with customers discussing their networks, and their challenges in terms of deployment of applications and staying competitive. It is a very competitive world out there now and the two big challenges are staying competitive with differentiated services and applications, and getting the network to where it needs to be to allow for those applications.
I think that over the past five or six years most of the major service providers around the world, including here in the Middle East, are starting to deploy triple and quad play bundles in order to stay competitive, some of it because of competition and some of it because of line loss, not just to competitors but to competitive technologies like wireless.
So most of the operators, to stay competitive and to continue to grow revenues, are faced with the challenge of what bundles to put together, what applications they need and how they can differentiate their service.
What type of challenges do the operators face with their networks, in terms of looking to deploy these services?
Most of the operators around the world have different starting points on their networks. Some have invested to push fibre deeply, while others haven’t. Others have converged their core and access plant to IP based access. The result is that some have the bandwidth they need for these services and applications, while some don’t. The challenge in the network for service providers depends on the starting point and how they get to an end point that gives them the bandwidth they need to deliver all these services.
One of the things that most service providers are trying to do is to get an IP converged core network, so any time you want to launch new services and applications you can do so easier and more flexibly, because you won’t have to build a new network every time you want launch a new application.
Do challenges facing service providers in the Middle East vary much compared with markets across the rest of the world?
Every region of the world and culture is different but it doesn’t matter because sometimes the same applications that you might learn on one side of the world can help in another market.
We try to do core research on each of the markets. We work with analysts around the world, to keep track of regional variations. And in many cases we do our own research. For example, we have done an extensive amount of research on bandwidth, how it is being used, how its needs are growing, and how video has become a major portion of the traffic on the internet.
We do that by working in conjunction with our service provider customers where we go out and monitor networks and the traffic that is on the network, so we can go out and better predict what our customers might need next year or the following year. We work with them, with their networks. We try to stay close to the customers to find out what is working and then we share that with our service provider customers around the world, so they know what to expect and also what to anticipate and we have to be able to tailor that for every geographical region.
How important is video as part of the service provider’s offering?
You are starting to see video become more and more important. Markets like the US, UK and Japan have always been big in video and that is becoming bigger in the Middle East.
The service providers here in the Middle East are up for the challenge because those that have done very well in getting their network up to speed, and many of them are talking about FTTH deployment. They already have an IP converged core, and they are well positioned to start deploying these triple and quad play bundles with video as one of the applications on the network. They don’t have to deal with some of the cobwebs that some of the service providers with older networks had to deal with. When you start with a newer network you can do some interesting things.
But in general, video hasn’t been as important in the Middle East in the past, but we think it is becoming increasingly important.
How about the challenge of deciding what services and applications to launch over their networks?
That is really the big challenge and it is specifically a geographical challenge because the big operators have to decide what is going to work in this region and what is not going to work in this region. Deciding what applications are going to work, what you can charge for them, which applications are sticky, and then anticipating what they might want next year. All of that is important.For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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