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MEF survey shows South Africa’s evolving connectivity priorities

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Telecom TowerWhile slow speeds and high costs dominate most discussions about South Africa’s broadband, a survey at the MEF Johannesburg Seminar revealed that business now rates fast and agile set up and modification as its top priority. This is according to Gary Williams, MEF EMEA Marketing Co-Chair and Business Development for Microsemi Corporation and the Carrier Ethernet Academy.

New Fibre to the Home and LTE services are making headlines in South Africa this year, but the general view is still “too little too late.” Point Topic’s Q1 broadband tariff scorecard ranks South Africa as 69 out of 84 countries in terms of average broadband pricing. Individuals and businesses are looking for more affordable and flexible connectivity solutions to help improve their productivity.

So this year’s MEF Johannesburg business seminar could not have been better timed to address these challenges. MEF describes itself as an industry association “that is the driving force for development and implementation of agile, assured, and orchestrated Third Network services for the digital economy and the hyper-connected world.” Seminar participants included top names from the nation’s carriers, service providers, and industry leaders.

So what were the attendees hoping to gain from the event? A survey was taken of the participants, and a key question was “What is the primary connectivity need of this market that is not being met sufficiently today?” Not surprisingly for South Africa “Cost effective bandwidth” ranked high on the response, but nevertheless it took a low second place to “Fast setup and modification time” (scoring 21% and 48% respectively with a 94% survey engagement).

Not only did attendees place strong emphasis on service delivery speed, they also sought more on-demand customization with their services. When the participants were asked “How would you rate the importance of agile, assured and orchestrated connectivity services to your organization’s survival?” 71% rated it “Essential,” 23% rate it “Important,” and only one participant rated it as “Irrelevant” or simply “Nice to have.”

The good news is that MEF’s current thrust is exactly targeting this demand, according to Daniel Bar-Lev, Director of Certification and Strategic Programs, MEF. He began the discussion with an outline of MEF’s strategy and market trends, describing “the transformation of the Carrier Ethernet market from a pre-defined connectivity model toward a software-driven model providing a dynamic, cloud-like experience with user-directed control over network resources.” In other words, we are moving to a world of “bandwidth on demand” where services can not only be implemented faster but also readily adjusted to business needs and even managed directly by the customer.

This transition begins with connectivity services that meet MEF’s Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (CE 2.0) certification standards. Analysts estimate that the global Carrier Ethernet services market will exceed US $50 billion in 2016 as service providers worldwide continue to expand their CE 2.0 coverage, improving end-to-end capabilities and SLAs for both on and off-net services. Increasingly, small- to medium-size providers are also joining the community of standardized CE 2.0 access service providers.

As CE 2.0 networking fabrics are expanded and interconnected, they form a firm foundation upon which to build Third Network services that are powered by LSO (Lifecycle Service Orchestration), SDN (Software Defined Networking), and NFV (Network Functions Virtualization).

MEF is keenly focused on accelerating development of LSO and supporting APIs to automate the entire service lifecycle for coordinated management and control across all network domains responsible for delivering an end-to-end connectivity service. This increasingly important area of work enables service providers to transition away from today’s silo-structured BSS/OSS approach towards flexible end-to-end service orchestration that leverages the benefits of SDN and NFV.

Currently, a service provider is forced to over-provision in order to accommodate traffic peaks. LSO allows the provider to provision for everyday levels and, when there’s a burst, the bandwidth will automatically peak with it. It allows application-aware services: so if a 4Mbps broadband customer needs to download a multi-gigabit HD movie, instead of having to spend hours on the network, LSO could automatically up bandwidth to 1Gbps and the traffic would clear in a few seconds.

Service providers also want to roll-out services across partner networks in minutes, rather than months, and this is only made possible by automation. This calls for standard information models, operational threads, and interface profiles based on real-world use cases and realistic service provider strategies.  MEF is now working on operational threads that include serviceability, ordering, performance reporting, resource provisioning and many others, and integrating them into processes and APIs that service providers and operators can use to interconnect in an automated fashion.

According to Mark Tinka, SEACOM’s Head of Engineering, “While connectivity dominates the minds of our customers, we have witnessed an increase in the significance of intrinsic and perceived value with regard to the pre- and post-delivery experience we walk our customers through with their service. The quality of the service is being measured right next to our ability to deliver it quickly, on time, and with professionalism. As such, SEACOM are investing a great deal of time, energy, and resources in further enhancing our service pre- and post-delivery activities. The work being done by MEF on LSO and the Third Network align squarely with our objectives in this area, as we firmly believe that automation and orchestration are fundamental to implementing this strategy in a meaningful and long-lasting way.”

The emergence of LSO, SDN, and NFV will significantly impact current telecoms operating and business models. It is therefore imperative for operators, large and small, to keep abreast of these new technologies for future growth and survival.

Traditional bandwidth revenue generation business models need to change to new “dynamic bandwidth” service models – and successful transformation requires not only the adoption and integration of these technologies, but also an evolution of organizational structure, related business processes, and skill sets.”

MEF is a globally recognized standards organization at the forefront of delivering services tied to LSO, SDN, and NFV adoption and is ideally positioned to help companies best navigate their way forward. The MEF 2016 Seminar series: ‘Building Dynamic Third Network Services Powered by CE 2.0, LSO, SDN & NFV’ is an important part of the education process. This is the second year that MEF has extended its global seminar roadshow to include Johannesburg and we hope it will encourage more companies to join MEF.

Staff Writer

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