UAE operator Etisalat has announced two firsts in recent days: the launch of a business unified communication service and the deployment of Open vRAN technology.
The successful launch of an open virtual Radio Access Network (Open vRAN) is perhaps of most interest, partly because Etisalat is not only the first operator in MENA but one of the first operators worldwide to launch this technology, in this case in partnership with Altiostar, NEC, Cisco and other vRAN technology vendors.
The vRAN architecture approach decouples the programmable RAN software elements from the hardware, allowing generally available hardware and server platforms to process the RAN software. This, we are assured, results in deployment flexibility, scalability, agility, and energy-efficient networks through reducing hardware elements on the network.
In addition, the open vRAN approach is said to reduce time to market, as it allows quicker deployment of mobile networks. Network capacity augmentation and optimisation is enhanced by the simplification of nodes and the enabling of new automated methods and AI algorithms.
Etisalat has also announced the launch of a first-of-a-kind cloud-based business unified communication and collaboration service for small and medium businesses (SMB) and enterprise customers in the UAE, driven by a partnership with Ribbon Communications. CloudTalk, as the service is called, offers customers an integrated communication solution for their internal and external communication and collaboration needs.
The service is delivered over a carrier-grade cloud private branch exchange (PBX); this replaces legacy setups. Minimal time is needed for deployment. The pay-as-you-grow model gives customers the flexibility to work in multi-channel communication environments, while the solution allows users to switch between various devices seamlessly in real time from any location. Features include instant messaging, video conferencing, screen sharing and mobile apps, among others.
Impressive as this may seem, it looks like Open vRAN will be attracting the most attention as other operators take an ever closer look at the claims of (supposedly) more cost-effective and long-term approaches to network deployment.