Etisalat, a communications provider in the Middle East and headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, offers a range of 3G, 4G, and fiber-to-the-home services to more than 160 million customers across the region. The operator hired NEC and its wholly-owned subsidiary Netcracker Technology as its prime integrator for its Sahaab network transformation project. The Sahaab project is the service provider’s initiative to cloudify, virtualize, and digitize its network.
The Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and smart cities are important new use cases for Etisalat, and this platform will be the foundation for that.
As prime integrator, NEC/Netcracker will wrangle all the different aspects of the project. It will manage all layers of the network functions virtualization (NFV) stack, from the virtual infrastructure manager (VIM) to the management and network orchestration (MANO). It will provide software-defined networking (SDN) control. And it will integrate virtual network functions (VNFs) from third parties as well as some of its own VNFs. NEC/Netcracker handles the VNFs through its Ecosystem 2.0 Marketplace.
“A big part is around service design, creating the service chains, on-boarding services, and managing the licenses,” said Ari Banerjee, vice president of strategy at Netcracker.
As the prime integrator, NEC/Netcracker will also integrate third-party hardware. Banerjee said the hardware is a mix of white boxes and some proprietary network equipment as well. The deal with Etisalat included three different requests for proposal (RFPs): one for residential vCPE; one for enterprise vCPE; and one for the NFV infrastructure (NFVI). “There are a variety of vendors underneath,” said Banerjee. “All three things have different combinations of hardware and vendors.”
Open Source Code
In terms of other open source code, he said, “We’re picking and choosing the right ones that we think make sense. We are a big contributor of ONAP and ETSI and OSM. But none of these are at a point to be developed at a carrier-grade level.”
NEC/Netcracker has only begun working with Etisalat. “We have been selected; we have not gone live yet,” Banerjee said. “We expect a lot of industry standard APIs to be used in this case.”
He said a lot of the work with Etisalat will probably be contributed back into open source projects to help those projects become carrier-grade ready.