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Etisalat unveils MENA’s first OpenRAN network and launches UCC suite

Leading MENA telco makes key move in transforming its network to software-based solution hub and introduces a collaboration suite to aid small businesses in the region with digital transformation journey

Starting 2020 in a collaborative frame of mind, Abu Dhabi-based telco Etisalat has become the first operator in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to successfully launch an open virtual radio access network (Open vRAN) and has partnered with Ribbon Communications to for cloud-native business communication and collaboration.

By supporting Open vRAN technology, Etisalat is confident that it can accelerate the delivery of mobile networks as the technology will provide the foundation of its next-generation wireless infrastructure.

The vRAN architecture approach decouples the programmable RAN software elements from the hardware, allowing generally available hardware, generic pre-processor, and server platforms to process the RAN software.

The operator said this has resulted in deployment flexibility, scalability, agility, and energy efficient networks through reducing hardware elements on the network. An open vRAN approach is said to reduce time to market, as it is quicker to deploy mobile networks than traditional deployment methods.

Additionally, network capacity augmentation and optimisation is enhanced by the simplification of nodes and enabling new automated methods and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.

By using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware from third parties, Etisalat said it is transforming its network from hardware to a software-based one. The system is said to combine scalability enhancement and virtual networks achieved by integrating equipment from various suppliers, and the successful deployment of the technology was cited by Etisalat as the fruits of collaboration with partners Altiostar, NEC, Cisco and other vRAN technology suppliers.

“Keeping in line with Etisalat’s strategy of ‘driving the digital future to empower societies’, deploying the Open vRAN is vital in enabling digital transformation aimed at increasing efficiencies and the utilisation of AI,” said Saeed Al Zarouni, senior-vice president of mobile network at Etisalat.

“This announcement is aligned with UAE’s [United Arab Emirates] objectives of achieving digital transformation with the deployment of best-in-class technologies. Etisalat now plans to roll out Open vRAN across the UAE to take full advantage of all the benefits that this new technology offers.”

As it was making its Open vRAN announcement, Etisalat also launched what it called a first-of-its-kind cloud-based business unified communication and collaboration service, CloudTalk, for small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) and larger enterprise customers in the UAE.

Teaming with Ribbon Communications, Etisalat said it can now provide customers with a secure, scalable, and cloud-native business communication and collaboration system. CloudTalk offers SMEs an integrated communication solution for their internal and external communication and collaboration needs, assisting in their digital transformation plans.

The system allows users to switch between various devices in real-time from any location. Features include instant messaging, video conferencing, screen sharing and mobile app, which are claimed to be able to contribute to an elevated user experience leading to better productivity.  

CloudTalk is delivered over a carrier-grade cloud private branch exchange (PBX) replacing the legacy setups. The system’s pay-as-you-grow model is designed to give customers the flexibility to work in multi-channel communication environments, minimising upfront investments and focusing on productivity rather than infrastructure.

“We are delighted to launch CloudTalk along with our partner Ribbon Communications,” added Etisalat group chief business officer Salvador Anglada. “The agile, secure, and cloud-based solution will be beneficial for businesses looking to simplify their complex communication infrastructure.

“The launch of this unique platform enables Etisalat to be a single provider for cloud telephony, offering comprehensive tools at a viable price. Etisalat are committed to… helping businesses embark on their digital journey.”

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