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Saudi Telecom Company builds out NFV capabilities

Operator continues roll-out of network function virtualisation-based services as networking trend sweeps Gulf region

Saudi Arabia-based Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the largest telecoms operator in the Arab world, has continued to roll out network function virtualisation (NFV)-based services by deploying Juniper Networks’ Contrail Networking system.

The move has seen STC create a set of dedicated cloud services for its customers, powered by Contrail. The operator said it expects the use of NFV and Contrail to improve its ability to rapidly offer customers new online services and applications, as well as enhance its own business agility.

Contrail Networking is a software-defined networking (SDN) controller that automates and orchestrates the creation of scalable virtual networks. It interoperates with an OpenStack cloud orchestration platform, potentially allowing easy creation and scaling of service instances.

Juniper also claims to be able to provide higher availability and reliability through the system.

STC said Contrail would help it to reduce time to market for new customised services, applications and functions. The operator aims to achieve this by connecting virtual resources across its public and private clouds.

The business need behind STC’s roll-out of NFV-based cloud services is its expectation of increased international growth over the coming years.

The operator said its growth opportunities would be helped if it can simplify the roll-out of new virtualised services, such as Contrail is supposed to allow for.

“The network, underpinned by advanced NFV and automation capabilities, can deliver substantial value to our customers by providing the agility, speed and simplicity that today’s businesses require,” said Tariq M Enaya, senior vice-president for enterprise at STC.

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“Juniper is an ideal partner with the same customer-centric approach, providing us with state-of-the-art technology for our cloud-based offerings.”

STC claims to be at the forefront of NFV deployments in the Arab world. However, other operators across the Middle East have been exploring the technology trend for some time, and STC’s Contrail deployment is the latest in a long line of regional NFV roll-outs over the past 18 months. 

At the end of 2014, United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based operator Du claimed to be the first company in the region to complete an internal testing phase for NFV-based technologies. It said the tests were being conducted on its 4G network to allow for slicker service delivery packages for its enterprise customers.

A month later, Du’s UAE rival, Etisalat, said it had deployed Alcatel-Lucent’s NFV-based radio network control on its radio access networks in the UAE and Sri Lanka.

And at about the same time, Ooredoo Kuwait said it had successfully unified an NFV-based architecture and its IT applications on a single, unified cloud based on VMware’s vCloud for NFV platform.

Whether or not STC’s NFV deployment is more advanced than its regional competitors’ efforts remains to be seen. But if the technology allows STC to capitalise on regional cloud spending growth, other operators will be sure to be hot on its heels.

Read more on Software-defined networking (SDN)