Operator Agnostic Networks

I recently read an article on Services in the context Enterprise Networks. The article put the size of the market at a figure that was at-least two times the size of Services for Carrier Networks. This obviously meant one of two things – the world-wide Enterprise Networks are several times larger than public carrier networks or Enterprise Networks are far more complex consuming more Services for its upkeep than that for Carriers.

Without being judgmental about these two points, there is no denying the fact that the Enterprise Networks Market is larger than that for Carriers.

As is my wont – started day dreaming ( 🙂 ) about the following terminology: Over the Top Network and Operator Agnostic Network.

Over the Top Network

We have heard of a number of applications that provide voice, video and gaming, that are provided over the top of existing networks. What do I mean by Over The Top Network?

If I look at the OSI model, it would amount to something like what is depicted below.


Someone runs the network – lower two layers – associated line coding, channel coding and framing and makes their point of presence at operator premises. The operators take care of the address space (network layer; AAA – identity & contracting depend on this) and tunnel their transport through the address agnostic layers below.

Is this feasible?

We are witnessing this already when we see that in large public infrastructure such as airports, malls and smart cities, usually the facility management agency runs the physical network and provides the capacity. We see this becoming a significant approach for in-building wireless (small cell) solutions too.

It isdefinitely feasible. If the service can be provided in restricted public spaces, why not extend it to an entire city, county or country? This is not very different from the MSO-LCO model prevalent in the cable industry! This is not very different from CLEC using an ILEC (other operator over unbundled access) network!

What Are The Implications

A more meaningful alternative to Managed Services model can emerge – one in which the concern of physical network is third-party’s while the operators focus on things that define their customer’s contract meaningfully.

Spectrum can be commonly held by the network operators and made available to service providers per usage making better business case as well as improving the economic efficiency of spectrum use.

Operators can run the upper layers from virtual machines in data centres (NFV) thus improving their business cases further and, perhaps, cutting down on expensive OEM dependencies.

Parting shot

The more I turn around the dream in my head, the more I am convinced that, in a foreseeable future, network managed services providers – OEM or Independent providers – should prepare themselves to become Operator Agnostic or Operator Neutral or Operator Independent Network Providers!

What do you think?


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