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As networks continue to evolve and become more complex with the emergence of new technologies, service providers are under immense pressure to revamp and restrategize existing business models in order to participate competitively in the global market. With this in mind, Ciena’s primary vision is to help operators not only adapt to the increasing demands of an ever-changing ecosystem, but to flourish and continue to ride the wave of digital transformation.

Telecom Review Asia Pacific secured an exclusive interview with Anup Changaroth, Ciena’s Asia Pacific & Japan Chief Technology Officer to talk about the company’s global footprint, 5G deployment and the intricacies involved in providing solutions to socio-economically diverse regions.

How important is the Asia Pacific market when it comes to expanding your global footprint?

Ciena serves over 1,500 customers worldwide and operates across more than 10 countries in Asia Pacific, making this one of our most important growth markets. We work with many leading service providers in the region including NTT, KDDI, Rakuten, Telstra, Vodafone, Singtel, and SK Telecom, as well as internet content providers and large government and vertical utility players including rail transport, finance, and research and development institutions.

Asia is facing phenomenal growth in mobile data traffic, driven by video centric entertainment, cloud gaming, and IoT. As service providers seek new ways of efficiently delivering a higher quality experience, Ciena is helping operators in the region to significantly increase network capacity and adapt their networks to effectively cater to that demand and prepare for the future.

We address this need by combining automation and intelligence, turning static networks of the past into dynamic and programmable networks of the future that can allocate capacity where it’s needed most. We call this the Adaptive Network, and it is vital across Asia Pacific as widespread commercial 5G roll-outs open up new use cases that cannot be left to a best effort network experience and instead require guaranteed performance.

In Japan as an example, many network operators are making changes to prepare ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and other advances in AI, IoT and 5G. This has created a significant opportunity for Ciena and makes Japan one of our key regional markets:

a) We’ve helped deliver an entirely new backbone network for Rakuten, Japan’s fourth mobile entrant. Ciena’s coherent optical and automation technology enables Rakuten to ensure reliability and scalability across Japan’s highest traffic regions and be future-ready for 5G.

b) We’ve worked closely with several other Japanese operators to enhance their infrastructure. The 2020 Summer Olympics will be an important showcase of what 5G will offer consumers, paving the way for mainstream IoT adoption and the foundation for Japan to become one of the world’s leading countries for 5G deployments.

In addition to Japan, markets such as Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia are moving quickly towards 5G to support their smart city visions. Ciena’s 5G solutions enable them to take the right approach to infrastructure and future network design in order to enable the uninterrupted, reliable and real-time flow of data that smart cities will demand.

Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia are also an integral part of our strategy. We recently appointed a new leader in Indonesia to help guide digital transformation for operators in that region. As one of Asia Pacific’s largest economy, Indonesia’s networks are becoming increasingly dynamic, driven by the need to improve end user experiences and desire to support high-bandwidth services like video streaming, online gaming, and other mobile internet applications. We’ve also made new hires in other southeast Asian markets, helping operators upgrade their network infrastructure for 4G and 5G.

We know that a lot of investments are pouring in when it comes to 5G deployment and expansion. How is Ciena addressing this to give their customers the best services and solutions?

It’s important to remember that 5G is much more than just a radio upgrade. It’s the next generation of mobile innovation. 5G will lead to huge spikes in data traffic and user expectation, which means significant increase in fiberization across metros, a key strength of Ciena’s.

From our customers in Asia, and around the globe, we’re hearing the same question: how do we evolve our networks to handle growth in a scalable manner and without the risk of overbuilding and cost overrun, while maintaining a consistent user experience? We believe tackling this problem is a balancing act. It depends on building the right infrastructure layer and putting the right automation in place to guarantee performance, while protecting capacity for high value services and applications.

One key aspect in addition to capacity scale is the requirement for an open approach to managing IP networks, particularly as 5G takes off. Ciena is helping operators reimagine their IP networks in a way that makes it easier and more cost-effective to scale. Our Adaptive IP solution allows operators to pick and choose how to evolve their network based on their unique needs, optimising existing infrastructure while incorporating new technologies and ways of working with openness, scalability, and security.

Ciena’s Wavelogic coherent optical technology is an important step. Our new 800G optical solution helps futureproof networks by delivering more capacity per wavelength. The benefit being that operators can better react to unpredictable spikes in demand because 800G technology can route traffic across different paths while still maximising capacity.

We are also seeing growing interest in software automation across a range of customers and applications as AI becomes top of mind for operators. Automation will be a critical enabler to scale their networks while bending down their cost curves. Ciena’s Blue Planet is a key product for delivering the scale and efficiency they need to deliver on 5G’s potential. Combined with the power of data analytics, our Blue Planet solutions bring intelligent automation to the network. This means provisioning for new services and bandwidth on-demand capabilities can be managed faster and easier by AI rather than relying on human intervention. It also enables vendor-agnostic network slicing and real-time visibility into overall network performance. This is critical for the optimised, automated end-to-end creation of dynamic virtual networks powering new 5G use cases, such as mission critical IoT, which will unlock new revenues for operators.

Our customers turn to us because we are an independent supplier. We give them the ability to pick and choose the right solution for their needs because we support a wide range of radio interfaces. This means customers are not locked into a specific radio vendor, and that’s important for building scalable next-generation networks. They can change their radio technology in the future and be safe in the knowledge that their automated and high performing network will remain.

When it comes to Asia Pacific, different socio-economic markets bring about a host of challenges that may need a specific focus. How can Ciena overcome these challenges and are they able to tailor-make solutions based on the complexities of each market?

Asia is a diverse region for a variety of reasons, not least socio-economic differences. Vietnam is investing in fiber networks to support industry 4.0. Singapore and Hong Kong are striving to become smart cities with large scale Data Center buildouts, while smartphone penetration in India has spiked demand for video streaming and mobile gaming. If we look at how these trends translate into network impact, though, we spot one major commonality: a demand for more.

Delivering on this depends on a digital transformation in networking. This is driven by an open, modular, and scalable network design that allows operators to select the right best-of-breed products for their needs. This is how they’ll meet performance requirements. It’s the route operators must take to realise the greater network agility and real-time insights required to tackle the pressure points in their specific markets.

Open architecture is the ethos of the adaptive network that’s at the heart of Ciena’s approach to help our customers scale their networks and meet demand cost effectively.

Looking specifically at emerging technologies like IoT, cloud computing, or AI, how has Ciena transformed its own business model to adopt and employ these technologies globally?

The impact of any new technology comes from how it is integrated, and the change that is made for the benefit of the end user, which is why digital transformation and change management go hand in hand. Ciena has become a company that leads by example with a focus on innovation, taking advantage of emerging technologies in order to better improve the products that serve our customers.

For example, Ciena will become data centre free this year. This means we won’t have a corporate data centre anymore. Instead, everything we do will be in the cloud. We’re also taking a new approach to our wide area network across the world. By using our own hardware and Blue Planet technology, we will be able to see, inspect, and change traffic across the WAN in real time, adjusting to demand on the fly.

Consider this in the context of the cellular landscape: advances in cloud gaming, live streaming, and the many other use cases that are emerging as a result of commercial 5G roll outs, have changed what’s expected from mobile connectivity. It’s a prolific adjustment, particularly in Asia Pacific which has become a region of mobility. Getting this right means starting with the user experience and looking at the network changes that must be made to accommodate these use cases. Working from the inside out means we can ensure our products enable our customers to deal with what’s coming down the line as new technologies and innovations take hold.

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