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    WG2 tells telcos buy your own place in the cloud and learn to speak like a native


    Watch out for time-share hyper scallywags

    A design of engineers left Telenor to build a sort of Android store for telco networks. Soon its ambitions extended to creating cloud native telco software from the core to the edge. Now their company WG2 has created an off-the-self mobile core that turns telco into cloud natives without getting fleeced by the hyper-scalpers, who help them migrate to the cloud and then hold their business to ransom.

    The cloud world has rapidly moved on from when Erlend Prestgard was working at Telenor as part of a group asked to build a few small applications on top of the telco’s network core. Though the apps were simple, building them was nigh on impossible since the core network was proprietary and mega complex. Engineers needed permissions to work on the core software and had to use protocols from the 1980s. Having done all that work they couldn’t re-sell the end products to other telcos as the Norwegian telco’s systems used a proprietary mix of protocols that wouldn’t work anywhere else. The problem was that all the operators in the world had slightly different core networks, so the app wouldn’t work for them anyway.

    The entire design, the collective terms for engineers, realised modern applications must be built from scratch with a cloud-native core. Prestgard and a four others broke away from Telenor, with its blessing, and formed WG2. Since 2017 the original five designers have created a ground breaking cloud-native mobile core and now WG2 has 85 people in countries. In one of those over-night sensations that ifs five years in the making, suddenly the C-level crowd are all crying out for cloud-native apps. In the cycle of procurement, the cry has moved on from Who’s WG2? through Get Me WG2 to Get Me a WG2 lookalike! But once again, branding is luring them away from his vision on an Android for Mobile Networks. The buyers at some operators have unfortunately heard their traditional suppliers talking about offering “cloud applications as a service.”

    As a rule of thumb, you should never trust anyone who overcomplicates things. Nobody calls the police as a service, and the SAS is no less professional because it’s not referred to as The Special Air as a Service. However many telco buyers are mesmerised by this dogwhistle marketing phrase and are now buying cloud applications as a service from the same vendors who would have laughed at the idea two years earlier. Some mobile network operators continue going go to their normal vendors and asking for an ‘asser’, which is cloud native in name only. “They say [to the olde worlde software vendor] do what you do, but do it in the cloud. That’s actually the worst of both worlds,” Prestgaard told Linda Hardesty in Fierce Wireless magazine. The WG2 team decided it wouldn’t be sufficient to take a traditional core network and put it on a cloud like AWS. It needed to build a mobile core in the cloud, from the start.

    Prestgard and co-founder Werner Eriksen are still working on an Android for Networks where they would have clever hardware and install an operating system that’s common across all this hardware. Then they would create application programming interfaces (APIs) for developers, who could easily create products. However though operators desperately need their core strengthened before they can strengthen the rest of their infrastructure, WG2 has sold few core operators. Telenor uses it for its Vimla MVNO brand. The Hutchinson Group, which owns 11 MVNOs around the world, uses WG2’s technology. Earlier this year, the Hawaiian operator Mobi announced that it was using WG2 for its core network.

    This is madness according to cloud native missionary Danielle Royston, who runs a number of cloud native companies, including app shop Totogi and consultancy TelcoDR. “It’s not enough to move legacy apps to the cloud. They have to be rewritten with the mindset the only place they will run is in the cloud. And by the cloud I only mean public cloud.” Telco executives think they have a lot more time than they do, said Royston, who seems to think it’s her way of the highway. WG2’s technology includes programming interfaces to connect to business support systems (BSS) specialists like Amdocs. Prestgard said it was frustrating to work at a telco that used proprietary equipment for its core network. “This is the fundamental reason operators are challenged; their ability to change is so slow,” he said. “Except for Jio and Rakuten, no operators are able to do anything because of proprietary equipment. They don’t have access to the source code.”

    The big problem is the perception of public cloud and the IT industry in general has a terrible record of misleading and bamboozling people over subscriptions. According to Telecom TV, the dread of being locked into a contract as the prices ‘hyper scale up’, are the main barriers to successful partnerships between telcos and hyperscalers, it discovered in a poll conducted during a recent Telcos and Public Cloud Summit. Developers are starting to admit the shame of being bamboozled over ‘three cloud tricks’ when building apps for cloud-based mobile PBX switch-boards, professional voice assistance, network anti-spam products and SMS security products.

    Most telcos now have some kind of relationship with at least one of the main public cloud players – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. WG2 runs their programmable mobile core on infrastructure from AWS and makes it possible for any developer to build telco products.  Perhaps this is the way forward.