Meeting demand

Gary Smith, CEO, Ciena, tells CommsMEA about the company’s plans for the region and why wireless networking technology is set for stellar growth

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Meeting demand Ciena CEO Gary Smith is optimistic about the wireless networking tech sector in the Middle East.
By  Roger Field Published  June 1, 2010

After acquiring Metro Ethernet Networks (MEN) group, the optical and carrier ethernet assets of Nortel, US based networking specialist Ciena is forging ahead with ambitious growth plans in the Middle East. Gary Smith, CEO, Ciena, tells CommsMEA about the company’s plans for the region and why wireless networking technology is set for stellar growth.

CommsMEA: What is Ciena’s focus in the Middle East?

Gary Smith: As the region continues to grow, broadband is expected to triple in the next few years, and you have also got mobile, mobile broadband, IPTV and broadband activities going on. All of that is creating an enormous demand on the carriers networks, and one of the fundamental things that we are seeing in the region is that a lot of these networks were really designed for voice. So mobile and the data demands are really driving carriers to look at an architecture that is more suited to data, video and mobile, and that is an opportunity for Ciena.

You are seeing a lot of the carriers now look to upgrade their networks, not just from a capacity point of view, but from a different services point of view, where you can have bandwidth on demand, and very high rates of bandwidth to the home and to mobile devices. We are seeing it in other parts of the world, and we are seeing it in the Middle East.

CommsMEA: How is the Middle East going to finance broadband upgrades?

Gary Smith: It is an issue globally, how do carriers fund the expansion that is required for all these new services, and to put extra bandwidth on it. Essentially it has to be based, I believe, on some sort of linkage between the services that are provided and the amount of bandwidth that is consumed. One of the issues that we are struggling with globally is that we are all used to paying one price for infinite access to the Internet, that is just how the Internet has grown up.

The challenge to that is we are putting more and more things through that infrastructure, and somebody has to pay for that. At some point there has to be increasing linkage between usage. The revenues have to go more toward being content based, there are different kinds of applications that people will pay for, and I think you are increasingly seeing carriers talk about differentiated services, and content on the network.

CommsMEA: Are the Middle East carriers willing to invest to roll out next generation networks?

Gary Smith: In my conversations with them, I think they are very well educated around what is going on in the rest of the world, and I think they see an opportunity to leap frog some of the things that are going on, so whilst I think they are prepared to invest in their infrastructure, they are very cognizant of linking that to services, and services that people will pay for. Having established themselves, I think many of the major carriers in the region are certainly prepared to invest in their networks, no question about that, but I think they are looking for next generation architecture that links that spend directly to the services that they can create.

Carriers are very receptive to new innovation, and that fits well with Ciena, we are really known for innovating with technology, we see a very receptive market here.

CommsMEA: What is Ciena doing to address the market here?

Gary Smith: Ciena is globally expanding, particularly into the Middle East market, we have been here now for a couple of years, focused on this region, and we see it as a good long term growth opportunity for Ciena. We have our first customers here, and we are looking to expand that over the next few years. We see it as a great opportunity for us. It’s fair to say we are talking to the ‘usual suspects’.

CommsMEA: What does Ciena offer to these carriers that stand out from the competition?

Gary Smith: Ciena is the market leader in converged optical ethernet, that is our focus, players like Juniper are more into routers. Now with the recent acquisition of Nortel, we are the largest player focused on converged optical ethernet, and that allows us to offer a tremendous amount of value to Middle Eastern carriers, and as they are looking to upgrade their networks, we bring an awful lot to the marketplace.

CommsMEA: How does optical ethernet mix with other technologies like WiMAX?

Gary Smith: It really enables all of that activity, because all of that needs to be terrestrialised at some point. You have wireless backhaul, which is becoming increasingly the critical path for the expansion of these mobile services, and Ciena has been a pioneer in that space. WiMAX companies like Clearwire in North America, based all of their architecture on Ciena, and they are here in the Middle East as well. It is really allowing things like 4G, LTE and WiMAX, which really requires an enormous amount of bandwidth, and Ciena has been at the forefront of delivering that. If you look at a lot of the wireless backhaul services that have been put in by people like AT&T, that is with Ciena as well.

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