Four months after announcing the relocation of its headquarters to a 95,000-square-foot office complex in Dallas, Frontier Communications said it will pilot its new network-as-service (NaaS) at its flagship office building.
Ettienne Brandt, EVP of Business at Frontier, said the ISP is offering its enterprise customers the same service it deployed in Dallas: a completely automated, cloud-based local area network. “We wanted a true services play,” he said. “Hardware, software and services are all included.”
The hardware is built by Frontier’s partner Nile, a startup founded to deliver secure networks-as-a-service by veterans of Cisco, AWS and other companies. Chief business development officer Niraj Singh said Nile spent four years creating its proprietary chipset and designing Nile’s Wi-Fi access points and switches. He said one reason Nile “started from scratch” was to embed zero trust security at the product’s core.
Security will be a big driver for NaaS, according to Frontier’s Brandt. Currently, many firms feel pressure to upgrade their network hardware and software to keep up with the most robust security solutions available. That can get expensive.
“People don’t have big capex budgets to do these massive upgrades every couple of years,” said Brandt. “They prefer the services model.”
Frontier doesn’t have any enterprise customers to announce yet, but Brandt said the ISP will target large enterprises, since it already offers a Meraki managed Wi-Fi network for mid-sized companies. He said large companies are asking for NaaS, and he named healthcare facilities, state and local governments, and educational institutions as likely customers.
Artificial intelligence will monitor and automate Frontier’s NaaS, Brandt said, guaranteeing quality of service and alerting Frontier if a customer needs additional hardware at a given location. Nile’s Singh added that AI will also move the access points automatically to the Wi-Fi spectrum band with the most bandwidth available at the moment. “You don’t need human intervention to fine tune it; it is doing it continuously 24/7,” he said.
“The Nile access service is ideal for service providers like Frontier, as it provides a complete wired and wireless local area network (LAN) offering that enables them to deepen their partnerships with their enterprise customers but doesn’t add to their operational burden,” said Nile CEO Pankaj Patel, in a press release.
Frontier’s NaaS announcement comes roughly six months after Lumen launched Internet-on-Demand, a slightly different take on NaaS. Instead of placing access points and switches at the enterprise customer location, Lumen offers select enterprise customers a portal or an application programming interface as an on-ramp to its network. And instead of a monthly fee, customers pay by the hour based on how much bandwidth they use.
Frontier’s Brandt said that since NaaS is a new business for Frontier, management thought it was appropriate to take a fresh approach. “This isn’t an area where we’ve got a back book to protect, so we can afford to make decisions and go with disruptive players and do things that aren’t being done in the industry every day,” he said.