Part IV: The wireless backhaul opportunity

FierceTelecom: During the recent FierceTelecom webinar Carrier Roundtable: Packet Optical Networking Platforms, you mentioned the how supporting multiple network layer types creates challenges for 360 from an Operations Administration Maintenance and Provisioning (OAMP) perspective. Can you touch upon how you are addressing those issues?

360networks OAMPAdams: What's going on there is something that every operator is going through. We're focusing OAMP into two areas: surveillance and administration. As you look at surveillance, everything put into the network today was built upon a framework of APIs. Those APIs have to meet certain criteria to say if this is a voice service, I need to be able to survey the quality of quality of voice services. To do that I have Empirix's hammers on top of the network and probes scattered throughout the network. Although surveillance may be an administrative issue on a routed platform, for voice I am relying on Empirix. Empirix's hammer is rolled into an aggregation manager of manager's view of the entire network. Some of the tools and test equipment that we use to troubleshoot voice issues is a myriad of solutions from our switch manufacturer Sonus and some homegrown devices.

From an Internet access perspective, we're changing gears with our Juniper JUNOS platform. Some of the tools from JUNOS are feature-rich enough that we can take the output of those and get down to the lowest common denominator to determine the metrics on the network that's fed into a manager of managers. From an Ethernet perspective, some of the JUNOS stuff will be there if Ethernet is traversing a Layer 3 path into our manager of managers. The Alcatel-Lucent SAM application is truly a network administration tool, but the parameters and features that they have been able to put into SAM gives us the ability to keep metrics within the performance from our Ethernet network perspective.

360networks redundant trunkingThe manager of manager platform is under development, where two vendors are doing a bake-off of their systems. The intention is we can have an unmanned vehicle look at this administration platform and at a high level understand how the network is performing and roll it back a layer once an issue is found. Depending on where the issue is coming from, you'll have to get into these systems. Right now, we still have these legacy systems, which we're not monitoring anymore. Instead, we're relying on the performance metrics out of Empirix and our router manager and SAM to give us metrics on platforms we capped. Now, that doesn't mean we don't have to go into an old Alcatel-Lucent PSAX and do some work or replace a card in an old Cisco router that's providing end-user services, but the indicators we put in the network will tell us what's going on in that platform. We've limited the amount of devices we're monitoring by tapping into a more unified network view, but the unification of the network view is an oxymoron because it's only unified in the fact that the APIs give us a look of unification. This is the best we can do without replacing every box in our network, which is just impossible.   

FierceTelecom: With AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile all expanding their 3G and oncoming 4G wireless network rollouts, there's going to be a lot more opportunities for alternative wholesalers such as 360networks to provide fiber to the tower type services. Do you see wireless backhaul as a big opportunity this year? What is your approach to this market segment? 

360networks wireless backhaulAdams: A lot of it has been opportunistic, and we're really kicking the tires on some value added relationships with the MSOs. Since I have a deep knowledge of how an MSO works and what goes on behind the cloud, I can speak to these guys in a way they understand. When I go to Comcast, I will ask, 'I want to use your metro Ethernet to get to some of these towers,' and they'll say, 'they are our competitors.' I say, 'well they're going to get the access one way or another, so you can make some revenue off it or give it to the incumbent in terms of fiber builds.' We are working the model with some of these MSOs to try to expand our metro footprint to the towers so we don't have to build fiber to every tower. We are doing a number of builds to towers this year, but the majority of them are for hubs or MSCs. From there, we're using a multitude of access technologies, including leasing microwave or incumbent loops to get to some towers.

In some cases because of the Tier 2 nature of our network, we're able to creatively put together some wireless solutions. There's no cookie cutter approach there, but first off we like fiber; we are a fiber company. Secondly, we're going to partner with the incumbent or the lowest-cost provider we can that has the quality to work with our customer or supplier to gain access on the loop side. Last but not least, we're using the incumbent's microwave network to get back to certain points on our network. It's a creative mix of getting our services out there.

Part IV: The wireless backhaul opportunity