Affirmed Networks introduces virtualized Wi-Fi gateway

As more wireless operators show an interest in supporting Wi-Fi calling, Affirmed Networks is coming out with Evolved Packet Data Gateway (ePDG) and Trusted WiFi Access Gateway (TWAG) functionality that will enable operators to offer virtualized Wi-Fi access as part of their overall network offerings.

The virtualization dovetails with operators' desire to virtualize more of their products and services, so they can get rid of proprietary hardware and add services more quickly to generate new revenue.

Affirmed Networks said the combination of Wi-Fi with cellular services on a single platform allows operators unified Radio Access Network (RAN) access for mobile services and allows fixed and mobile operators to expand their network coverage, add new services -- such as Wi-Fi calling -- and improve the overall consumer experience. 

Wi-Fi offload and especially Wi-Fi calling are getting operators motivated to incorporate more Wi-Fi into their networks. One of the reasons operators want to offer Wi-Fi calling is to serve customers who are in dead zones or otherwise can't get access to a reliable cellular connection.

With this introduction, Affirmed Networks said it is delivering a carrier-grade virtualized Wi-Fi solution that delivers the scalability and encryption required for operators to increase the number of IPSEC-encrypted sessions on demand without the need of specialized hardware. Until now, telecom solutions requiring IPSEC were tied to dedicated hardware to support the high capacity encryption needs of Wi-Fi deployments, according to the company. To achieve this, Affirmed Network's combined its expertise in virtualizing network elements with an industry-first solution on the IPSEC encryption front.

One of the things about virtualizing Wi-Fi is the desired level of encryption is difficult to do in software, but through a partnership with Intel, Affirmed Networks was able to leverage Intel's crypto technologies and integrate that with its own applications, so that very high levels of encryption are achieved, according to Angela Whiteford, Affirmed Networks' vice president of marketing and product management. The company has been working on the product since last year.

Specifically, the hardware and software advances from Intel include Intel AES New Instructions (Intel AES-NI) and Intel Multi-Buffer Crypto for IPsec Library. 

Affirmed made a name for itself when it was selected to supply the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) to AT&T as part of the operator's Domain 2.0 project. The vendor typically competes with larger players like Cisco, Ericsson and Huawei, but Whiteford said Affirmed Networks' advantage over the larger companies is the fact it was built from the ground up to deliver virtualized solutions along with combined functionality to service providers. "The larger players have not been able to demonstrate the level of flexibility and innovation that it takes to lead operators through this evolution," she told FierceWirelessTech.

Affirmed Networks Chairman and CEO Hassan Ahmed and his team made a bet early on and the company was formed in 2010. That was fortuitous because in November of 2012, seven of the world's leading network operators selected ETSI as the home of the Industry Specification Group for NFV, kicking off their NFV efforts. Affirmed actually came up with an NFV-based architecture before the operators submitted their first white paper, according to Whiteford. One of the reasons the company has had such rapid market traction is due to that early bet on NFV and ability to say it was ready to go into trials.

Last year proved to be a tipping point, as prior to that, the one big objection had to do with performance, with operators saying there was no way a virtualized packet core, for example, could perform at the same level as the incumbent-based hardware, and "we went through a lot of trials in 2013 and into 2014, where we were going head-to-head against the legacy performance numbers" with its virtualized solution, and "we were performing at the same level or better in those environments, and you're coming in at a 50 to 70 percent cost savings," she said, adding that the company is able to get deployments in network in half the time or less. Operators are now seeing that it's able to perform to their requirements and the company is now able to scale to its big customers and enter new geographies.  

Affirmed Networks has more than 25 customers and 40 trials underway; the customers it has publicly announced are AT&T, Elephant Talk, Fogg Mobile, Transatel, TNA and LG U+. The company says its Mobile Content Cloud solution is currently deployed in some of the world's largest mobile service provider networks. Affirmed Networks' new Wi-Fi gateway has been developed on top of the Affirmed Mobile Content Cloud, where it inherits proven mobile gateway functionality.

Two commercial deployments for the Wi-Fi gateway are underway in Asia-Pacific along with about 12 trials around the world.

For more:
- see this release

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