Opanga Networks aims to add capacity through software

Seattle-based Opanga Networks employs around 40. (Pixabay)

Opanga Networks is trying to help wireless operators address a problem that comes from a small percentage of consumer interactions within their networks.

Namely, those video sessions that are fairly infrequent for the majority of consumers but can have a big impact on a network. Opanga calls them “Elephant Flows,” and based on some 20 deployments of its technology with Tier 1 and 2 operators across Europe and the U.S., it’s found that about 3-5% of data sessions on mobile networks account for 55-70% of data traffic/volume.

Dave Gibbons, CEO of Seattle-based Opanga, likens it to a water cooler scenario. If you think of a water cooler as a cell site, one user could go up to it with a bucket and take a lot of time filling it. Meanwhile, someone else with a small cup just wants to get a quick drink. Video has a similar effect on a network.

In a market like Seattle, where Opanga is based, operators have an Evolved Packet Core (EPC) facility that connects to thousands of cell towers. Opanga’s software sits right there in the packet core. An operator can turn on its software and, within a very short time, get the benefit of increased capacity across the entire market.

That's compared to doing it the traditional way—taking years to get zoning approvals, constructing sites and stringing cables.

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Of course, the wireless industry will always require physical sites, but Gibbons and his colleagues would like to see more capacity introduced via software—and it can make a remarkable impact on the economics for an operator, he said.

“Delivering performance improvements in software is actually one of the quickest and easiest things for the operators to do, so we’re really trying to find a way to get that message out,” he told FierceWirelessTech. In fact, he said, the software opportunity is bigger than just about any other opportunity available to increase capacity quickly.

“We feel very comfortable about our approach,” he said. Indirectly, Opaga mostly competes with the other things within a cellular operator’s budget—tower leasing and things of that nature. In the actual marketplace, it doesn’t see that much direct competition, he said.

The company, which employs about 40 people, has been focused on Elephant Flow optimization via software intelligence in the network core to increase RAN performance since 2015. Prior to that, Opanga had a smartphone-based video optimization solution that it still sells to operators that own their own content.

Privately funded, the company’s board includes a who’s who of wireless representation. T-Mobile’s former marketing director, Cole Brodman, is on the board. The Opanga executive team is the same one that was behind Eden Rock, which was sold to Nokia in 2015.