‘At its core, it’s a question of “who wins?”‘ Alef CEO on the fight for the enterprise

‘The question of the hyperscaler vs. the operator is about two monolithic things bouncing against each other, and it will eventually blow up,’ says Alef CEO

For the CEO of Alef Mike Mulica, it’s a very interesting time in telecom. His background, in his own words, falls “at some intersection” between mobile and the internet, and it is this intersection that he believes is at the heart of the hyperscaler/operator conflict, which sees both markets targeting the enterprise space.

“What’s really happening is the internet is blending with the mobile network,” Mulica told RCR Wireless News at Connect EXPO in Denver. “At the core of [the issue] is ‘who wins?’”

In other words, in the battle for ownership over enterprise networks, the question is which ecosystem will survive, that of the hyperscaler or that of the mobile operator?

Mulica explained that mobile has always had a centralized market model built around a consumer use case. “That’s because that’s what gave the operators the most leverage,” he continued. “They can build a macro network and provide a single service that they can scale.”

The internet, on the other hand, has a much more fluid model. As a result, operators missed out on the over-the-top application craze that marked 4G, and for Mulica, the past often informs the future. “The thing that is impossible to change is an operating model of a large company. I think the internet is always going to diversified, open and fluid and mobile operators are always going to have a rigid operating model,” he said. “Carriers don’t know how to do anything that doesn’t scale. Customizing doesn’t make it through the justification system.”

The implication of these disparate models really comes to the forefront when you consider the new opportunities emerging in mobile services for the enterprise. Typically, enterprise networks are made up of several Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) or software interfaces that have been pieced together to create a network that addresses a business’ specific needs.

“They work with lots of different companies in order to be able to create very unique operating environments for their business,” Mulica stated, adding that this approach lends itself to the internet operating model, but it does not lend itself to mobile.

So, where will operators fit into this future in which the internet and mobile are blended? Mulica argued that they will be distributors for APIs. One of his proof points for this claim is Alef’s “constellation of edge positions” that it has built around the U.S. According to Mulica, these contain “all of the intelligence that exists within a mobile network.”  

“We make available APIs to enterprises so that they can get a mobile network on demand by subscribing to these APIs,” he said, adding that is what will work for them — something over-the-top that doesn’t require them to over-invest or to have deep knowledge about cellular technology.  

“The question is about two monolithic things bouncing against each other,” said Mulica, adding that this friction is disrupting the structure of the telecom industry and will eventually “blow up.”

“I think the marketplace is going to change dramatically in the next few months because of the advent of this organic groundswell of the tools being more like what the enterprises have been using and being able to use mobility in a way that doesn’t cost too much money and isn’t too complex,” he stated.

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