Optus pairs with Cisco for data virtualisation

Australia's second-largest telco has partnered IT giant Cisco to offer enhanced data insights capabilities for business customers and improved cloud storage solutions.

Telecommunications carrier Optus has begun offering Cisco's data virtualisation technology to provide Optus Business customers with more efficient data management, storage, security, virtualisation, and insights.

Optus' partnership with Cisco, announced on Monday morning, will combine the telco's own cloud capabilities with Cisco's more advanced data virtualisation and integration tools, allowing for an end-to-end integrated shared cloud storage and agile data insights solution.

Eight data virtualisation-based engineers from Cisco are already working across the joint project, with the IT giant set to be begin training more in future.

"We are excited by the compelling benefits this technology can offer our customers in Australia, which have been well demonstrated in the US market, particularly in the financial services industry," said Jennie McLaughlin, head of Business Applications and Solutions for Optus Business.

"Data virtualisation's streamlined approach reduces complexity and saves money, due to the reduction of data replication and consolidation."

Optus has partnered Cisco on various IT projects for several years, with both companies saying it has enabled growth in customer base and capabilities.

"It takes a robust and technology-savvy business to be able to help its customers fully realise Cisco's data virtualisation technology, and Optus is a more than capable partner on this front," said Jason Brouwers, director of Cisco's Partner Business Group, on Monday.

"We are proud of our long-standing relationship with Optus, and look forward to continuing to support Optus' growth as an end-to-end ICT provider."

The telco in March announced that it would be launching a unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) platform running Cisco's hosted collaboration suite.

The Optus-Cisco UCaaS project enables medium and large business customers to use voice, messaging, and video services, as well as contact centre offerings, across the platform, with customers charged on a monthly subscription basis. Both companies had provided 80 staff members who worked on developing the platform for six months prior to the launch.

"In order to meet the needs of our customers and differentiate ourselves, we needed to address the contact centre as well as unified communications. We took a bit longer, and what we've built is a highly resistant, highly redundant, mission-critical contact centre as a service and unified communications platform for our customers," Ian Smith, Optus vice president for Managed Services and Delivery, told ZDNet in March.

He pointed towards Optus' intention to not only be a technology company, but also a services provider.

"We're a service provider, not a technology company, so we use technology to create better services. We think there are some inherent advantages in being a service provider, for standing up this type of service. The way we've tackled it is we built an enterprise-grade, carrier-class solution, and it is across two datacentres, bolted into the Optus network," he said.

"We see this as the logical evolution of this journey we have been on to bridge the gap between telecommunications and IT, and steadily close that gap."

In April, Optus also announced that it had teamed up with Microsoft to expand its cloud capabilities with Azure-enabled cloud services. Optus was the first Australian carrier to sign with Microsoft for its Cloud OS Network.

"Through this partnership with Microsoft, Optus can now deliver solutions based on the Microsoft Cloud Platform designed to meet enterprise customers' hybrid computing needs," said Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow at the time.

"Optus can offer customers more flexibility and control when it comes to managing the cloud environments."

Optus unveils new plans

Optus has also unveiled new prepaid mobile broadband device plans for its consumer business, with a focus on more data for a longer period of time.

Optus' My Prepaid Mobile Broadband plan will enable customers to roll over up to 50GB of unused data monthly for up to two years on Wi-Fi modems, SIM-enabled tablets, and prepaid dongles.

The telco is offering four main options: AU$10 will provide customers with 1GB of data with an expiry of one week; AU$30 will buy 4GB to use over a month; the AU$50 option will provide 7GB of data for up to 365 days; and the AU$130/22GB option will see customers able to keep their data for 730 days. The latter two options allow up to 50GB of data in total to be rolled over until the period of expiry, provided the credit is topped up prior to expiry.

(Image: Optus)

In its move away from voice-only services to data-centric ones as a result of increased 4G uptake by customers, Optus earlier this month announced the shutdown of its 2G network from April 2017, as well as the launch of its 4G+ network by combining one frequency-division duplex (FDD) with two time-division duplex (TDD) 4G LTE spectrum bands.

The 4G+ carrier aggregation, announced in mid August, is already live in Newcastle suburbs Lambton, Mayfield, and Mayfield West, with plans to launch in Melbourne in early September, in the Sydney CBD in early 2016, and in Brisbane and Adelaide from mid-2016.

"Aggregating 1x FDD and 2x TDD carriers on a commercial network with a commercial device is a world first for Optus. It is a more efficient use of our spectrum bands, and will provide a more consistent and better experience for our customers," said Dennis Wong, acting managing director of Optus Networks.

"We are working with global standards bodies and global vendors to continue our technology leadership by pushing the boundaries of LTE-Advanced and TDD-FDD convergence. With our metro spectrum assets, going from 3x CA to 4x CA and even 5x CA is possible in the future."

The transition from traditional calling to the use of data marks a trend in the increasing popularity of communications apps including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, spurring Optus' entry to the market through a Wi-Fi calling app.

"I think you've seen us starting to move away from being very mobile focused to one that is about integrating communications and entertainment for customers, regardless of where they are," Optus CEO Allen Lew said in April.

Optus recently published its results for the quarter ending June 2015, reporting an increase in net profit of 19.5 percent, from AU$164 million last year to AU$196 million this year on revenues of AU2.3 billion, citing 4G mobile data uptake as its driving force.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) grew by 7.3 percent for the quarter, from AU$597 million in the three months to June last year, to AU$641 million this year.

Optus also noted that its current national 4G network covers 90 percent of the population.

"Since the beginning of 2015, we have switched on 700MHz spectrum at 2,400 metropolitan and regional sites," Lew said.

"Over the coming year, Optus will continue this important investment program so that more Australians can have access to reliable, super-fast 4G mobile services in more places."