Hawaiian carrier Mobi to deploy a cloud-native 4G/5G core network as a fully managed service on AWS
Mobi, a leading wireless network provider in Hawaii, is now expanding into the continental United States and beyond. Mobi is one of only four full mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the United States. According to Mike Dano of Light Reading, they have approximately 55,000 customers.
To support a cost-effective, scalable and innovation-friendly expansion strategy, Mobi partnered with Oslo, Norway based Working Group Two (WG2) to move its core network to the cloud. The WG2 mobile core runs cloud-natively on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and empowers Mobi to build a compelling, app-first customer experience on the largest 5G nationwide network (which is assumed to be the AWS cloud native 5G core network). Mobi plans to use its nationwide capabilities to ensure that its Hawaiian customer base won’t need to sign up for another cellular network provider if they move to the continental U.S.
A pilot solution goes live today – January 17, 2022.
By choosing a scalable and flexible cloud architecture, Mobi can offer more competitive rates and faster time-to-market with new services. The Network-as-a-Service approach reduces the time it takes to develop and deploy new features and upgrades. In contrast to legacy solutions, which include only a few network updates per year, Mobi will benefit from continuous, daily upgrades. Further, with a mobile core from WG2 that is agnostic to any generation of wireless, Mobi can future-proof its network with no end-of-life and continuous maintenance and support.
With a programmable, cloud-native core, Mobi will gain unprecedented flexibility, and will realize significantly faster time-to-market with new services. Once the WG2 mobile core is integrated with the radio network, Mobi can leverage simple APIs to determine which services to activate for every SIM or user. The network is delivered fully as-a-service and the cost is based on consumption, defined by the number and type of users/SIM cards, changing as needs and traffic fluctuate. This allows for lower barriers of entry, and a core network that can scale from single users to hundreds of millions of users.
WG2 says their core offers a full MNO core for 4G and 5G, as well as a full MVNO functionality for 2G/3G. This allows operators to build full modern 4G/5G core networks while leveraging national roaming for 2G/3G where necessary. WG2’s 4G/5G/IMS mobile core network provides Mobi with a web-based portal, through which the company can quickly and easily manage existing services and offer new ones. The WG2 core offers the full set of capabilities related to authentication and provisioning, voice, messaging, and data services.
Justen Burdette, CEO of Mobi:
“Our ambition is to disrupt and challenge the status quo in the wireless industry by delivering a seamless, app-first, and engaging customer experience. By working with WG2 and AWS, we not only get access to a scalable, secure, and future-proof core network, we also improve our ability to meet the demands of our customers. It’s all about making it simple to join, affordable to use, and fun to explore what our network can offer. We’re building a brand that resonates with our customers by working with a strong ecosystem of partners.”
“We’re able to do a modern, cloud-based, AWS-focused core from WG2. It’s a sight to behold.”
“You have complete API [application programming interface] control of the core. That makes it really amazing for us because we built our stack around APIs.”
Erlend Prestgard, CEO of WG2:
“Mobi is a standout example of a carrier that’s ready to unlock the benefits of a network-as-a-service, achievable with a consistent, programmable mobile core running on the cloud. This allows them to go live in new geographical markets in record time. The simplicity of the as-a-service operating model means that Mobi can focus on meeting customer expectations and spend their time dreaming about innovation, rather than managing complexity. We’re truly excited about joining Mobi on this journey.”
Fabio Cerone, Managing Director EMEA, Telco Business Unit at AWS:
“Embracing the cloud helps carriers simplify network operations, deploy networks more rapidly, scale more easily – while still retaining full control over the network and gaining additional agility and innovation capabilities. Now the core network is only one API away from the global community of developers, which can help deliver new value for Mobi’s customers.”
As an app-first company, wholly focused on user experience, Mobi embraces an open, API-enabled core network approach. Access to WG2’s global ecosystem of developers offers Mobi a selection of pre-integrated, ready-to-deploy applications for voice, messaging and data services, built by WG2’s development partners from all over the world. Following the continental U.S. rollout, Mobi also plans to leverage the same model to expand to markets including Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Mobi, Inc. launched as the regional wireless provider for Hawaii in 2005 — becoming the first carrier in the United States to offer affordable, simple, unlimited mobile service at a time when activation, overage, and hidden fees were the norm. Anyone can switch to Mobi in just seconds using the Mobi app, Apple Pay, and eSIM — with smart, friendly Mobi customer care geeks ready to help at any time digitally and at Mobi stores in Hawaii. All Mobi team members are proudly represented by the Communications Workers of America (the CWA). Learn more at mobi.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
About Working Group Two:
Working Group Two has rebuilt the mobile core for simplicity, innovation, and efficiency – leveraging the web-scale playbook and operating models. Today, Working Group Two innovation enables MVNO, MNO, and Private Network Operators a secure, scalable, and reliable telco connectivity backbone that scales across all generations of mobile technologies. Our mission is to create programmable mobile networks to allow our customers and their end users to create more valuable and useful products and services.
Working Group Two
+47 9909 0872
2 thoughts on “Hawaiian carrier Mobi to deploy a cloud-native 4G/5G core network as a fully managed service on AWS”
Wow, this is a brilliant way to keep customers as they move away. I wonder if they will market to tourists coming to Hawaii as a way to expand their customer base without having to do national marketing.
As has been said before, the mobile industry is similar to airline industry where the core element of moving people in airplanes is somewhat secondary to overall experience.
It wouldn’t be surprising if NCTC strikes a similar deal for its members. It could represent a significant number of customers, particularly in rural America.
From SDxCentral on 31 Jan 2023:
Hawaii-based mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Mobi recently launched a pilot service tapping into a fully cloud-native core from Working Group Two (WGtwo) and riding on Amazon Web Services (AWS) that matches the technology sophistication of what established operators are only now just rolling out.
Mobi CEO Justen Burdette said the WGtwo platform was installed in a matter of weeks, a task helped by its use of a cloud-native architecture. Burdette explained he had the kick-off call with WGtwo the last week of November, and that the 5G core was operational by January 10.
This timing included the loss of several weeks due to one of its larger network partners shutting down all network access due to the end-of-year holidays.
“I’m pretty sure they would have had it live by mid-December probably at the latest,” Burdette said of WGtwo’s efforts.
WGtwo’s cloud-based 5G core is offered to operators that can plug their 5G radio access network (RAN) and support systems into for seamless access. That core sits on AWS cloud infrastructure, with operators tapping into the platform through an as-a-service model.
“We’re trying to steal the business model back from the tech giants and bring them back to telecom,” WGtwo CEO Erlend Prestgard said in a recent podcast interview with SDxCentral.
Roy Chua, founder and principal at research firm AvidThink, noted that since WGtwo basically runs the infrastructure on its own AWS account it’s benefited by making it as efficient as possible.
“Which makes sense, right, the incentives are aligned correctly, which is WGtwo has an incentive to try to lower the cost and improve the performance of the system, because they’re getting paid by the mobile network operator directly,” Chua said. “The more they save, the more profits they make.”
Why a Cloud-Based 5G Core?
Burdette explained that the WGtwo core will allow the operator to consolidate control over its diverse network cores into a single point of contact. This will allow Mobi to simplify its own operations and also allow it to roll out new services to all of its customer base.
“We can manage everyone from a single [business support system] and [operating support system], we can apply the same business rules to everyone and not have all of these sharp edges for each group of customers,” Burdette said.
That consolidation was important for Mobi as the operator currently runs three network cores due to its unique operating history, “none of which we fully control, unfortunately,” Burdette added.
Mobi initially started as a facilities-based mobile network operator that owned its own spectrum and network resources in Hawaii. The carrier even ran commercials during the 2012 Super Bowl.
However, it soon made network and roaming arrangements with larger operators to broaden its coverage without increasing operating complexity. That included the need to use different network cores from those operators to support its customers, which ended up adding extra layers to its customer management and service deployment process.
Burdette said Mobi had been approaching this issue prior to the pandemic, which itself threw “a wrench into the plans” in terms of timing. That initial approach was pointing toward using an established network core environment from a conventional vendor.
“We had looked at some of the options when we first started down this path and at that point there weren’t a whole lot of commercial cloud-based core options yet, but we were taking a look at everything else that was out there,” Burdette explained.
This included initial conversations with WGtwo, which Burdette noted would have at that time made Mobi one of WGtwo’s first customers.
“They were very much in startup mode when we first started having these conversations with them, but they really excited us in terms of their vision of where things were going and could go, and how they were going to sort of try and push things in that direction,” Burdette said.
Chua explained that WGtwo managed to conquer a complex task.
“A mobile core is no small task, but they’ve done it with cloud-native architectures, which no one has actually done before,” Chua said. “And it allowed them to go much faster and actually a lot more efficient than probably a lot of mobile cores.”
Nokia late last year added 5G core to its growing as-a-service model, which the vendor explained was one of its most complicated software-as-a-service (SaaS) implementations. Ed Elkin, 5G core solutions marketing executive at Nokia, explained those challenges included developing a 5G standalone (SA) core, migrating that core to work reliability and consistently in a public cloud environment, and putting it in a package that was easy to consume.
Mobi’s path allows the operator to bypass that complexity – an important component for an operator with just four people on its engineering team – and join larger operators that are now starting to operate their 5G network cores in a cloud environment. T-Mobile US, for instance, recently launched a Cisco-powered cloud-native 5G core gateway platform that sets up the operator to more quickly standup new services and can help it better monetize its 5G network investments.
5G Core Scale to Need
The cloud architecture also allows WGtwo to scale its service to theoretically meet any need.
“Normally when you go from say 10,000, to 100,000, to one million users, there are usually little tweaks you haven’t realized,” Chua said. “But there’s no architectural reason they can’t overcome this. There is no clear reason why this can’t scale.”
Chua added that WGtwo can also tap into AWS’ deep pool of cloud analytics to feed new carrier services.
Burdette said Mobi plans to tap into that capability to launch new services. The operator recently signed a deal with Federated Wireless, which offers a hosted private 5G service fed by its position as a spectrum access system (SAS) administrator for the lightly licensed Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum.
“We’re at a point now, for better or worse, where there are so many things that we can do,” Burdette said. “We need to be really diligent about prioritizing and choosing.”