CDN, IP & AI: Qwilt’s Telco & Mobile Industry Insights

We are moving into a period of further CDN consolidation, increased IP & more AI says Rachel Kahana Samet, Head of Product at open edge cloud company Qwilt

Delivering media and applications at the very edge of neighbourhoods is the specialty of US based open edge cloud company Qwilt. Utilising strategic global partnerships, the company makes local delivery of internet experiences accessible through its open, developer-centric approach, unlocking greater capacity and higher quality experiences than ever before possible.

Rachel Kahana Samet, joined Qwilt as Head of Product in 2022, having spent nearly nine years in product management at SAP. She has previously worked at companies including HP Software, Mercury and Proficiency, having gained her MBA from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As an expert in the telco industry, she believes that we are moving into a period of further CDN consolidation, increased IP and more use of AI.

Market consolidation

The prediction of CDN market consolidation is extrapolated from the recent acquisitions and exits impacting StackPath, Limelight and, most recently, Lumen. As the fundamentals haven’t changed, Samet says that this will likely continue:

  • “There are still a lot of CDNs in the market. This significant combined CDN footprint has led to intense competition and corresponding decline in margins – as operating costs have risen.   
  • “Content publishers are rightly demanding a multi-CDN environment to provide more capacity and high-quality content delivery to their increasingly global customers. This further erodes domestic CDNs' dominance and forces those without global capacity to sacrifice certain deals.
  • “Very few of the CDNs that piled into the market during the 2000s have developed any edge capacity within operator networks that offer more efficient use of core bandwidth. Edge is the future of CDNs; it will enable streamed video and contribute to a new wave of applications – from gaming to cyber security. CDN operators without this deeply embedded service provider edge infrastructure are struggling to compete.”

All-IP adoption accelerates 

As the legacy of broadcast platforms fades, and 5G services increase, we’re seeing a continued shift towards all IP networks.

“Across the world, we are seeing a switch-off for PSTN and ISDN, with Germany, Spain, and Portugal being among the first to move, while Italy is ongoing, and the UK has a deadline for 2025. The US is a regional patchwork, but most big operators have gone all-IP for new lines,” shares Samet.

“The all-IP groundswell is also occurring with the cable operators that are rapidly moving off QAM, and next year should see more of the holdouts make the final jump. In 2023, we saw Comcast as the first big operator to test DOCSIS 4.0 in a few US cities with its “x-class” internet offering symmetrical speeds up to 2 Gbit/s, highlighting the potential of the new standard. We are also seeing the first 400G IP network deployments in the US and Europe, while 800G is starting to touch the data centre. 

“The PSTN switch-off, DOCSIS rollouts, 400G/800G networking are also joined by the “C-band repack” that transferred 300 MHz of C-band satellite spectrum for 5G wireless applications. This quartet of activities recognize that we need more capacity to feed an insatiable desire for IP-driven services. 2024 will see that shift continue, especially with some big sporting events finally streaming in UHD/4K for the first time, potentially including the Paris Olympics.”

Machine learning and artificial intelligence  

Increased development of AI and ML technology is impacting across most industries, mobile and telecoms included. The increased use is a catalyst for the all-IP shift, however Samet predicts that most of the AI/ML-enabled innovation will remain less visible and will be deployed by operators to manage internal operations tasks like troubleshooting, capacity planning, and trend analysis. She notes that several operators are already testing AI-based tool sets with field and service operations, a key area considering that, according to McKinsey, this accounts for 60% to 70% of most telcos’ operating budgets. 

“AI-based agents in contact centers are an example of early adoption, but the consultants at McKinsey suggest that “…a self-healing AI could also help reduce call centre demand by troubleshooting issues with wireline devices (for example, a router that is slowing down could be identified and repaired before the customer even notices).”

“In the CDN space, AI will help operators to better understand complex traffic patterns. You can imagine AI digesting and analysing huge amounts of network flow data, assisting with capacity planning and making better predictive choices around what content is likely to generate spikes – and reacting faster than a human administrator. AI will also become involved in other ways, such as AI-generated short-form video content that starts to proliferate on social media.”

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