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Alef Edges into Private 5G as a Service

Featured In: Fierce Wireless. Alef is delivering its edge API platform to enterprises via a hardware kit it says will enable corporate IT departments to install their own private networks within an hour.

Edge software specialist Alef is claiming a spot in the emerging market for pay-as-you-go private 5G. The company is delivering its edge API platform to enterprises via a hardware kit it says will enable corporate IT departments to install their own private networks within an hour, using publicly available CBRS spectrum.

Alef’s toolkit features an access point, which customers can connect to their corporate LAN via Ethernet to access an Alef API. The kit also includes smartphones with embedded SIMs. Alef says customers can instead choose physical SIM cards to connect to its network if they like. The SIM cards identify the devices to core network software developed by Microsoft’s Affirmed Networks, provided to Alef by roaming expert Syniverse. The Syniverse partnership will give devices on Alef private networks the ability to roam onto public networks, the company said.

Enterprises will need to install CBRS radios and subscribe to a Spectrum Access System in order to connect their devices to the Syniverse core. Alef says its solution can work with any system the customer chooses.

Even though Alef’s solution requires enterprise customers to pull together network elements from different vendors, CEO Mike Mulica maintains deployments will be fast and simple since the Alef “edge point” aggregates network functionality through an API. “A warehouse puts up Airspan access points and has a mobile network in under an hour,” he predicted.

“You connect the access point to your radio of choice, and then you log on through your computer, connect to that access point, and see the API,” said Mulica. “Our role is to implement an API architecture.”

The company positions its API platform as a way for enterprises to access edge compute resources without depending on a mobile network operator. “To date, the adoption of enterprise mobile networks has been an abject failure on every front,” said Mulica, in a press release. “Our Mobile Toolkit gives the power back to the enterprise.”

Enterprises can use the Alef solution to access the company’s edge data servers, which it says cover the U.S. The company declined to say how many edge servers it has deployed.

Alef has been focused on edge compute applications for years, and was formerly called AlefEdge. In 2020, it tried to launch an Azure-based edge application to allow carriers to deliver targeted real-time advertising to smartphones.  At that time Alef had a partnership with Vapor.io, which builds edge data centers at the bases of cell towers, and tried its own tower-based deployment with Packet. Alef declined to say where its edge servers are now.

Cloud competitors

Mulica said Alef will be introducing multi-cloud capabilities, enabling its enterprise customers to write applications for different public cloud environments.

“We are not tied to Amazon or Microsoft or Google,” said Mulica. He also said Alef is ready to compete with those companies at the 5G edge. Compared to the cloud giants, “we are more maniacally focused on this approach from a neutral host standpoint,” he said.

AWS has already announced a private 5G product, and Microsoft has the pieces in place to launch something similar. Microsoft owns the core network software Alef is using in its current solution, but Mulica noted Alef is “core agnostic” and said he doesn’t think customers care which core network they’re using.

Hyperscalers are far from the only competition Alef faces. Cisco, Nokia and Ericsson/Cradlepoint are all private network players now. Smaller competitors focused exclusively on private wireless include Celona, which has raised a total of $100 million and has partnerships with Verizon and NTT, along with financial backing from infrastructure giant Digital Bridge.

Mulica said Celona and Alef are as different as night and day. “Celona is capex on your enterprise,” he claimed. Celona’s solution includes radios and core network infrastructure, but like Alef, it offers its solution as a service.

One advantage Alef has in this competitive environment is a relationship with Tata Consultancy Services, which will be the first integrator to bring Alef’s new toolkit to market. In addition, Tata Consultancy Services will build an edge computing environment at TCS Pace Port New York, its innovation lab at New York City’s Cornell Tech. Tata Capital is Alef’s lead investor, according to Crunchbase.

Read the full article here: Alef edges into private 5G as a service | Fierce Wireless

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