Juniper Networks and NEC build new network for Herotel

11 June 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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Juniper Networks and NEC have built the first commercial network in South Africa to be driven by segment routing.

Built for Herotel, South Africa’s largest fixed wireless service provider, the project was part of a significant network upgrade initiative.

Herotel chose to build its new IP network based on segment routing principles, augmenting traditional MPLS (multi-protocol label switching) techniques. Segment routing means fewer network elements are involved, avoiding slow response to sudden network changes. It also supports the application QoS (Quality of Service), mapping specific applications and end users to preferential network service paths.

Brendan Gibbs, VP of automated WAN Solutions, Juniper Networks explained: “Streamlining deployment at massive scale and across vast distances, yet still focusing on the user experience, was the challenge that Herotel brought to us.

"The segment routing solution now in place delivers optimal bandwidth utilisation, reduced latency and automated traffic engineering capabilities. This enables Herotel to provide stand-out connectivity and services to its many thousands of business and residential users, despite the geographic challenges of such a dispersed population. It also has the necessary headroom and agility to keep ahead of Herotel’s ambitious ongoing growth plans, again without any compromise to the end-user experience,” Gibbs continued.

Herotel has been expanding its service provision across the country through the acquisition of 40 different service providers between 2018 and 2020, as well as initiating new builds. It has now consolidated 19 separate networks and operating frameworks into a single architecture.

While supporting its objectives, Herotel said this approach "has also led to a disparate, cost-inefficient infrastructure".

Furthermore, given the large distances between data centres and other points of presence, the ability to store and stream bandwidth-heavy content closer to as many customers as possible has become another imperative for Herotel.

CTO Eldred Ekermans said: “Herotel’s stated mission for South Africa is ‘everyone connected’. In support of this, we have three clear strategic anchors: excellent customer experience, low-cost deployment and strategic availability of our services.

"The network is the critical element, so we knew we had to be bold and innovative to succeed and keep this promise to our customers. The solution from Juniper, with NEC XON as the integration partner, has delivered the simplicity, operational functionality and agility that other vendors simply could not,” Ekermans continued.

During South Africa’s initial national lock-down period starting in March 2020, Herotel experienced a 30% increase in network traffic.

For the remainder of 2021, Herotel aims to bring another 60,000 new customers online, and is currently building new fibre connections for 16 towns, with another 18 planned for towns in the Western Cape district.