Gilat Telecom Connects the Unconnected with F5

Israel-based Gilat Telecom offers satellite and fiber-based connectivity solutions that deliver high quality broadband communication to MNOs, telcos, ISPs, governments, enterprise customers, and organizations in Africa, Asia and South America.

It currently oversees five international satellite teleports, as well as 14 hubs and Point-of-Presence (PoP) facilities in Africa and two in Europe. In total, it manages ~5.5 Gbps of satellite capacity and 27 Gbps over fiber (EASSy & WACS).

With successful deployments in over 50 countries, and more than 1,500 sites globally, Gilat Telecom stands out for its “out of the box” solutions that reach some of the most remote locations on the planet. It is particularly influential in Africa, where it has subsidiaries and partnerships in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria.

As a customer-centric and technology-driven company, Gilat Telecom is constantly exploring how to deliver the most cost-effective, advanced connectivity solutions. Crucially, these need to be tailored to specific customer needs.

Scaling ambitions

With big plans on the agenda for the coming years, Gilat Telecom undertook a thorough investigation of potential vendors that could support an ambition to not only scale its business, but also eliminate bandwidth woes for both existing and new customers.

“In order to be in line with the changing world of applications and shifting network conditions, we needed a software-based traffic management solution that could provide flexibility and reduce the cost of running an expensive communications infrastructure,” explains Amir Cohen, CTO at Gilat Telecom. “Most MNOs and ISPs in Africa use both satellite and fiber networks to maximize coverage, which creates asymmetric traffic routes with end-customers receiving traffic over satellite and sending over fiber. It is a delicate balance and one that requires absolute precision.”

A key part of Gilat’ Telecom's desired strategy was to leverage always-on smart monitoring capabilities to manage this type of complex network traffic and mine it for actionable insights, including launching new services at pace. Previously, it was reliant on dynamic routing solutions and manual remediation measures whenever issues arose.

Finding a solution

Based on Gilat’s Telecom's unique combination of satellite and fiber optic technology, and taking into consideration the highly variable network conditions, F5 proposed a solution based around F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM).

Because BIG-IP LTM is a full proxy, Gilat can inspect, manage, and report on application traffic entering and exiting the network. From basic load balancing to complex traffic management decisions based on client, server, or application status, it serves as a powerful conduit for granular app traffic control.

An additional benefit is LTM’s programmability. Using the solution’s visibility and control capabilities, Gilat Telecom can leverage iRules, which is F5’s event-driven scripting language. From defeating zero-day attacks to cloning specific app requests, or dealing with custom application protocols, its functionality is key to addressing application delivery challenges across any environment.

Gilat Telecom is also using F5 BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) to create and enforce simple, dynamic, intelligent access policies. Using a single management interface, it provides unified global access control for all users, devices, applications, and application programming interfaces (APIs).

"Our traffic management solution project with F5 enables us to maximize the value of our network to our customers,” says Cohen. “The overall solution provides maximum flexibility for network bandwidth prioritization, which is hugely important in the regions we work in. Our goal to connect the unconnected hasn’t changed, but our ability to do so with greater impact than ever before has taken huge leaps forward with F5.”

Making an impact

Working with F5 has enabled Gilat Telecom to accelerate its go-to-market model and service offerings, including several industry landmarks.

A recent example, announced in April, is the commercial availability of its Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN MAX) for both satellite and fiber networks. This followed extensive testing by a major pan-African operator in the DRC, and ISPs in both Niger and Seychelles.

Underpinned by F5 technology, Gilat Telecom’s SD-WAN MAX was specifically designed to address the needs of African MNOs, ISPs, and enterprises. AI and machine-learning algorithms are used to enhance the user experience.

Service providers and MNOs can now centrally control the route that both satellite and fiber traffic takes to and from the customer.  It ensures different applications – voice, streaming and caching – can be identified with automatic prioritization and according to the customer’s needs. For African MNOs and ISPs, one of the biggest benefits is the ability to achieve more from their satellite bandwidth. Through intelligent routing, capacity can now be expanded by up to 20% (the equivalent of 6 Mbit/s can be achieved from a 5 Mbit/s downlink).

  • Limited flexibility
  • High costs
  • Reliant on dynamic routing solutions

  • Accelerated go-to-market model 
  • Enhanced user experience through AI
  • Increased capacity through intelligent routing