“We are innovating faster than any other WiFi vendor in the market and we are delivering more value to our customers”: Pravin Bhagwat, Co-founder and CTO, Mojo Networks

Pravin Bhagat, Co-Founder & CTO, Mojo Networks

Pravin Bhagwat, Co-founder and CTO of Mojo Networks, a highly scalable and secure cloud-managed WiFi solutions provider has built a world-class engineering team in Pune which has successfully launched ‘first-of-its-kind’ cloud-managed WiFi products in the global market.

Before Bhagwat commenced his entrepreneurial journey, he was a lead researcher at AT&T Research and IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, New York, where he was a member of MobileIP, WiFi and Bluetooth research teams.

Bhagwat also served as a visiting faculty member at computer science department, IIT Kanpur. Pravin also has 25+ patents to his credit. Bhagwat has B. Tech. in Computer Science from IIT Kanpur and MS/PhD in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park, USA.

Speaking to Pravin Prashant of DigiAnalysys, Pravin Bhagwat speaks about WiFi market, WiFi technology for gram panchayats, cloud WiFi, new technologies, patents and smart city deployment plan. Excerpts of the interview:

What are the key trends in WiFi market globally as well as India? 

In terms of global trends WiFi is the primary means of connecting devices to the Internet at workplaces and at homes; Ethernet ports have disappeared from laptops and notebooks and WiFi is growing in all market verticals from enterprise, government, BFSI, higher education, retail, telco/service provider and SMB. Legacy WiFi access points are being upgraded to higher speed 801.11ac Wave2 technology.

On the technology front, we are seeing management architecture shifting from WLAN controllers to cloud WiFi Access point and hardware is becoming commodity; differentiation is moving to software application of Big data, machine learning and AI (Artificial Intelligence) is making WiFi networks more intelligent, reliable and responsive to user needs.

In terms of India trends, telcos are rolling out WiFi hotspots to offload data traffic from LTE, WiFi being viewed as the most cost-effective technology for extending reach of Internet up to villages and enterprises, higher education and government verticals are still buying legacy technology and are slow to embrace and adopt new innovations.

What WiFi technology/product should one opt for to deploy 500,000 WiFi CPEs in Indian Gram Panchayats and why?  

The technical architecture of BharatNet must be built on future safe and open foundation as the country faces a daunting task of accelerating WiFi deployment in villages. For emergency response of cyber security and national security incidences, PAN-India central manageability covering the whole country is very important.

Cloud architecture is the most efficient model for massive scale roll out of services and infrastructure at massive scale (Reliance Jio’s WiFi is the best proof), direct sourcing of access point hardware from manufacturers without any markup by OEMs, ability to roll out new functionality and services consistently across the whole country through centralized configuration and software upgrade and ability to turn WiFi access point into security sensor, maintain analytics, security incident logs in a Big Data platform.

BharatNet RFP is still influenced by ‘Old School’ thoughts and lack of guidance on PAN-India architecture may result in each region choosing a different architecture (Controller vs Cloud) as some regions may procure proprietary, outdated technology and it will be nearly impossible to roll out new services consistently across the country at high velocity due to lack of centralized visibility, monitoring and enforcement of SLA across all regions will be very difficult.

Mojo provides cloud hosted WiFi solutions for enterprise, MSPs and telco service provider. How is your solution different for enterprise, MSPs and telco service provider? 

The same Mojo Cloud hosted platform is used to deliver solutions for each vertical yet there are minor differences in service delivery model.

For telco service provider, a separate, private instance of cloud is hosted in telco service provider’s networking and the telco IT administrator has full visibility and control over the entire network. It is possible to divide the network into regions and delegate admin rights to regional administrators.

For enterprise, WiFi management is hosted in the cloud operated by Mojo yet enterprise IT administrator has full control over configuration, policies and network monitoring. User data stays inside enterprise network boundary whereas analytics data is stored on hosted cloud servers, but it is fully owned by the enterprise. Hosted Cloud instance is protected by SSAE-16 certified security policy and procedures.

For MSPs, WiFi management is hosted in the cloud operated by Mojo yet MSP administrator has full control over configuration, policies and network monitoring of all customers managed by the MSP. MSP administrator can create new customer instances and MSP administrator can also delegate and assign admin rights to the customer’s IT admin.

What’s your forecast for WiFi hotspot market both in India as well as global and the reason for this growth in WiFi hotspots number? 

Globally, WiFi is $7 billion market today and close to 80% of this market is served by controller architecture; A good portion of this will shift to cloud management in the next 5 years. Mature markets like Nordic countries have a WiFi hotspot for every 8-10 people. There is easily 100x growth potential for WiFi hotspots in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and APAC markets.

How should government/corporate/service provider increase WiFi penetration in India? What are the key learnings from WiFi deployment in the US, the UK and China and other developing and developed economies? 

Indian Government should take notice that US government has embraced cloud by adoption of FEDRAMP program. There is no reason why the same cannot be done in India.

Most US corporations are beginning to embrace cloud for ease of management, maintenance and cost reduction reasons. On the service provider front there are more greenfield opportunities in APAC region. Telcos in APAC region are leading the charge and driving adoption of new ideas such as NFV (network function virtualization), disaggregated hardware and software telcos on developed economies.

New technologies that you are working on WiFi and who are you planning to commercialise these technologies? 

We are working on Cognitive WiFi, Multi-function 3rd Ratio and Open APIs. Cognitive WiFi is application of Big Data, machine learning and AI (Artificial Intelligence ) to make WiFi networks more intelligent, reliable and self-optimising. Multi-function 3rd radio is to conduct on demand (and scheduled) service assurance tests, WIPS security and spectrum monitoring whereas Open APIs is to enable 3rd party developers to build new value, automation on top of Enterprise WiFi networks.

What’s your market share in India as well as globally and reason for your success both in India as well as global market? 

Superior technology and the best value for money is helping us to increase our market share. We are innovating faster than any other WiFi vendor in the market and we are delivering more value to our customers. We are on the only vendor with a rating of 5/5 on Gartner user survey and we are ranked #1 in WIPS security for six years in a row on Gartner marketscope.

We have the world’s largest public WiFi network (Reliance Jio) under a single management console. This network has been rolled out at lightning fast pace and at fraction of cost compared to other networks of comparable scale and size.

Mojo has 30 patents on network security. How are these patents useful for securing Mojo’s product? How is Mojo’s product secure vis-a-vis those of your competitors?    

Mojo’s patent protected Wireless IPS functionality is imbedded in each WiFi Access point. Mojo’s technology has earned FIPS and Common Criteria certification by US federal government. Mojo’s Cloud technology has earned SSAE-16 certification. More recently, Mojo Cloud also completed a major step towards FedRAMP certification.

Mojo Networks is a trusted leader in wireless security and is providing mission critical secure WiFi to 2,000+ customers worldwide from government agencies, Fortune 500, telecom service providers, universities, banks, educational Institutes to retail stores. There is no other WiFi vendor in the market with matching credentials.

What’s your message to town planners who are deploying Smart Cities in India?  

Invest in WiFi architecture that is future safe and built on open foundation, pay attention to security issues and unprecedented cost reduction is possible with centralized cloud management architecture and disaggregated procurement model.

WiFi technology is capable of delivering more value than just Internet access. It can serve as a platform for building ‘Smart City Apps’ using cloud APIs and this idea hasn’t been tried before. India has an opportunity to lead rather than just follow others. Mojo is keen to partner with others who want to shape the future.