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The simple questions that became a global platform: Cisco has acquired Working Group Two

· 5 min read

Working Group Two and Cisco

It’s a big moment for the entire team here at Working Group Two (WG2) today as we’re embarking on the next stage of our journey. We’ll become part of one of the world’s leading communications technology companies. This brings scalability and credibility to the mission we've been on for the better part of a decade.

Update, October 24, 2023: Cisco's acquisition of Working Group Two is now complete.

Back in 2013, a small group of software engineers in Telenor,a large multinational mobile operator, asked some simple questions. Those questions turned into a big idea that later became WG2. Today, we truly enter the global stage as Cisco has announced its intent to acquire the company

The questions asked back in 2013 were simple. The answers were not.

  • How can we build mobile products on top of the network that people want?
  • How can we make the mobile core network programmable and a platform for innovation?

As it turns out, there’s at least one reason why you haven’t seen much product innovation coming out of your telecom operator over the last few decades. To a normal mobile phone user, the network seems simple enough. You surf the web, send a text or call someone. Behind the scenes, a huge, complex, and highly rigid machinery transports our thoughts and ideas across the world.

Here’s the way we think about it: This mobile network machinery is not just a beast, it’s also a beauty. Mobile telephony is perhaps the most successful, distributed, and standardized technology the world has ever seen. We don’t think much about it today, but the fact that you can reach your mom on her mobile from anywhere in the world, whenever you want, is truly remarkable.

The big idea behind WG2 was to bring out the beauty in the mobile networks and revitalize the entire industry. We want to make connectivity truly valuable again.

First, the engineers, led by our CTO Werner Eriksen, set out to try to build a better messaging product on Telenor’s core (a mobile core is the heart and brains of the mobile network, responsible for critical functions like subscriber information, location, authentication and switching tasks). They called their product SMS+ and it allowed people to send messages from their laptops and other screens, much like we’re used to with WhatsApp and Messenger today.

Hey, that’s neat, users and testers said.

While building SMS+ they painfully realized that to enable this at scale and make a hundred other product ideas leverage the functionality of the core, they needed to rebuild the core itself. It just takes too much time, effort, and cost to build small products at scale in today’s telco world.

So, the WG2 journey started ten years ago when the team set out to build better mobile user experiences powered by the network. They rebuilt the mobile core network from the ground up to drive down complexity and facilitate innovation. By leveraging public cloud infrastructure, designing a global mobile core delivered as-a-service and complementing it with APIs and an ecosystem, we have been on a journey to “set it free”.

Backed by Telenor Group and Digital Alpha, a fund with a long-standing, strategic Cisco partnership, WG2 spun out as an independent entity from Telenor in 2017. We are grateful to them both for standing by us in this journey. Today, WG2 is a team of 90 dedicated professionals, primarily software engineers, and are represented across Europe, Japan, and the United States. Last year, we helped our customers deliver 527 million SMSs, make 354 million voice calls, and transfer 33 petabytes of data.

The beliefs we held in the beginning still hold true: To grow and prosper, the telecom industry must strive for simplicity, global scale, and programmability. We must also nurture marketplaces and ecosystems of developers. That’s how we can build global platforms, just like the tech industry at large has done.

Cisco will build on the as-a-service model to realize benefits for the full mobile industry, having already seen success with IoT and private networks. The as-a-service delivery model allows for consistent deployments, reduced complexity, global scale, programmability, and continuous innovation and security management. By expanding this model to cover the entire spectrum of mobile use cases, Cisco can provide simplified access to our latest innovations while enabling customers to focus resources on their core business and deliver new use cases faster.

In getting to know the Cisco Provider Mobility team we will be working with at Cisco, we have discovered remarkable alignment in core beliefs, vision, and culture. We are incredibly excited about seeing our technology combined and deployed with Cisco’s scale and market presence.

On a personal note: Building start-ups that deliver critical infrastructure in telecom is a non-trivial pursuit. It is tough going, and only possible to do with highly skilled, committed people that can power through the inevitable ups and downs of such a journey. We are so grateful to the individuals that have been part of this journey with us. You know who you are.

Working Group Two Team

About Working Group Two
Working Group Two has rebuilt the mobile core for simplicity, innovation, and efficiency – leveraging the web-scale playbook and operating models. Today, Working Group Two innovation enables MVNO, MNO, and Private Network Operators a secure, scalable, and reliable telco connectivity backbone that scales across all generations of mobile technologies. Our mission is to create programmable mobile networks to allow our customers and their end users to create more valuable and useful products and services.

Media Contact:
Tor Odland
Working Group Two
+47 9909 0872