Nile thinks AI can make Wi-Fi exciting again

  • Nile was formed in 2018 by five networking experts, including John Chambers the former CEO of Cisco

  • Nile is using AI and machine learning to offer a better Wi-Fi paradigm for enterprises

  • The company wants to disrupt the enterprise local area network like cloud computing disrupted enterprise IT

There are a lot of exciting things going on in the world of artificial intelligence (AI). For instance, programmers are working on artificial general intelligence (AGI), which is inspired by natural ecosystems, rather than large language models. And someday AGI could behave amazingly (almost frighteningly) like humans.

But so far, the AI activity in telecom is not quite as exciting.

Case in point: Nile, a startup headquartered in San Jose, California, with a team in India, is using AI and machine learning to offer a better Wi-Fi paradigm for enterprises. (You may remember that exciting technology – Wi-Fi!)

As part of this news, Nile announced some improvements to its Nile Access Service, which provides wireless local area networks (wireless LAN).

Birth of the Nile

Nile was formed in 2018 by five networking experts, including John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco. Chambers, incidentally is drawn to cutting-edge new technologies. He kicked off his retirement from Cisco in 2018 by promoting a company that sells food products made from crickets. Now, Chambers, who seems to have left his insects-as-food ambitions behind, is a board member of Nile.

Nile has raised $300 million in funding, so far, and employs about 190 people. (Incidentally, can you guess why the founders chose the name “Nile”? Hint: there’s a very successful cloud company named after another big river.)

Fierce Telecom spoke with Sri Hosakote, one of Nile’s founding members, who is currently serving as its chief development officer. 

Hosakote said its founders noticed back in 2018 that cloud computing and software-as-a-service had completely transformed IT organizations. But the enterprise networking space, primarily Wi-Fi, was outdated and could use a disruption.

“We decided to make consumption of this wireless LAN like a utility, where the customer doesn’t have the burden,” said Hosakote.

Instead of going through traditional Wi-Fi vendors such as Cisco and HPE and getting a sometimes time-consuming design and installation for each enterprise location, Nile has streamlined the entire process. The company  employs machine learning software and AI to design an enterprise’s Wi-Fi network. This compares to traditional Wi-Fi networks, which are designed by humans. For a new customer Nile does an automated site survey and then feeds that information into its software, which constantly builds on its knowledge based on prior projects.

“When you start going to schools you start learning about that; when you go to carpeted offices you learn about that. Each time we go to higher education versus a warehouse, the design pipeline learns what are the parameters you need to learn for a specific variable. The model gets trained," Hosakote explained.

Nile has also built a streamlined set of Wi-Fi hardware, including an access point, distributed switch, access switch and sensor.

“The industry is mired with 40-100 players,” said Hosakote. “We built the highest-end enterprise-quality hardware, period.”

The Nile Services Cloud runs on the AWS public cloud in most places, except for use by the Saudi operator stc, which runs Nile on the Google Cloud Platform.

Enterprises can deploy Nile’s Wi-Fi software via a mobile app.

Chambers stated, “AI is fundamentally changing every country, citizen, industry and company, and the enterprise network market is no exception. What Nile understands, that the rest of the industry has missed, is that AI cannot be an incremental addition to an existing architecture. In order to truly reap the benefits of the biggest technology shift we have ever seen – bigger than the internet and cloud combined – companies need a new architecture, one built from the ground up to fully leverage AI.”

One of Nile’s first service provider customers is Frontier, which is offering its enterprise customers the same Nile service it deployed in its Dallas headquarters.

While at first glance using AI to solve something well-established like Wi-Fi networks may seem kind of ironic, perhaps this is the way that telecom will finally make its way into the future.

“We are changing the business model and automating the complexity,” said Hosakote. “It’s similar to cloud computing where it’s a paradigm shift.”