Telecom carriers traditionally delivered the basic functionality of communication and connectivity – voice, data and network capacity. The telco of old deployed teams of technicians to manage a physical infrastructure of cables, boxes and switches. Service provisioning and maintenance were labor-intensive and time-consuming. Service options were one-size-fits-all.
Today, the rapid growth of intelligent devices, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) is redefining the marketplace. More specifically, Software-Defined Networking (SDN) creates an opportunity for the “digital telco” to assume a strategic role as a provider of solutions to critical business issues.
With SDN-enabled configurability, static telecom infrastructure evolves into a flexible platform of easy access, seamless connectivity and autonomic management. Service provisioning is becoming on-demand and real-time. Automated monitoring and processing are driving predictive modeling and proactive maintenance. These trends are taking operational performance to new levels of efficiency and quality.
Equally important, SDN gives telcos clear visibility into the data flowing through the communications ecosystem – at the architecture, warehouse and packet levels. This visibility in turn creates an opportunity to gain critical insight into customers. Using that insight, telcos can deliver highly personalized services segmented by geography, industry and demographic. Moreover, they can anticipate and deliver services before a customer requests them.
Example: Let’s say that a telco positions a beacon on a utility pole in a block in Greenwich Village. The beacon continually collects data on foot traffic on the block in general, as well as traffic in and out of different retail establishments at different times of day and days of the week. Analyzing that data can give the telco powerful insight into how to help different businesses. At a basic level, it enables appropriately targeted offers of Wi-Fi, Point of Sale (POS) and security services. At a more hyper-personalized level, it can mean offering digital signage to help a global fashion retailer promote a spring fashion line (focusing on items likely to appeal to the particular consumer of the area). Or, sending targeted text alerts on behalf of a gastro-pub to regular customers promoting happy hour specials during off-peak hours.
Another characteristic of the digital telco is the ability to blur physical boundaries and extend the communications and analytics infrastructure. Smart sensors at the edge of business activity are the “tip of the spear” of the Internet of Things (IoT). These intelligent devices can integrate with machine learning-enabled data analytics and real-time communications to drive transformation. Top-of-mind examples include self-driving cars and self-repairing jet engines. But equally impactful possibilities involve more mundane applications. For example, how transportation companies monitor their vehicles, how
farmers manage livestock
restaurants ensure the reliability of their freezers
The potential competitive advantage of the digital telco lies in its connectivity expertise. Telcos are ideally positioned to manage the connection between the data-collecting devices at the edge of business activity to the analytical platforms within the back office. By overseeing that conduit, the digital telco can evolve from commodity provider to strategic partner.
Seizing the opportunity requires applying the latest edge and analytical innovations, while fully leveraging existing transport and switching technology. At the same time, we need to develop the business models that unleash the ability of SDN to drive predictive, real-time and insight-based actions. By leveraging our technology and business legacy, we can assume a leadership role in driving truly connected digital enablement.