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March 20th, 2020

Evolution or Extinction: The Journey from CSP to DSP

Too often, digital transformation articles leave you with generic advice that doesn’t quite apply to your business. The concept of digital transformation means different things to different people, which is why context is so important.

For communications service providers (CSPs), digital transformation is all about your evolution from legacy communications/cable company to true digital service provider (DSP). This shift is driven by advancements in networking technology and services, changes in government and industry regulations, and the broad adoption of public and private cloud solutions among businesses.

Surveys show that CSP leaders see disruptive competition as the biggest challenge facing your industry. Now, your options are evolution or extinction. But determining a path forward and evolving can be difficult.

To make the journey from CSP to DSP, you need to address the following four pillars of service provider digital transformation.

 

Pillar #1: The Underlying Infrastructure

While technology isn’t the only factor to consider in digital transformation, it’s certainly the foundational element for CSPs. Your digital transformation priorities must start with upgrading your underlying infrastructure to support emerging communications services, standards, and technologies like 5G, mobile edge computing (MEC), and SD-WAN. And that requires a focus on programmability and elasticity in your network.

In the past, complex physical infrastructure, widespread interdependencies, and vendor lock-in made agility nearly impossible for CSPs. Becoming a DSP that overcomes disruptive competition means overcoming these challenges, which is why software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) are driving the evolution of CSP infrastructure.

Virtualizing your access and core network as well as compute and storage will help you maximize flexibility and minimize vendor lock-in. Greater elasticity and a newfound level of programmability will help you stay ahead of emerging technologies and architectures. For example, the shift to virtualization will set you up to leverage network slicing for 5G deployments. This architecture will help you deploy network functions according to the unique needs of individual customers and segments of customers, unlocking cost savings and a level of agility that was never possible with traditional CSP infrastructure.

 

Pillar #2: Automation of Operations

The second key area of CSP digital transformation is the automation of operations. The highly distributed and heterogenous infrastructures that have defined CSPs for decades limit your ability to efficiently manage networks and services. This, in turn, limits your ability to compete with emerging OTT players in an era of digital transformation.

Widespread automating of operations is the key to minimizing complexity so you can focus on providing more innovative experiences and services for customers. When you rely on manual processes and human intervention for operations like network provisioning, end-to-end service orchestration, and continuous service monitoring and assurance, you’ll never be able to make the leap from CSP to DSP.

Implementing end-to-end automation through artificial intelligence, advanced analytics solutions, and continuous delivery practices will unlock a number of key benefits, including:

  • Shorter time needed to deploy new services and onboard new customers and devices

  • More efficient maintenance operations that reduce human error and cuts costs

  • Increased workforce productivity by freeing up resources to work on higher-value tasks

  • Unlock new revenue streams by making innovative services easier to deploy for customers

 

Pillar #3: Enablement of New Digital Services and Ecosystems

Creating a more dynamic, adaptable network and automating operations opens the opportunity for the third pillar of CSP digital transformation—enabling new digital services and ecosystems. With competitors putting increasing amounts of pressure on your evolution from CSP to DSP, your ability to deliver innovative new services is critical to long-term success.

A wide range of technological developments are making it possible for you to evolve into a DSP. From 5G networking to network functions virtualization (NFV), software-defined networking (SDN), mobile edge computing (MEC), and the internet of things (IoT), you have more opportunities than ever before to launch new services. And the first two pillars of CSP digital transformation enable you to deliver those new services in as-a-service models, through plug-and-play platforms, and with more flexible pricing options.

As you make the transition to DSP, new digital use cases emerge. For example:

  • Advanced data analytics and brokerage

  • Powerful cybersecurity as a service at the network level

  • Data-as-a-service linked to transportation and logistics support

  • Mobile commerce/digital wallet capabilities

  • Real-time personalization for commerce scenarios

  • Health device monitoring and data delivery

  • Smart city, home, and agriculture use cases

These are just a few examples of what DSPs can offer customers. The key to long-term success will be identifying new revenue streams like these that can contribute to sustained growth.

 

Pillar #4: Digital Engagement with Customers

The final pillar of CSP digital transformation is digital engagement. This stage is all about the customer experience. While customer experience has always played an important role for CSPs, the evolution to DSP depends heavily on your ability to delight customers with each interaction and service you provide.

Especially as OTTs and other disruptive competitors enter your market, customers have more choices than ever, and your service experience must set you apart. This means digitalizing your customer engagements where possible and creating seamless omnichannel experiences. Whether a customer chooses to interact with you face to face, through a contact center, with a self-service portal, or via any other channel, they should be met with a consistent and delightful experience.

 

Starting the Journey to Digital Service Provider

There are a number of technology standards development organizations (SDOs), open-source software communities, and network hardware/software vendors that are addressing the need for network programmability and elasticity. However, the journey to DSP requires more than just this foundation. To compete in the digital world, you need to bring new digital services to market and provide a superior customer experience by automating operations wherever possible.

Where should you start the journey?

One of the most complex and challenging areas of operation to include in digital transformation is end-to-end fulfillment—from pre-order to order and through post-order. These processes significantly impact your ability to deliver dynamic digital network services.

This is especially true for CSPs in the wholesale services sector. Because wholesale connectivity, including broadband, Ethernet access, and cell tower backhaul (CTBH), play such a critical role in the deployment of services like 5G from wireless carriers and SD-WAN from enterprise-focused CSPs, you can’t afford fulfillment delays. Without a simpler way to orchestrate and deliver these services, you risk falling behind in the journey to DSP.

Neustar’s Universal Order Management platform provides a simpler way to order any carrier-to-carrier services, via a single unified interface that streamlines your business.

If you want to learn more about orchestrating services across your ecosystem of networks (both on-net and trading partner off-net) and cloud providers, see how Universal Order Management can accelerate your journey from CSP to DSP.

 

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