Changing consumer expectations push TSPs to transform into DSPs
Take the 5-Vowel Approach to become a competent DSP, says Sandeep Arora re-framing the business vision to drive growth
The launch of the Indian Government’s Digital India initiative signaled an acknowledgement of the changing wants and desires of the new-age Indian consumer. Be it across the urban or rural landscape, the discerning Indian consumer today has become accustomed to accessing information, retail, financial and entertainment services across devices, at any time and at any location. Going forward, this desire to stay connected will only grow but successful fulfillment will depend heavily on the transformational growth journey of Indian telecommunications service providers (TSPs)
The insatiable demand for smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices is generating staggering amounts of mobile data. According to a recent Cisco report there will
be 990.2 Million (71% of India’s population) mobile users in India by 2020, up from 798.4 Million in 2015, a CAGR of 4.4%. Also as per the report, video will account for 72% of India’s mobile data traffic by 2020, compared to 40% at the end of 2015. At the same time, cloud applications will account for 90% of total mobile data traffic by 2020, compared to 76% at the end of 2015.
By 2020, an additional 318 million devices will be added to this figure, making it approximately one device per capita in this country, says the Cisco report. However, there exists an Indian Internet paradox- with 400 million Internet users, India has a huge number of individuals using the Internet and a third of next billion Internet user are predicted be from the country. However, the broadband penetration in the country ranks 131st worldwide.
These numbers are evidence of a constantly evolving consumer desire to become a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy, which is essentially what the Digital India initiative aspires to enable. It is precisely this convergence of forces – like the government’s Digital India initiative and changing customer expectations – that is compelling existing telecom/video service providers to transform themselves into digital service providers (DSPs). The figure below depicts a four-step approach to transition from being a TSP into a DSP.
The telecommunications industry has traditionally provided the backbone to digitization for other industries. However, telecommunication service providers who are slow to digitize their own operations and offerings by leveraging cloud, mobile and video are now at risk of competing solely on price, or becoming completely redundant. In order to move up the value curve, telecommunication service providers need to adopt a long-term view of this transformation and examine how they can accelerate and innovate a more sustainable growth path. TSPs need to aid in taking services from the classes to the masses and this can be achieved by evolving in DSPs.
Transformation begins with an ‘Uberized’ network
The primary construct of a DSP revolves around delivering an integrated, automated and intelligent bouquet of services to customers while ensuring a frictionless onboarding and service consumption experience. The foundation for delivering digital services via a variety of business models is a connected ecosystem of customers and partners – all of whom rely on the digital service provider’s network.
A DSP applies the principles of Internet service delivery, meaning its delivery architecture is integrated, seamless, intelligent, automated, simple and in real time. A DSP provides digital services through a variety of business models built on a networked ecosystem of consumers and other service providers with a laser focus on driving almost all interactions online and across devices. The simplest way of defining the parameters of a competent digital service provider network is the 5-Vowel Approach:
A for Awareness of customer requirements and the networks ability to adapt to changes in customer demands.
E for Elasticity of network to accommodate new unexplored verticals
I for IP-fication of networks to provide 4K video, cloud, mobile, M2M on demand
O for Optimization of network to cater to various mediums of wireline and wireless networks
U for Ubiquity to create ever-present networks This requires DSPs to transform their mobile and wireline broadband networks by moving to IP for increased speed and load advantages. This ‘IPfication’ across the physical and infrastructure layers enables DSPs to meet customer service and user demands for 4K video, cloud, mobile, and M2M technologies, thereby enabling an on-demand and seamless experience anytime, anywhere. This ‘Uberization’ creates an elastic and converged network fabric across core, edge and optical network elements, which also extends to the data center.
The key attributes of this integrated network fabric is that it is open, programmable, virtualized, automated and supported by real time analytics. As the network evolves to connect more cloud-based service offerings and mobile users, the network infrastructure must be intelligently converged all the way to the applications layer and across the cloud to a growing number of data centers. This ‘Uberized’ network must: Span virtualized and distributed data centers Be IP-based service aware Deliver wireline and wireless broadband access Enable dynamic service creation and network management
Virtualized and distributed data centres are a key component of an “Uberized” network that ensure business continuity by using cloud computing. Also, IP should be used as the nerve centre for service awareness. This helps TSPs get rid of a jumble of legacy systems, networks and user interfaces (UI)
that are nearing end of life. TSP networks should be backed by software and services that result in dynamic service creation and network management.
Platforms are the epicenter of digital service provider strategies
Digital service platforms are innovation environments that facilitate the creation and deployment of differentiation services for DSPs beyond traditional core telecommunication offerings. This is the key layer, which will help a regular telecommunications service provider transform a decentralized layered network to a unified and centralized architecture.
Flexibility and agility are important aspects: these platforms must enable easy creation, reading and deletion of services on the go. This is a critical success factor for DSPs who can no longer retain customer loyalty and trust with extended timelines that contribute to a dissatisfactory experience. The platform needs to be highly programmable to create relevant and usable service stacks, and should enable service convergence through automated service delivery via cross orchestration tools. This requires the presence of a highly automated and attractive set of virtualized network services. The key components of this DSP platform include:
IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) based service creation, which separates fixed-line, mobile and converged services.
Rich media services and multimedia content enablers such as recommendation engines, content delivery networks (CDN) and video-on-demand (VOD) systems.
Identity management, including provisions for unified data management and single sign-on.
Service exposure, composition and orchestration capabilities
Collaboration with partners can build a stronger experience ecosystem
While in the past TSPs have found themselves at odds with OTT providers, there are now distinct advantages to making services such as data analytics, payments, and billing accessible to third parties. The success of a DSP depends on its partner network, and the ability to provide a consolidated platform that can aggregate capabilities in one place, and allow developers to make use of their service reach. For instance, a Next Generation SP enabled subscriber should be able to connect to a premium service from a partner such as VOD X. VOD X uses a simple API to request a high QoS Session for the subscriber. The API orchestration platform will take this simple API request and reconstitute it into the appropriate southbound Diameter calls to the billing systems for charging and payment and to the PCRF. The PCRF will then inform the PGW to create a new high QoS bearer for the subscriber. The rest of the downstream network will respond to the changes in the PGW to treat this traffic flow as premium traffic.
Another instance of an effective partnership to build a stronger experience ecosystem by TSPs is that of a connected traveler app. The connected traveller app proactively offers convenient information and promotions to travellers. Airlines and other enterprises merge their customer data with service provider data and gain the opportunity of cross marketing, improved CRM, improved loyalty and incremental revenue. A scenario of the application begins with the traveller landing at the airport. The traveller checks gate information, decides to “rate” the flight just completed. He/she receives 500 miles for completing the survey. The app shows online friends (and communication via voice or instant message) on a map. Nearby merchants who have requested that frequent flyers receive their coupon, show up on the map too. Traveller receives coupon (2D bar code) for merchant service (Dinner + Drink). Therefore, this application provides valuable cross marketing opportunities for the airlines, merchants and the SP. In this scenario, the airline provides: Frequent flyer accounts Traveller profile Itineraries CRM Partner apps Employee apps While the SP enables on his platform: Location Geofencing Address book Subscriber context And the end user benefits from: Offers Validation Redemption This leads to “massifcation” service verticals while creating a new stream of monetization for the DSPs. Sectors like entertainment, healthcare, retail and more can be explored by DSPs. They can leverage their existing technical expertise to create services for specific verticals.
Reframing the business vision to drive growth
Many Indian service providers, both large and small, have already identified the need to go down this path of transformation and are already trying to re-architect and enhance existing service offerings to meet customer demands. While not all SPs are at the same stage of the transformation journey, the litmus test of success for each will depend on the vision at the top of the chain. The management or leader of the service operator company must clearly and efficiently redefine and re-innovate the working experience for this organization-wide change to occur successfully. This enhanced vision and commitment to enhancing the overall customer experience and fostering deeper relationships with partners and customers will lead the way to change and higher profitability.