How to step towards becoming a digital service provider with UC&C – Part 2
In the first blog in this two-part series by Frank Paterno, the vice president of Global Carriers at PGi, we looked at the key factors in driving the transition of network operators from an communications service provider (CSP) into a digital service provider (DSP) and how SaaS-based unified communications (UC) is a game changer.
The reality, though, for DSPs, moving UC to the cloud is not enough. They need to integrate UC software with other SaaS cloud services to create a rich portfolio of UC&C digital services. This is accomplished by adopting an innovative architecture based on virtual IP multimedia subsystem (vIMS). In this configuration, IMS virtual network functions (VNFs) are deployed strategically in the cloud – either in a core, at the edge, or both – to manage and orchestrate UC and other DSP services as a single harmonised pool of VNFs.
Given the flexibility of where VNFs can be deployed, vIMS offer a stronger value proposition – since it not only extends the value of the distributed IP control model, but enables control and applications to be placed closer to the end user and service logic. This reduces the impact of latency and improves customer experience, since it can automatically scale to handle unexpected traffic bursts. It’s important to note, too, that vIMS VNFs can execute in the operator’s cloud or, in a DSP-hosted cloud that delivers a complete suite of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) services, as opposed to a managed service model.
This adoption of a harmonised UC&C collaborative model delivers superior value on many levels. From a technology viewpoint, UC&C aligns with the concept of embedding UC capabilities into any service. This involves extending UC services and video applications into new enterprise platforms. We are referring to the advance of connected devices, including the self-driving connected car – which, when augmented with high-speed mobile access, is no longer a mode of transportation, but a mobile enterprise work-station capable of seamlessly communicating and sharing video, regardless of location.
The other notable consideration that will enable operators to become DSP cloud providers is support of microservices. By decomposing UC services into smaller reusable components, it is possible to embed UC into other vertical specific applications creating a smoother workflow for end users without requiring extensive custom software development.
Evolving UC managed services
Adopting UC&C impacts not only technology; but has repercussions across managed services and professional services/support models. The reality: operators are not only losing communication application revenue to OTTs, but they face the threat that OTTs pose as they aggressively challenge the enterprise managed services marketplace. Operators need to enhance managed service business models to deliver additional value, to ensure services differentiate from OTT competitors. The adoption of a UC&C based model provides the business footing to empower DSPs to support and monetise this new suite of high-value managed services.
UC&C use case: convergence vs. collaboration
UC&C becomes more compelling when delivered across 4G networks. This is because of low-latency and powerful device characteristics. In many respects, the integration of UC&C delivered over 4G – using voice over LTE (VoLTE) – crystallises the value proposition of a digital collaboration model.
There are several factors to consider when making this reality. First, PGi has noted that even traditional hosted UC solutions support fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) on some level. However, FMC is simply that: the point-to-point interworking and handover between mobile and fixed devices, to enable a limited suite of basic converged services. In contrast, we consider UC&C as not simply a technology intersection, but a fully-integrated model that delivers a broader open-ended range of collaborative services.
Since many DSPs – or those on the path – possess a mobile footprint, they are well positioned to ubiquitously deliver digital content to users on any device. Perhaps another way to describe this is that multi-channel delivery is a core DSP attribute. 4G LTE provides the backbone enabling the many dimensions that mobile based UC&C entails.
The rise of cloud and SaaS models continues to redefine operator roles and services strategies. In response, operators must expand their service horizons and commit to completing the journey to becoming DSPs. Accomplishing this will require CSPs to fully exploit key cloud collaboration-driven attributes, such as end-to-end application integration, third-party software integration and ecosystem expansion.
The proof of success for this transformation, will be confirmed at the services layer through the adoption of advanced digital collaborative cloud-based service models (UC&C).