Service Providers will reinvent customer experience with 5G

New age managed service providers will focus on adding value to services, rather than mere connectivity, says Anand Bhaskar, Managing Director, Service Providers, Cisco India

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In a recent interview with Computerworld,  Anand Bhaskar, Managing Director, Service Providers, Cisco India, explains Cisco's vision for its service providers, why they will form a powerful GTM strategy with the advent of 5G, and how service providers will work in tandem with infrastructure service providers and not cannibalize them. 

Edited Excerpts from the Interview:

What has changed for the service providers in the last 24 months?

It is primarily the user base and the mobility where the entire explosion of mobility has changed. This has opened an entirely new segment for telcos. If you look at telcos over the last year, we had a wave of voice, land grab, consolidation and data coming in. This made everyone realize that it is a large market, which has not been tapped, and the value was heading somewhere else. They were then left to do the commodity work. However, in order to do the commodity, work a massive amount of investment is required in each of these areas. And, hence, the amount of investments in these areas is what has changed significantly.

Secondly, the overall proliferation of broadband has brought up an entirely new segment of MSMEs and SMBs etc. This is a new market for telcos as earlier they were only providing bandwidth; however, with the proliferation of broadband, they can now add more value. One good thing that the telcos did was to provide infrastructure provision and the laying out of the fibres or creating data centres. Earlier, in the enterprise segment, they were focused on the bandwidth segment, and only some of them were present in that sector. There were some traditional players as well, who provided large bandwidth. However, they failed to get more value out of it. This is where large enterprises like Cisco and other tech companies played a crucial role in partnering with them to dig deeper and help create bundles.

From a customer standpoint, it became more streamlined to doing one task as instead of talking to one service provider, one system integrator, and one equipment provider. This is the primary difference concerning enterprises. For SMBs, they don't have a team that can undertake all this for them. It turns out to be a good deal for them if they pay someone to help them with getting the equipment, providing the service, including security and carry out some essential collaboration.

What typically changes the way service providers will deal with the advent of 5G?

4G was about connectivity and 5G is about the experience. And experience has got multiple connotations to it; the type of industry applications that it will enable and its overall downstream and upstream impact on the ecosystem. On the one hand, you have a significant increase in traffic industry applications, but at the same time, on the downstream part of it, the entire infrastructure creation like fiberization and data centre creation is witnessing a massive impact.

Furthermore, there is a demand for major government programs. Every government program that you look at today has got a huge digital footprint. Cisco is in a unique position wherein we are not just providing the infrastructure but are also helping them create these business models with new industry applications, such as solutions like Cisco Jasper on IoT or Cisco Umbrella on security. On the infrastructure side, you have a whole set of technologies like multi-cloud and packet code, which are critical components of the entire data from a telecom service provider perspective. Now, there is also the emergence of cloudification, which is separating the control plane and the user plane. All of these together help the service provider differentiate themselves vis-a-vis an OTT (over-the-top) player. Earlier, they were providing a raw bandwidth. However, today, they can provide services - network as a service, collaboration as a service and managed SD-WAN as a service. This is a massive change for them. At Cisco, we help them create these services. We help build the infrastructure, and we are present across the entire value chain. The third important part around this is the automation fragment. Given the complexity of the networks and the way they are proliferating as the numbers of devices on the network are increasing in manifolds, without automation, they will not be able to do it. That's our storyline from a 5G perspective.

With most of these service providers emerging as new-age managed service providers, will this challenge the traditional models of managed services and how?

 If you look at it clearly, there is a distinction in the IT managed services between application and infrastructure. Now, there is one more layer, which is the managed network service that is being done in companies such as AT&T, Sprints and Telstra but, that is what will become more prevalent in India. In that managed network space, there will be a middle space where both of them will eat into each other. There will be an overlapping space, how high the network provider comes, and how low the infrastructure provider goes.

Won’t the network provider have an edge at any point of time?

This will depend on how you look at it. How a customer's architecture is created and where do they keep the central control point. Some of them keep the control point on the network side, some of them keep it at the data centre, and others keep it at the application level. This would help in distinguishing amongst the three.

With respect to the announcement on Cisco collaborating with Google to roll out free WiFi, will Cisco actively look at the service provider as a channel mode?

Yes, we are looking at more partners because it has to be pervasive, and service providers could be a channel for that.

What are those three things you will take as a mandate for 2020?

Network transformation continues to be the most significant mandate for them as they get ready for 5G. In addition to that, continuous readiness and the ability to deliver at the lowest cost per bit are going to be the most significantly sought. The second mandate would be around enterprises in how we could help them capitalize on this market.

From the supply side, it is essential to keep your network ready and transform your network. From a demand side, how can we help build the demand for enterprises as we are getting the network ready here to provide the services? These will be the two big pieces. Customer experience will be the third piece. Hence, the three broad areas would be - network transformation, enterprise business and customer experience for consumers.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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