Beyond Connectivity: An Industry Scorecard

By: Mark Mortensen

The transformation of communications service providers (CSPs) to digital service providers (DSPs) has been going on for the last decade, with plenty more progress to come on advancing digitalized services, digitalized operations, and digitalized networks. This article focuses on the digitalized services beyond basic connectivity, scoring where they are now and predicting where they will expand the most.

Transition: CSP to DSP

All three aspects of the transition to digital service providers are important to a robust future for today’s communications service providers. The transition has been underway for nearly a decade, with another decade to go. Digitalization of the network—virtualizing much of the network elements and putting them under software control—is proceeding more slowly than expected, but steadily. Digitalizing the user experience for consumers, business customers, and the DSP employees themselves has made significant progress in customer-facing operations, while attention is now turning toward network operations automation.

The third area—offering digitalized services—has turned out to be more difficult, with many potential avenues fraught with commercial risk. Several potential paths have already shown themselves to be dead ends. Several are active and successful. Many others are showing great potential, although there never has been a large “killer application” that we all hoped for. Here is the scorecard as one analyst sees it.

Recent digitalized services

Over the last decade, a few digitalized services have been introduced. Some have been successful; others have been disappointments. In the table below, I show our score of how well the industry has done in making these services an important part of the service portfolios (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Digitalized services scorecard
click to enlarge

SD-WAN – 7 out of 10 – Excellent Potential

Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) was already growing well when the work-at-home explosion hit. The ability for enterprise customers to define their connectivity between their computing resources (whether on-premises or in a data center) and their branch offices, and then further to their remote workers, has proven itself to be of immense value. The recent incorporation of advanced security services (called “SASE”) is further expanding this opportunity. This is a major near-term opportunity.


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