Five Phases of Communications Transformation

October 25th, 2018

From legacy to leading edge, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) may sometimes feel there is no clear path or timeline associated with network transformation beyond what they have already done to move into virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (NFV).

In fact, the investments CSPs have made in modernizing their networks to support pure Internet Protocol (IP) environments are the foundation for the next transformation: the transformation of communications services.

It’s time to take the leap from infrastructure modernization to service modernization and monetization. With the right strategic moves and partners, CSPs are in a stronger position than ever to fend off threats from the challengers who have for decades leveraged “the Internet” and IP networks generally to launch their own services, which are replacing legacy voice, VoIP, video and on-demand video services CSPs spent trillions of dollars inventing as the turn of the century turned society into an always-on, always-connected, and always-collaborating global community.

Even as many CSPs continue to double down by investing in the future of network infrastructure (5G and LTE), it’s important to keep services in view and to understand how their investment at the “bottom of the stack” converts to value at the “top of the stack.”

At Ribbon, we are in a unique position to be working and supporting the evolution of some of the world’s largest CSPs, including mobile operators, cable MSOs, managed service providers and the systems integrators and applications developers who support them – so we have an inside view into where they see their strategies bringing value to consumers and enterprises – and to consumers through enterprises.

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Based on countless strategy sessions with our customers and partners, and our own R&D, we see the evolution and transformation of communications (vs. just networks) in five stages:

  1. Monetization of Legacy Investments (soft switches and gateways)
  2. IP Transformation (UCaaS and SBCs)
  3. Hosted Communications (NFV, vCPE, and uCPE)
  4. Embedded Applications (GPU, Analytics, IoT all supported by 5G)
  5. Cloud Communications (CPaaS) and innovations still to come

Learn more about CPaaS

This is all well underway, as those of us who are passionate about this industry and digital transformation are well aware. There is not a single phase that hasn’t already attracted billions of dollars in investment, but each are at different phases of maturity.

Ribbon, with companies contributing to its more than 200 patents, having consolidated market leaders including Sonus and GENBAND, has led in the field in guiding CSPs and enterprises to get the most out of their existing investments. This has helped fuel the growth of VoIP and the interconnection with the PSTN, which, while it is not going away anytime soon, clearly is not the future of RTC.

We’ve implemented thousands of projects in IP transformation, bringing SBCs into network operators and through those network operators to enterprises, enabling them to protect and manage VoIP sessions, ensuring high availability, quality and compliance with regulations across the globe. Our UCaaS applications extend traditional voice systems out to mobile devices, including rich functionality, call routing, messaging, and hundreds of features enterprises have relied upon for years, extending the value of in-place investments such as desktop phones to soft clients and mobile devices without skipping a beat.

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We’ve been at the table as our industry has established standards for Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), certifying our solutions with open software and communications leaders like Red Hat, and joining world-class organizations like The Linux Foundation and its Linux Networking Fund as founding members, recognizing that the telecom world has always thrived on interconnection and interworking of systems; open is more than a definition software, open is about opening up new technical schemes and business opportunities.

And why would Ribbon’s team stop there? We have in our DNA a constant and even burning desire to innovate on behalf of our customers, enabling them to remain competitive – disrupting rather than being disrupted by major challengers, particularly in the Over-the-Top (OTT) domain. That’s why we are heavily invested in and determined to help our customers with their roadmaps in such a way that they can invest wisely and generate immediate returns as we head into a world where 5G will change the game when it comes to speed, performance and economics.

In the new world of “spectrum creativity” Ribbon is pioneering embedded applications, including those which merge machines and people, as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) changes just about everything when it comes to the connection of the physical and digital world. While automation and analytics can vastly improve the efficiency of manufacturing plants, for example, the connection of derived data to human access to that data and action based on insights from that data is of far more value than a “lights out” approach.

In the world of healthcare, for example, medical devices can track and report on a patient’s heart rate and provide a cardiologist with real-time information and alerts about that patient’s well-being, but only a cardiologist can make the call on how to treat a patient in distress. And only a heart surgeon can operate on that patient, enhancing his or her outcomes using other technology made possible by embedded communications and telemedicine assistance, but still performing the delicate work.

Ultimately, almost every transaction will move to or through the cloud, which brings us to the next big moment in communications transformation. Despite all the hype about Cloud Communications as a Service, the fact is less than one-third of transactions pass through the cloud today. We are making great progress, but there are many challenges associated with cloud – with applications that are built on APIs – and with complex, sensitive workflows and information that make cloud communications truly valuable.

One of the greatest challenges? Security. How can we ensure the integrity of data that may be owned by an individual – or a corporation – when that data is subscribed to by multiple applications, for example? This includes voice conversations as more and more advanced voice services come online, including voice-activated personal assistants.

When everything we write, say, or otherwise share is converted into data, shared and stored on the cloud, the potential attack surface grows, and given the sophistication of cybercriminals and the amount of money and power at stake, we cannot take this lightly.

In fact, at every point in the evolutionary path summarized in this article, there have been countless challenges to consider and solve for.

Evolution is one thing – enlightenment is another. Ribbon’s passion for the potential of digital communications to enhance the success of CSPs, enterprise and every person on the planet who has access to a device and network drives us to think deeply – invest wisely – and above all, collaborate with our customers in true partnership in what we believe is the energy that will drive sustainable value – communications done right.

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