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Real, Real-Time Communications: The Difference is Digital

Monday, August 6, 2018

by David Walsh, Founder, Kandy

People are communicating more frequently now than ever, using more channels, more interfaces, more applications, more machines, and more creativity. The "24-hour news cycle" keeps real time content flowing from around the world, and as a global society with more access to more information distributed over bigger, more pervasive networks, we are more reliant on communications networks than ever in history.

This is great news for Communications Service Providers - or is it? The very definition of being a CSP is changing even as the lines are blurring between a traditional "telecom" CSP and what we used to call Application Service Providers who leveraged the networks of telecom companies to distribute their business applications. As ASPs continue to morph into Cloud Service Providers, and as communications moves rapidly into the cloud, it's never been more important to be strategic and to "think digital."

Bundling network services into the delivery of applications to ensure those applications run perfectly may be more of a threat to traditional CSPs than the OTT revolution that up-ended our industry's economics over a decade ago.

As digital services delivered over the cloud proliferate, incumbent CSPs are at a turning point and can either leverage their assets and experience or find themselves pushed down to the plumbing again.

In fact, “digital” is already deeply embedded into Tier One CSP's models - as much as we like to talk about "software telco" as a new thing, the telecom industry has always been at the forefront of developing and using computers and software to operate massive networks, both the PSTN and public Internet.

CSPs are, after all, not only providers of their own digital voice, data and video products and services enablers for other companies, from start-ups to similarly massive enterprises.

By providing the essential connectivity infrastructure that has been the physical foundation for the global digital economy, CSPs have benefitted from the related skyrocketing demand for broadband access.

Even as the number of digitally connected consumers and businesses is forecast to grow with even greater intensity, given time spent on digital platforms as a means of communicating, the spend for more basic connectivity services is expected to decline.  As technological breakthroughs accelerate, supporting mega trends including the sharing economy, the gig economy, the continued rise of social media, the Internet of Things, the explosion of Smart City deployments and more, challengers to slower moving CSPs are moving closer and closer to providing connectivity bundled into their offerings, leaving many incumbents to wonder if they can keep up or if they will be displaced.

Next-Next Generation

According to a McKinsey report published last year, there are two-and-a-half billion digital customers globally under age 25. What's different about this population? They are “always on” and that they show a different usage behavior compared to that of the traditional consumer.

  • On average, these digital users spend 315 minutes online each day (versus 126 minutes for customers over 25 years).
  • More than two-thirds of this group is on YouTube daily, and 41 percent of 18- to 32-year-olds in the United States use video-messaging-service Snapchat for 25 to 30 minutes per day.
  • The next-next generation isn't using digital solely for music, entertainment, news, sports and social communication.
  • This coming generation is "taking care of business" too, with 45 percent using social media as their primary platform for customer service.
  • They are not sitting in front of their computers doing much of this. Many are not just mobile first but mobile only. For example, over half of all active Facebook users access their accounts solely through their smartphones.

The next-next generation will be all-digital business using mobile access, and this is driving another mega-trend, using only mobile devices and applications for payments, with over 2 billion mobile users able to make payments globally by the end of next year.

These tectonic digital shifts are rippling through all of the industries incumbent CSPs support, and are changing the way enterprise connectivity services are bought and sold, yet another threat to those CSPs who do not innovate and break their own business models to remain relevant.

The banking industry, for example, has to adapt to competitors in the payments industry. The ripple effect for the CSPs who serve large banks? The "IT Spend" that used to fund long-term contracts for MPLS global networks, for example, or large voice systems, is being diverted to software development of payment applications required for the banks to compete with their own challengers.

The digitization of everything, and the movement towards extremely sophisticated "Uber Synchronous" communications, collaboration, and commerce will generate billions of dollars in economic value. We all know this is true. The question is: how can enterprises, including CSPs, benefit from the increase in the absolute number of digital customers as well as in a massive increase in the amount of time consumers spend using communication and broadband services?

According to Ovum, communication intensity in regard to time spent will grow by 63 percent over the next ten years.

We are all in high-growth industries as a result but will only succeed when we do what we have always done to be successful - solve problems, get jobs done, make life easier, make work more convenient, and drive better business outcomes.

We have never stopped innovating not only technologies for our customers, CSPs and large global enterprises and the partners and systems integrators who serve them, innovating the new economic business models moving from Capex to Opex, and from services to everything-as-a-service.

We have always innovated out ahead of our customers' opportunities, and that has never been more apparent than it is in 2018, as we continue to roll out cloud communications, embedded communications, and RTC security software that is helping redefine that value CSPs can bring to all their customers, consumers, businesses and enterprises alike.

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