One Is Not Enough: How Telcos Can Build a Services Portfolio at the Edge
Service providers need to deploy hundreds of applications or services at the edge to to make the 5G investment worth their while and prevent webscalers from targeting their customers.
The distinction between enterprise and consumer has been blurring for years, particularly as businesses adopt the consumer-like mindset of demanding next-generation applications or services that take advantage of new technologies.
Such is the case with 5G, which will bring about a faster and more reliable network that businesses can leverage to better serve their own customers. Key to this scenario is mobile edge computing, which will drive a new wave of applications and services that take advantage of the low latency and high bandwidth promised by 5G.
Delivering those applications will be the way service providers monetize 5G infrastructure and generate new revenue streams moving forward.
Operators know this and have been charting a course toward commercialization. Some have even advanced proofs of concept for particular use cases. Even fewer have begun market trials.
But the point is this: One application at the edge isn’t enough to make a business.
Service providers need to deploy dozens, if not hundreds, of applications or services at the edge to optimize ROI.
Where to start?
Telcos can effectively use their networks to tap into the value being created at the edge by:
- Understanding which industries are most amenable to leveraging edge to better deliver value internally and externally.
- Identifying key use cases in those industries and the related applications that are most likely to gain market traction.
- Deploying these vertical-specific solutions at scale to drive new revenue streams.
Research commissioned by WWT identifies 30 industry-specific edge use cases likely to deliver the greatest revenue potential, all of which benefit from edge’s suitability for transformative, data-intensive applications.
WWT also is actively working with a variety of independent software vendors (ISVs) to provide industry-specific applications service providers can take to market, such as QiO Technologies, which has developed an edge oriented, industrial IoT platform that simplifies device or instrument data acquisition.
What if I’m starting from scratch?
Admittedly, the market will take time to develop. But this shouldn’t slow service providers’ quest to develop and deploy new services at the edge. Google, Amazon and Microsoft combined to bring nearly 400 unique services to market in 2019 alone. Given this competitive environment, it is critical service providers be meticulous in identifying promising use cases on an industry-by-industry basis.
Where no ISV is playing — or if operators want to bring to market proprietary IP — service providers can leverage WWT’s Application Services to custom build an application or service that delivers specific business outcomes.
For example, as WWT considers how to bring back thousands of employees into our corporate offices amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our Application Services team developed a contactless fever detection system that uses a thermal camera to provide a practical and cost-effective way to help safely transition workers back into the office.
The application integrates into edge capabilities to process the video and prompts employees with escalating temperatures or fevers to answer a questionnaire around health and recent exposure in order to limit spread of the virus to employees and their families.
As businesses start to reopen, this will be a growing market. But the engagement is illustrative of Application Services’ ability to make a custom-built solution to solves a unique business challenge.
Traditional approaches to enterprise IT simply weren’t designed to respond to the unprecedented speed and uncertainty of today's digital economy.
WWT’s outcome-based approach to agile software development and engineering delivers customer value early and often. We capture iterative feedback to guide decisions and produce impactful solutions at the speed of your business.
Prove it out
There is value to showing how a customer experiences a use case as intended in native environments. WWT’s Edge Studio — a place where edge-related applications and use cases can be validated in a physical, real-world scenario — does just that by starting with the customer journey to help discover your why, define the how and built your what.
Because the edge environment is complex and costly, it takes considerable momentum to enable the first use case. WWT, with its experience dealing with both enterprise and service provider needs, is positioned to help discover the why, define the how and build the what.
We start by understanding a service provider’s position along the edge maturity curve and collaborate to define the desired end-state goals, milestones and metrics. Our Idea to Outcome methodology helps us:
- Collect and compare expectations and desired outcomes from all key stakeholders.
- Generate consensus across teams that may not typically work together.
- Identify and prioritize a backlog of work.
- Create roadmaps and action plans to motivate progress and accountability.
By doing this, we establish three to five use cases to prototype and move forward with. By leveraging design thinking methodologies that focus on the people, process and technology, we create a comprehensive roadmap to achieve key immediate and long-term technology goals. And the sum of these successes ultimately equates to the delivery of critical business outcomes.
Regardless of a service provider’s ability to execute on any number of the use cases, the applications that will truly transform the world are likely still percolating as ideas inside the heads of leading technologists and economists, meaning, in the future, operators will need to take advantage of emerging trends and use cases on the fly.
Tie it all together
No matter the application, integrated edge solutions should not be treated as a Swiss Army Knife that can easily support a broad range of use cases. Unique combinations of hardware and software need to be aligned with specific use cases to optimize performance.
To help target these vertical-specific use cases, we’ve created a set of validated edge infrastructure configurations that are optimized to deliver industry-specific applications to customers via their mobile edge computing platform, thus creating new 5G revenue streams for the service provider.
We realize most operators are not interested in utilizing "off the shelf" solutions and will require a level of customization that best meets their needs to deliver business outcomes.
WWT’s blueprints, however, can jumpstart an operator's edge computing deployment strategy by getting them all the way to the finish line. To cross it, we will collaborate with the service provider to develop unique edge solutions that utilize the blueprint foundation to more quickly go to market.
Go big or go home
No matter your progress along the edge maturity curve, service providers need to think big picture. A few apps or services running at the edge are not going to differentiate an organization from the competitive pack — certainly not as webscale companies are pumping out new services at a rapid clip.
Service providers need to be thinking about the specific vertical markets they will target and what set of services or applications are most likely to be consumed in that industry. Then, they must scale and repeat in a second vertical — and so on and so forth.