Canadian CSPs embracing new ideas, technologies

Panelists such as Zayo Group’s Michael Strople sized up some of the main challenges faced by communication service providers these days and how they’re responding to customer demands at the Canadian Telecom Summit, held in Toronto last week.

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Call it trying times for communication service providers, Part Deux.

Last week I wrote about IDC’s latest statistics on CSPs in Canada, which paint a picture of how providers are being squeezed by various market pressures.

This week we bring you a sequel of sorts; a look at the conversation that’s unfolding around those numbers. It involves a dialogue among four industry insiders, one that indicates how CSPs are dealing with those pressures — and what it all means for their customers, including enterprise network admins.

All four are executives from CSPs operating in Canada, and they recently took the stage for a panel discussion at the Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto. The moderator kicked things off by sizing up some of the main challenges faced by CSPs these days.

First, the traditional CSP model and infrastructure make it tough to quickly scale up or down on a dime as per today’s escalating customer demands. Second, thanks to the mish mash of siloed, disparate architecture out there, integration is still, in far too many cases, a total bummer.

Third, OTTs (over-the-top service providers) are giving CSPs a run for their money. Besides offering cheap, user-friendly services that can be spun up fairly quickly, some OTTs are now building their own infrastructure. (We’re looking at you, Google Fiber).

How are CSPs in Canada coping with this situation? Looking at new and alternative technology, for starters. All four panelists gave a nod to open source (to ease those pesky integration hassles), software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) going forward.

One panel member asserted, however, that beyond adopting new technology, CSPs will have to adopt a whole new attitude.

“To adapt to the level of innovation and change coming into the industry, we’re going to have to take on new practices we haven’t done too well with in the past,” said Paul Brittain, VP of VOIP and multimedia products at Metaswitch Networks.

Which practices would those be? Devops, Brittain said. He suggested a devops approach could offer CSPs “more agility in being able to react, in terms of what service needs (they) have to deliver and also the unexpected traffic needs that have to be met.”

Another panelist, Tariq Khan, seconded the need for a more flexible game plan borrowed from the startup world’s “ability to fail fast” mentality.

“You want to be able to try new things and not spend quarters or months or years (on one new development) … Have a small team to develop these scenarios, bring them to a small set of customers and, if not, move onto something else,” said Khan, chief technologist of cloud and SDN for NFV at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Third panel member Gareth Noyes said CSPs should cast a glance outside their own walls — perhaps get cozy with a few of those startups — in order to innovate.

“We’ve got to take on some of the external disruptors, embrace them,” said Noyes, chief strategy officer at Wind River Systems.

Panelist number four, Zayo Group’s Michael Strople, said the company has responded to “the constant demand for bandwidth, low latency bandwidth and the ubiquity of wireless networks” by creating Tranzact. It’s an online marketplace where customers can compare prices for services like dark fibre and live video, then order them with only a few clicks on the site.

“It’s changed what was a four- to five-week quote process so it now happens in milliseconds,” said Strople, Zayo’s managing director for Canada and president of managed services.

He was making the point that it’s not enough anymore for CSPs to make the connections run faster. They have to respond to the demands of business customers faster, too. The new reality is that with more options to choose from, customers are now in the driver’s seat. Their needs and expectations are driving all of these changes at communication service providers.

For CSPs that fail to open themselves up — to new technology, ideas, approaches and partners — it could be a bumpy ride.

Image courtesy of the Canadian Telecom Summit

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