As our Telco Transformation website attests, service provider transformation encompasses everything from the rollout of new services to a complete overhaul of company culture and working practices. Of critical importance is investment in new network technologies like SDN and NFV. Aimed largely at giving service providers an "agility" typically associated with the web-scale players, these New IP systems are a focal point for several of the companies on our shortlist for Outstanding Transformation Strategy.
What all these finalists have in common, though, is a strategy that is already being implemented and bringing benefits to their respective organizations. From a service provider perspective, transformation is much easier to talk about than it is to execute. But the companies that can navigate the pitfalls and rise to the challenge are the ones that will have an opportunity to thrive in the years ahead.
Details of each player and the strategy it is pursuing are provided below. Winners are to be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner on Monday, May 23, at the Hotel Ella in Austin, Texas. For more details about that, see this Leading Lights 2016 Awards page. The following day, the Big Communications Event 2016 opens it doors for two days of networking and learning.
In alphabetical order, the seven finalists for the Outstanding Transformation Strategy are as follows:
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has rightly secured a reputation as one of the most innovative and forward thinking of the world's big telcos. Its entry into this year's competition for Outstanding Transformation Strategy is based on three recent moves -- the closure of its DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) acquisition, the geographical expansion into Mexico and the overall network investment program.
As the operator is quick to note, the DirecTV takeover made it one of the biggest pay-TV providers in the world and is expected to lead to substantial cost savings due to the overlap with existing capabilities. The move into Mexico, meanwhile, exposes AT&T to a large and fast-growing mobile market. Following investments in underperforming operations, AT&T made good progress on acquiring and retaining customers in the last three months of 2015.
It is in the network transformation area, however, that AT&T really stands out. The operator is embracing technologies such as virtualization and white box networking, and services based on these network investments have already taken shape. NetBond, for example, is used to provide dynamic secure access to multiple clouds, and is now being developed into a wholesale offering for companies participating in the AT&T Partner Exchange. Expect to see plenty more such innovations from AT&T in the months ahead.
China Unicom Tianjin
China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU), one of China's three big national operators, has made our shortlist for a network strategy it calls "Accelerate Cloud Transformation through Expired PSTN CO Modernization." As the telco describes it, a number of central offices are being stranded with the transition from copper to fiber networks and as China Unicom switches from PSTN to all-IP networks -- a process it is looking to complete this year.
The operator's plans entail transforming many of these central office facilities into small data centers, incorporating technologies such as SDN. The move clearly ties in with the Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) initiative developed by ON.Lab through its ONOS initiative, which China Unicom is backing. The operator expects to realize some major efficiency improvements and to reduce total cost of ownership as a result of its distributed data center plans. As a early and extremely ambitious mover in this exciting new area, China Unicom is a worthy finalist in our awards process.
Colt Technology Services
Colt Technology Services Group Ltd has been one of the pioneers of SDN and NFV technology, launching a virtual customer premises equipment solution before NFV was even a recognized term. But the operator's Novitas strategy, which has earned it a place on our shortlist, calls for something far more dramatic.
Leveraging the latest developments in SDN and NFV, Colt says it is trying to transform the entire way in which services are "ordered, delivered and consumed." Launched in October last year, Novitas has already seen Colt introduce new service offerings using an on-demand platform that gives customers various self-service capabilities. Colt is also rolling out NFV technology that will allow it to rely on commodity network hardware, giving it a more open architecture and allowing it to simplify service creation.
Colt says the initial driver for investing in SDN and NFV was to reduce operational costs. But like other operators transforming their networks, it now sees customer benefits as perhaps the chief attraction. With new on-demand services scheduled for launch in the weeks and months ahead, Colt is eager to stay ahead of the game.
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