An end-to-end mindset for the digital transformation
Everybody's talking about digital transformation – but what's the best way for carriers to help their customers realise that vision? Dawane Young, executive director of marketing at Verizon Partner Solutions, explains how networks and services can be combined with end-to-end security in a more integrated way to make that vision a reality.
‘Digital transformation’ is a popular phrase that has reverberated throughout businesses around the globe over the past couple of years. With the pandemic acting as an accelerator of many of the strategic initiatives associated with transformation, companies are integrating digital technology into all areas of their business. The cornerstone of this change centres on improving customer experiences and driving greater efficiencies in processes.
Coinciding with the proliferation of 5G, this acceleration has given communications service providers a new opportunity to discuss optimised network technologies and product mixes with customers, in step with the growing demand for reliable, secure end-to-end solutions.
“It’s a critical time for our business and more importantly for our customers,” says Dawane Young, executive director of marketing at Verizon Partner Solutions (VPS). “As a trusted advisor to partners across the globe that are at different phases of the digital-transformation journey, we get to play an active role in shaping the future of not only networks, but the way businesses evolve.”
Young highlights a few technologies that are both driving and shaping these changes, including fixed-wireless access (FWA), the internet of things (IoT), security and collaboration platforms. “All of these solutions play into, directionally, where we see the market going,” he says.
“Developments in these areas enable both the expansion of connectivity options, and the evolution of the applications and devices that run on top of the network, allowing for more comprehensive services and experiences.”
For carriers, says Young, this all presents an opportunity to provide businesses integrated solutions with end-to-end security that make sense for both their partners and customers.
FWA ramps up
FWA is a way to provide wireless internet access to homes or businesses without laying fibre and cables to enable last-mile connectivity. The technology has seen rapid uptake in the US recently as 5G unlocks more of its potential. This has been aided by C-band spectrum going into service this year, with Verizon quickly rolling out millions more points of presence on its 5G Ultra Wideband network and looking to cover at least 175 million people by the end of the year.
“This increase from using C-band – which we currently have available in 1,700 cities across the US – allows us to support more network traffic, deliver even better performance to our customers, and add new products and services like fixed-wireless access,” says Young. “Reaching new levels of innovation and digital transformation in our society requires a fundamental transformation of networks. The continued evolution of our network is paving the way for tremendous growth.”
Young explains that FWA is a complementary technology to the variety of new options emerging in the market rather than a replacement for traditional fixed-line services, with the rapidly evolving landscape necessitating flexibility in the technologies made available.
“The growth of software-defined networks (SDN) and the migration of connectivity options that are occurring in the marketplace today are what is causing the move away from legacy technology,” says Young. “For us, fixed-wireless access expands the map and increases our opportunity to provide another connectivity option for last-mile connectivity to our customers.”
Having another technology, such as FWA, helps broaden the available options for addressing the particular needs of individual businesses, explains Young. “Every business, every vertical and every market segment is different – and at the core of that, you’re really trying to solve problems for those businesses. Those solutions have to align with the application and the connectivity needed.”
He points to the rise of cloud-native applications, which has gone hand-in-hand with the growth in remote working. “It really starts at the core with the customer first, the applications that they’re using, and how you bring software, applications and platforms together with increased broadband connectivity.”
Alongside this increase in connectivity options, the massive growth in the number of devices is also part of this digital transformation, fuelled by technologies such as IoT. “Whether it be sensors, cameras, wearables or analytics devices, connected devices are being deployed in businesses as a part of their overall digital transformation strategy,” says Young.
Verizon is helping to support this on a more seamless, interconnected and interoperable basis through platforms including ThingSpace, aiding automation and orchestration of the IoT environment, and through multi-access edge computing (MEC). This aims to meet the demand from enterprise customers for lower-latency applications closer to the end user, with Young pointing to edge partnerships with the likes of AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud that have bolstered this drive.
He adds that Verizon is in regular discussions with players in verticals like healthcare, education and manufacturing about how such technologies can help improve processes by resolving latency issues and enabling data in real time.
Donning the BlueJeans
And it’s not only in the IoT and edge spaces where developments are happening in different sectors, but also in the area of collaboration platforms. On its videoconferencing and collaboration tool BlueJeans, Verizon unveiled a Telehealth service last year that facilitates remote care and communication between healthcare providers and patients.
This comes after Verizon acquired BlueJeans in May 2020, tapping into the sudden massive-scale surge in need for people to keep connected during the pandemic. Now, with the ongoing work-from-home movement, Verizon has been regularly adding functionality to improve options for hybrid or remote working or learning, and to make meetings more immersive, inclusive and engaging.
Young believes there is considerable scope for further expanding the service into new verticals, boosting its use for activities like gaming, carrying out remote training and, essentially, aiding with anything that requires real-time video communications. “I think there’s significant upside potential for BlueJeans,” he says.
He adds that there is an opportunity for more comprehensive services when the latest communications platforms are running over 5G and connected devices at the edge – for example, by harnessing private 5G networks. “By adding vertical-specific use cases with BlueJeans to the enhanced connectivity options and compute resources at the edge, as well as end-to-end security, our customers have the ability to leverage game-changing technology for their businesses,” he says.
At the same time, the upsurge in IoT devices, edge networks and widely distributed workforces increases the demand for more comprehensive security. “As we add millions of end points to our network, security becomes exponentially more important at the enterprise level and at the end-user level,” says Young.
Young notes the rise in threats during Covid-19. “Cyberthreats didn’t take the pandemic off. They actually increased,” he says. “In addition to that, you’ve now added more end points, and you have a distributed workforce and a change in the way that people are doing business – it just means that the need for security has only increased.”
In its latest Data Breach Investigations Report for 2022, for example, Verizon highlighted that a 13% rise in ransomware breaches in a single year represented a larger jump than in the past five years combined.
In line with this, VPS provides services such as its DDoS Shield, a cloud-based service to help tackle sophisticated and high-volume DDoS attacks of today, and its Network Detection and Response offering, which helps proactively monitor the threat landscape on a real-time basis.
“All of those components play into providing an end-to-end security solution and a security framework,” says Young. “As the end points increase, the threat landscape increases. This presents an opportunity to have a more robust security discussion with CISOs [chief information security officers] about how they’re protecting their critical infrastructure.”
The combination of new connectivity options like FWA, alongside IoT and ‘above-the-network’ services backed by comprehensive security, is therefore key to supporting the digital transformation, says Young. Ultimately, he refers to such components as the “DNA” of this evolution, meaning the devices, the network and the applications.
These components are as important as ever for facilitating the transition that he points out “has not stopped as we’ve moved towards reopening” from the pandemic. That means the need to seize on the opportunity now and meet the demand from businesses for greater efficiencies, he says. “I would say the future is now, because a lot of businesses are in the midst of their overall digital transformation strategies.”