PARTNER FEATURE: It’s an always-on world fuelled by on-demand content and services. Instant and immediate is the expectation. Slow and sluggish won’t cut it.

This puts service providers and carriers in a unique spot: how do you get an edge over your competition while continuing to launch and monetise new services, attract new customers and, ultimately, boost revenue?

Here Andrew Hickey, editorial director and content strategy expert at secure application services provider A10 Networks (pictured), discusses eight ways service providers and carriers can win in an ever-changing market.

1. Prepare for what’s next
Standing still is the kiss of death. As service providers, you must stay up to speed on the next technology shift and solutions that will help optimise your network and applications so you can deliver new, modern services to your customers.

There are several things you can do today to future-proof your network for tomorrow, such as: preparing for the transition to 5G and an influx of connected devices; preserving your investment in IPv4 while you start transitioning to IPv6; focusing on network scale; and taking a security-first approach to protect your network from costly distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

2. Reduce your costs
We’ve entered an era where you have to do more with less. This presents the challenge of whittling down your legacy infrastructure, modernising and reducing your hardware footprint with more powerful, compact and environmentally friendly gear to curb spending.

To start reducing costs almost instantly, you can consider leveraging modern architectures. Adopting software defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualisation (NFV) or cloud computing can reduce your capital expenses and boost your bottom line. Also, leveraging a purpose-built solution for carrier grade NAT (CGNAT) functionality rather than supplementing existing chassis routers by adding software modules to line cards will help reduce infrastructure costs as subscribers scale up.

3. Build consistency
When it comes to delivering services, inconsistency angers customers. Consistency wins. So how do you employ a set of consistent services to ensure customer satisfaction?

To build consistency: ensure your infrastructure can scale to provide around-the-cloud availability even under peak demand; focus on security to ensure DDoS attacks and breaches can’t take down your network or key services; and start converging services through consolidation, optimisation and automation. These steps will ensure you deliver applications and services swiftly, smoothly and without interruption.

4. Empower your customers
Customer empowerment is a major component of modern service provider success. It has become a key to customer satisfaction.

When you implement or enhance the self-service capabilities you offer, you give your subscribers the freedom to tune services to meet their specific needs. Putting control into customers’ hands has powerful benefits for you, such as reducing support volume, saving money, enabling personalisation and increasing customer satisfaction.

5. Speed time to market
You want to get to market faster. It is one area where you can gain a massive competitive edge. Think about it: if you’re first to market with a new service, your competitors are left scrambling. By the time they launch a comparable service, you are already unveiling your next innovation. It’s the ultimate advantage.

The adage rings true: if you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes. How do you hit the market first? One word: agility. As a service provider, there are several ways you can achieve agility, which can put you in the lead when it comes to time-to-market. Embracing open-source solutions and cloud computing; deploying new frameworks like SDN and NFV; and leveraging modern architectures such as microservices and containers will help you unlock the agility needed to get to market faster.

6. Deploy on your terms
As a service provider, you need choice. You also need the ability to future-proof your network to accommodate all of the latest and greatest technologies while embracing elastic and agile service delivery.

You have to build and embrace architectures and solutions that enable you to leverage various deployment options. There are several choices: hardware appliances are the tried and true workhorses that deliver reliability, throughput and scale; bare metal enables you to deploy application delivery and networking services as software on your choice of hardware; virtual deployments are flexible and offer advanced on-demand services; and cloud adds new levels of scalability and agility while reducing capex. Having several deployment options in your arsenal will help you succeed.

7. Flex your pricing prowess
Your service can be the fastest. It can perform the best. But if it’s too expensive, you’re going to lose customers. As cliche as it sounds, money talks. That is why you have to keep your pricing competitive. Charge too much, and you’ll only attract premium customers. Charge too little, and you’re actively participating in a race to the bottom. Pricing is a delicate balance that has to be measured perfectly to succeed.

Offering subscribers a pay-as-you-go consumption model is one way to keep pricing competitive. Leveraging cloud and cloud-native applications make that a possibility. Employing flexible licensing models is also a way you can keep pricing competitive. For example, offer licensing pools and elastic consumption models that correspond directly with usage or planned usage. Subscription- or capacity-based flexible licensing also helps customers only pay for what they need, and not for what they don’t.

8. Strengthen your security
Everything you’ve done to build out a world-class network means nothing if it isn’t secure. Picture this: your services get taken out by a massive DDoS attack. Along with the loss of customer satisfaction – which is huge – you’re stuck with a financial loss and lasting reputation damage.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself, your network and your services from modern, sophisticated attacks that are the scourge of the today’s web. Leveraging solutions that provide DDoS defence, traffic decryption and inspection, and firewall services will ensure your network is protected against modern threats.

Those are eight ways carriers and service providers can ensure their networks and services stay fresh and modern, while staying several steps ahead of competitors at all times.