AUSTIN, Texas -- Big Communications Event -- Service providers need to make their customer experience as simple as Amazon and Netflix, Aamir Hussain, executive VP and CTO at CenturyLink, said delivering a keynote at BCE last Tuesday.
CenturyLink, the third-largest telco in the US, is in the midst of its own transformation -- the 80-year-old company's revenue increased from hundreds of millions to $18 billion over the last few years. Once the recent acquisition of Level 3 Communications is complete, CenturyLink will be the second-largest enterprise service provider in the world and 75% of its revenue will come from the enterprise business, said Hussain. (See CenturyLink CTO Updates on Transformation 'Journey'.)
"We went through a massive change [over the last ten years] as we acquired companies and businesses," said Hussain. "We had to transform the way we worked and get rid of as much legacy as possible. Even with that, we are a legacy company with that heritage that we have to carry throughout this transformation."
In addition to describing internal changes at CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), Hussain examined the network capacity challenge inherent in the digital transformation. Part of the traffic challenge stems from device proliferation -- by 2020 there will be 4 billion people connected, driving 50 trillion GB of data at any given point in time, and the networks will have to transform and become smarter to handle this level of traffic, said Hussain. Last year, CenturyLink had 32 terabytes of backbone capacity on its network, and when Hussain checked just two weeks ago, it had surged to 53 terabytes -- all from non-monetized over-the-top traffic.
The solution to these challenges, Hussain said, is that "it's all about simplicity" and the ability to balance efficiency and innovation while keeping the needs of the customer front of mind. The focus for CenturyLink has been on simplification in every aspect of the customer experience, which Hussain said should be like the experience provided by Amazon and Netflix because that's what the customer is demanding today.
"This is a journey that will take time … it all ends with this platform where we take takes Ethernet, MPLS, SDN/NFV, cloud managed services, put it in a wrapper, connect it to multiple clouds, connect it to multiple networks, on top have the same UI experience, and allow our customers to build their own experience. This is what we are building and this is what platform economy is all about," said Hussain.
Hussain emphasized that the network has to be smart enough to handle the capacity coming from transformation enablers such as IoT, SDN/NFV, big data analytics, machine learning, AR/VR, 5G, multi-cloud tech and the platform economy. In order to succeed, telcos must exhibit tenacity and agility, undergo a culture change, partner with other providers, and hire skilled employees that challenge the status quo.
"We are really changing the engine of a plane midflight and that is not an easy thing to do," said Hussain.
— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading