As digital technologies play an increasing role in our lives, internet connectivity has become a utility, just like electricity and water.
Although this means telcos play a crucial role, their revenue will take a big hit if they focus solely on traditional communication services. They are faced with new competitors, which include mobile virtual network operators that resell a telco’s wireless communications services at a cheaper rate and over-the-top (OTT) players, like Netflix and Spotify, that use the telco’s network to provide new services.
Recognising this, StarHub launched a five-year strategic transformation and growth plan in November 2021 called DARE+ to go beyond being a telco to become a full-on digital life and digital services provider. One of the key enablers of DARE+ is Cloud Infinity, a low-latency, multi-cloud architecture that StarHub has conceptualised.
“Cloud Infinity is a brownfield transformation programme, so we’re not reinventing the wheel. It leverages StarHub’s current strengths, market positioning, products and services portfolio, but at the same time allows us to roll out new services and platforms for which we currently do not play under in the short-, mid- and long-term future,” Ayush Sharma, StarHub’s chief technology officer, tells DigitalEdge.
Through Cloud Infinity, StarHub’s network infrastructure will adopt a highly scalable and access-agnostic hybrid cloud architecture. This will help improve operational efficiency and, more importantly, empower the telco to co-develop platforms and solutions with enterprises and differentiate services through low-latency, multi-access technologies such as 5G and 10Gbps.
StarHub is also working with cloud service providers Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Naver Cloud and Nokia to jointly develop ultra-low latency cloud, communication and entertainment services.
It will leverage AWS’ broad and deep set of differentiated offerings and the cloud provider’s global partner network to gain meaningful customer insights and deliver solutions to end users.
Together with Naver Cloud, it will provide edge cloud computing-based 5G network services and develop cloud services. Naver Cloud will also support StarHub’s partners with technical expertise and resources to help StarHub strengthen its position as a cloud managed service provider.
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Additionally, StarHub will pilot Google Distributed Cloud Edge and Nokia 5G Standalone Core to run core network functions at the edge of the carrier’s network. By moving its 5G core network to a cloud platform, StarHub’s subscribers and enterprise customers across industries — including manufacturing, retail, hospitality and transportation — can reap the benefits of the newly scalable, secure, low-latency and globally accessible, software-driven network.
StarHub will also explore leveraging Google Cloud’s expertise in data management, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning across its network operations. Understanding the breadth of its data points will help simplify the management of its day-to-day network operations.
These partnerships will allow StarHub to launch rich digital applications that could be hosted in edge data centres — where data processing happens closer to end-users so they can enjoy faster services. Examples of those applications include powering robots to deliver F&B in a connected restaurant or enabling automated guided vehicles to operate in a smart port, shares Sharma.
A ‘super app’ for digital transformation
Sharma says Cloud Infinity lays the groundwork for StarHub to deliver an endless continuum of Infinity Play services, which include connectivity, OTT streaming entertainment, cloud gaming and digital solutions.
The telco, therefore, delivers a “super app” with a wide range of offerings to help its customers simplify their digital transformation and accelerate business growth.
The super app, says Sharma, offers four X-factor platforms covering different areas of an organisation’s operations. They are:
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- Network-X, which enables enterprise customers to enjoy high levels of connectivity, quality of experience and proximity with low latency through a secure self-provisioned single interface.
- Cloud-X, a secure cloud-brokerage marketplace where businesses from government agencies to private enterprises can select their preferred cloud model with the assurance of compliance, data privacy and high levels of connectivity.
- Secure-X, which helps safeguard an organisation’s infrastructure and customer data through AI-based security monitoring and incident response platform.
- Content-X, which enables customers to enjoy new OTT interactive streaming, gaming and metaverse services from content partner integrations and independent software vendors’ (ISVs) systems within minutes, on demand.
When asked how the Cloud-X platform differs from the marketplaces provided by cloud giants, Sharma cites more reliable connectivity, cloud agnosticism and simplicity as differentiators. “Firstly, business customers [that use the digital services from Cloud-X] can be assured of reliable connectivity, as our core strengths as a telco are high throughput, low latency and an always-on network,” says Sharma.
He continues: “Secondly, Cloud-X offers cloud neutrality, so organisations are not tied to any cloud provider and can shift their workloads to their preferred cloud platform. For example, a customer can use AI services from Google Cloud while using AWS for another workload. [This is important as many business] customers want to use multiple cloud platforms, but can’t do so as they don’t have the knowledge and skills [of utilising or moving to all those cloud platforms].
“Finally, [we’re helping to eliminate complexities for them,] as all they have to do is to click the digital service from the Cloud-X marketplace to deploy it. They don’t have to think of which local provider to provide connectivity for that service or multiple service level agreements,” he says.
“[Putting it simply,] if we were a water provider, Cloud-X would provide customers with the choice of having vitamin water delivered through their house taps apart from plain water. The aim is to delight customers by giving them more choices or providing something they lack [in a simple, hassle-free manner].”
To help more business customers digitally transform, StarHub will continue focusing on partnerships with ISVs to grow its X-factor platforms and beyond its current geographical footprint. “[Doing so] gives a wider choice [of solutions that can help] business customers within Singapore and beyond digitally transform [which in turn positions us as an enabler of digital businesses instead of just a telco],” adds Sharma.