Issue 27 Articles

UXP Systems logoDigital Identity: The Next (Big) Operator Service

Gemini Waghmare, CEO, UXP Systems talks to InterComms about the Four Keys to Success for the Operator as a Digital Identity Provider

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Gemini Waghmare, CEO, UXP Systems
Gemini Waghmare, CEO, UXP Systems

As the CEO and founder of UXP Systems, Gemini Waghmare has rapidly become a leading voice in the communications industry, frequently guiding operators on digital transformation and the power of the digital user lifecycle. Gemini has held senior positions at Amdocs, TELUS, Digital Equipment Corporation, and various startups along the way, and holds a degree in Business Administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University. Gemini provides the strategic direction for UXP Systems and is responsible for the realization of the company’s goal of empowering the digital users that drive the internet. His deep knowledge of service provider infrastructure and entrepreneurial vision give UXP Systems the foundation to succeed in the dynamic telecom and cable landscape.

On a keynote panel at the TM Forum Live! Conference in France this year, the ever insightful CIO of Comcast, Scott Alcott, was asked how telecom operators could innovate. Speaking on the topic of “Re-imagining Your Business in a Connected World”, Alcott had clear calls to action for all of us.

Among them was a line that made me rethink the very core of my business.

“I would like to see Identity as a Service”, Alcott said.

As the CEO of a company that powers digital identities for operators, I had always thought of our space as infrastructure. Service providers launch services and use digital identities as a means to access them. Was I missing the bigger picture?

Digital Identity in the telecom space has traditionally been a hangover that follows customer acquisition. Sign up the customer, and hope they create a username and password. Use that digital identity to pay your bill and log onto your TV everywhere app.

We started UXP Systems because we knew the opportunity to leverage digital identity was much greater than that. But, Identity as a Service?

Looking at Apple, the picture comes into focus. Apple ID’s have become the key to a portfolio that enables communications, entertainment, purchasing and apps. It’s evolved to accommodate households with roles, approval and sharing. Is it fair to say that Apple ID is a service unto itself, and everything that it enables, just features?

Facebook is another case in point. Our Facebook identities are a means to access hundreds of different services. These digital IDs are seamless, powerful and personal. And, like many other services, they’re directly monetized, as Facebook uses data derived from these identities as the engine of their business.

Digital Identity has indeed become a service unto itself. Facebook, Apple, Nest and Amazon all power ID for every household member. They’ve continually evolved the utility and functionality of identity to empower users across services, features and screens. They’ve turned what used to be infrastructure into feature rich offerings, developing rich user graphs of user behaviour, creating billion dollar, data-driven businesses and simplifying our interaction with the digital world.

Thinking in these terms, I couldn’t agree more. Digital identity is already a strategic service for internet players, and its time operators approach it with the same opportunity in mind.

If operators want to be successful in the domain of digital identity, they need to treat it like a service.

Here are four key elements of identity as the next (big) operator service:

1. Digital Identity as a Service Must Be a Feature-Rich Service

Identity as an infrastructure is secure, reliable and scalable. But Identity as a Service is all of that and much more. Identity as a Service must go beyond the singular and isolated username and password. It must extend to accommodate groups of users, delegation, sharing and preferences. It should be frictionless, and support the roles, entitlements and hierarchies that define the way we interact with other digital users in our daily lives. Operators in turn need to accelerate their digital identity roadmaps, managing a full and featured scope to manage the comprehensive lifecycle of every digital user.

2. Digital Identity Needs to Be Marketed as a Service

UXP Systems recently powered Cable & Wireless’ launch of Flow ID. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it is arguably the first digital identity by a telecom operator that’s marketed as a service itself. Available to any user across their operating region (and technically speaking, worldwide), Flow ID is a digital identity that squarely gives Apple and Google a run for their money in the pan-Caribbean region. It gives seamless, personalized access to local and international entertainment, education, sports and communications services. What’s special about it though, is that it is marketed as a service, not just a means to access services, with its own launch campaign, branding and collateral. The brilliant video by Cable & Wireless says it all (link to video). More operators should pull from this visionary playbook.

3. Digital Identity is for Every Individual

Operators have long been anchored in a paradigm where they see only the paying customer as a “user” and not every consumer and their services. This is the result of rigidly tying a single digital identity to underlying subscription held in billing systems. In contrast to the internet-class of identity providers, digital identity is for every consumer of a service. In the same way that Netflix allows me to manage identities for my children, operators must expand the breadth of the offering to onboard non-customers, and non-paying consumers of their services.

4. Digital Identity Must Be Monetized

Cable and telecom operators are used to making money by selling subscriptions. As with television, communications or data, an operators’ view of monetization has been a straight exchange of service for money. Digital Identity is monetized via new business models, including addressable advertising (Facebook), launching new services via digital ID (Apple), and driving consumption via personalization (Netflix). There are tremendous revenue streams to successful purveyors of Identity as a Service, and as the chart below shows, this opportunity continues to grow dramatically.

So long as operators continue to provide us with the wireless and broadband networks we need to carry out our connected lives, they will be able to meaningfully participate in the digital value chain. And their ability to play a meaningful role in that value chain relies on their ability to embrace and offer Digital Identity as a differentiated Service, not simply infrastructure. As Mr. Alcott implied, perhaps this is the key to re-imagining the telecom business in a connected world.

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