Cloud-based innovation is, in some ways, both a blessing and a curse. Open source-related technologies and processes like continuous integration and continuous development allow for new services and products to be released faster than ever before. Meanwhile, cloud platforms enable users to access what they want, when they want it.

At the same time, the cloud introduces a lot of added complexity for the modern telco.

Those organizations that are available to effectively navigate these challenges will find new opportunities to drive revenue through powerful digital services. The key is to find the right balance of scalability, flexibility, and security.

Change must be incremental

One of the more frustrating challenges that telecom companies must overcome is the need to reconcile their forward-thinking ambitions with the realities of their industry and business model.

It’s one of the most backward, legacy-oriented industries in the world (while at the same time, one of the most forward-looking) simply due to its long, evolving history and on-going dependence on legacy revenue.

For instance, it’s no secret that revenue from voice services has dropped significantly since smartphones first appeared on the scene. Phone owners simply use their devices for more than traditional voice services. As such, there’s more money to be made through data packages than competitive voice packages.

However, the diminishing returns of voice doesn’t mean that carriers can drop it entirely from their service menus. Voice remains a core pillar of the telecom industry, and companies cannot afford to simply walk away from that revenue even if it isn’t quite as lucrative as in the past.

Then there is the corner that legacy infrastructure has backed many telecom companies into.

All of these dynamics make it very difficult to walk away from their current systems. Many still have mainframes upon which they’re very dependent. Many have monolithic software packages that they’re struggling to get out of, etc.

In fact, while the U.S. telecom industry has long provided an example for third-world markets to strive to replicate, that technological gap has shrunk considerably in recent years. In some ways, developing markets have an advantage over old stalwarts because they can build their infrastructure with an eye on the future. Meanwhile, U.S.-based carriers and service providers must cope with older legacy hardware that may not be flexible enough to support rapid change and innovation – legacy infrastructure doesn’t always allow for the best, most creative solutions

Telecom companies cannot tear down that infrastructure and start fresh. Their existing revenue streams depend on it. Change must occur incrementally – even slowly, if necessary – but it must happen to stay competitive in the future.

Finding the right balance of scalability, security, and flexibility

The journey toward telecom evolution may be a slow and painstaking one, but there is one path forward that appears to be especially viable: greenfield technology.

If drastic, immediate change isn’t possible within existing networks, look for opportunities that are unencumbered by legacy infrastructure. Greenfield markets offer a way to invest in new revenue streams without upsetting current money makers. For example, CloudSmartz recently formed a partnership with Laser Light Communications to develop a hybrid mesh global network that would bridge the gap between satellite and terrestrial networks.

By taking a similar approach, communication service providers can invest in innovative telecom technologies while supporting tried-and-true revenue streams until they are ready to take that first big step into the future.

The last piece of the puzzle is security

The last piece of the puzzle is security. With cybercrime showing no signs of slowing down, telecom companies need to protect their networks and systems, preventing a damaging data breach, system intrusion or network disruption.

Telecom networks may have a number of potential points of entry for cybercriminals and data thieves. Carriers and CSPs must lock down their systems and prevent malicious actors from wreaking havoc their networks.

The telco industry was ahead of the world at one point in time, but now more than any other industry, it needs to move to new technology – but they’re anchored and encumbered by legacy, equipment (investments), legacy systems (dependent revenue), and by their own profits making them slow to adopt.  However, the teeter-totter is moving.

Striking the right balance between flexibility, scalability, and security is the best way forward for an industry trapped between the twin impulses to innovate and maintain the status quo. Partners like CloudSmartz can help identify innovation-driven technologies that set telecom companies for future success without prematurely cutting off ongoing, strong revenue streams.