Part 1: Chasing the Storm
Changes bring new opportunities as big names plan to enter telecommunications
(This is the first instalment of a two-part article)
Despite the vaccines emerging on the scene, the pandemic continues unabated in many countries as new variants of the virus threaten us. However, apart from medical and healthcare, one other sector that has been at the centre of hectic activities in these uncertain terms is telecommunications. Communication service providers (CSPs) stepped up their game and provided the communication infrastructure to enable a remote-everything contactless economy. Many CSPs also realized that the pandemic has accelerated several trends that were gaining ground even before the current crisis began.
A rapidly changing telco landscape
Business will need to be more virtual in the future, companies will increasingly be able to engage with customers only through online channels, and larger numbers of employees will prefer to work remotely. Companies will need to be increasingly digital and data driven and foster more flexible and agile ways of working to cope with a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment. Little wonder, then, that many telcos are treating the COVID-19 crisis as a forcing function to accelerate their digital transformations so that they can survive, nay thrive, in the new reality.
At the same time, the pivotal role of CSPs in the future global economy has attracted new players into this business. Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft (GAFM) have all unveiled ambitious plans to enter this business, hitherto dominated only by the telecom operators. The arrival of 5G networks have made this business even more attractive as it will be a foundation technology for a number of industries ranging from autonomous vehicles, to remote healthcare, retail, education, fintech, etc. In fact, big names are now chasing the storm that has left the telco space bare and open.
The 5G boost
5G will supercharge every business, create exciting new opportunities in artificial intelligence (AI) and enable edge computing which will accelerate digital transformation. AI is now also central to the telcos’ own transformation. AI enables telcos to better cope with fluctuating demand levels, adjust to supply chain disruptions, and adapt to sharp shifts in consumer confidence and priorities.
Within a CSPs own operations, 5G and edge Cloud network computing will be the first to feature truly Cloud-native network platforms and design principals. Additionally, enterprises can use the performance and features of 5G edge Clouds to digitally transform their own processes, such as using it on the factory floor, railways, roadways, retail stores, warehouses, or healthcare facilities.
An opportunity to create new value
Telcos have a real opportunity to carve out a more indispensable and valuable role in net compute. This involves the custom design and integration of network functionality, along with physical network deployment and operation, in use contexts and physical environments in which the specific features and performance of the network(s) represent an integral contributor to the viability of compute-dependent end processes. At the same time, they need to be careful not to end up being dumb pipe providers to these massive web-scale enterprises. Some of these collaboration offers could end up in equipping telco networks to be a mere extension of the hyperscale Cloud, which is being built out to the edge to serve the needs of the hyper scalers’ application developer partners.
Over the next 12 to 18 months, telcos across the globe face challenges on four fronts. The challenges are interlinked, and AI can help tackle all of them.
- Telcos must reinvent the customer experience by providing extreme personalization, immersive experiences, and better product bundles for both consumers and businesses. Doing so will be crucial; demand trends are rather mixed at present.
- They need to execute a data-based reconfiguration of their supply chains, push ahead with the rollout of 5G cellular systems, and make use of smart manufacturing.
- They must automate network maintenance and customer service so that they can accelerate the move toward automated predictive operations and services.
- And they must build crisis-proof processes in functions such as sales, customer experience, and delivery. This will help their organizations become more flexible and agile, which will allow them to recover faster from disruptions.
(To be concluded)