Six technology and digital trends for telecom operators in 2018

02 January 2018 4 min. read
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The rapid rise of digital and innovative technologies will continue to drive telecom operators to transform in 2018. Darren Tan, a senior director at international management consulting firm Delta Partners, reflects on six major technology-led trends to hit the global telecom industry.

AI and advanced analytics

Artificial intelligence will be applied more broadly to revolutionise the way customer service is delivered and internal processes are managed. Expect AI to enhance service personalisation through offers and customer experience. Anticipate more automation and advanced analytics to drive significant benefits on operator’s top and bottom lines, thanks to better cross-selling opportunities and optimised offerings, as well as operational excellence (OpEx) reduction through automation, improved efficiencies, and elimination of redundancies. 

AR/VR to boost mobile data growth

Real-time social media services and video streaming usage is sky-high, but more social and commercial use-cases of augmented and virtual realities is expected to drive further data demand. Unlike current video, VR/AR requires high bandwidth on a bidirectional basis, with low latency, and edge computing. Expect operators to adopt smarter capital expenditure (Capex) deployment through deep network analytics to ensure appropriate network densification to enable this. An operator’s digital agility will be further tested to ensure base-case connectivity experiences are sustained.

5G readiness-IoT opportunities

5G trials are edging closer to the initial promises. Expect operators in mature markets to lead the way through their 5G roadmaps and commercial use-cases – for instance the use case identified for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea.

Six technology and digital trends for telecom operators in 2018

With the recent 5G breakthrough by Qualcomm, operators will begin to outline their consumer and enterprise propositions, specifically use-cases in IoT, cloud, and AI. Recent field trials by Qualcomm on the highly debated 5G New Radio (NR) millimeter wave technology has underscored mmWave bands as a key enabler for 5G. Expect more trials to establish viability of 5G as a true mobility standard.

Digitally lean and agile

Telecom operators will continue to drive lean initiatives to increase productivity gains leading to higher earnings in light of continuous revenue erosion. While many are already operating at high levels of productivity with limited upside, telcos can further assess their cost structures through the advancement of machine learning and automation capabilities to achieve better optimisation results. Network optimisation through physical infrastructure sharing will continue and be encouraged by regulators.

Revenue diversification: omnipresence provider

Non-telecom revenues can be realised for operators establishing digital omnipresence. Expect more operators to venture into a myriad of digital services, including video bundling, FinTech, and lifestyle propositions linked to home appliance control.

Albeit still marginal in comparison with current traditional telco revenues, an operator’s omnipresence can generate greater synergies and enhance overall customer experience through deep analytics and potential cross-selling opportunities. This will strengthen an operator’s challenge (and sustainability) against the onslaught of digital giants such as Amazon and Alibaba. 

Internet of Things

Specific to Internet of Things opportunities, operators are expected to decide their degree of participation, i.e. as an enabler, reseller or a platform provider (like Vodafone and Orange). Expect operators to establish collaboration with global IoT enablers in developing customised IoT platform architectures relevant to specific industrial verticals (e.g. aviation, industrial, manufacturing, agriculture). While IoT itself is an opportunity, such venture could result in serious reputational damage if IoT security becomes compromised. Considerable investment in this space is anticipated.