Jaspreet Singh, Partner, Cyber Security, Advisory Services, EY

The telecommunication sector plays a crucial role in socio-economic development and forms the heart of key initiatives such as Digital India, Make in India, cashless economy, Skill India etc. To achieve the objective of Digital India, it is imperative to have a robust telecom network with technological advancements.

The telecommunications landscape is changing faster than ever through attrition of legacy revenue streams driven by over-the-top competitors, thereby compelling the Telcos to consider new avenues and opportunities of maintaining their footstep for the consumer and enterprise customers. This has been seen with the gradual shift of the operators from legacy service providers to digital service providers. The change in the strategic priorities of the telecom operators to digital business models and services, network upgrades and modernization, and improved IT systems and processes form the key to unlock a wave of digital efficiencies.

Mobility, broadband, cloud services, Internet of Everything (IoE), connected objects, machine to machine (M2M), artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics is changing the way we live and communicate.

It has been noted that there has been a humongous growth in IoT devices and M2M. By intelligently harnessing the huge amounts of data exchanged between billions of connected devices on a daily basis, the IoE is rising to a market of applications and operators are putting their efforts in enhancing the IoT stack (connectivity management, device and data management, and application enablement). AI which was a buzzword may take the mainstream and may continue to grow. AI will play an important role in security decision making and incident recognition. Mounting security risks from multi-phased cyber-attacks can be curtailed by the integration of AI into the security system. AI aims to empower the telcos through its enormous computing power, data collection, and storage capabilities. This data can be used by AI solutions to process and analyze everything captured to understand new trends and details and new exploits and weaknesses can quickly be identified and analyzed to help mitigate further attacks. Thus AI will form a key technique to engage customers in a more digital manner through the proliferation of smart speakers and voice assistants thus, changing the way users discover and consume services.

Major telecom operators are also migrating their products and services to cloud, and in particular are adopting software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and security as a service (SECaaS) services. Cloud-native software may become an RFP requirement in the coming future. As far as the enterprise segment is concerned, growth is likely to come from newer services such as software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN), sophisticated collaboration tools, and more-advanced cyber security solutions rather than established services such as high bandwidth connectivity or unified communications.

Above all, as curators of the widespread telecom network, operators play a critical role in defending the network form the new threats that are emerging on a daily basis with greater sophistication. As the network is becoming increasingly software-defined and interconnected the infrastructure is also becoming vulnerable to attacks as the data traverses through the network. Application and data security measures should be in place with adequate solutions. Telcos are investing in security solutions to combat next-generation threats. Preparation for resiliency in case of a cyber-attack is becoming imperative as a preventive step in today’s data-driven world. Thus, network security has become extremely crucial for the operators.

In conclusion, telecommunications is the backbone of Digital India; however, as many operators have embarked on journeys to become digital service providers, the sector remains vulnerable to quickening shifts in terms of technology cycles, competitor activities, and customer needs. Telecom service providers will thus continue to customize and improvise their offerings to increase revenue streams and ensure their networks are ready to house the future technological expansions and innovation.

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