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Telcos are struggling to find new niches amongst a wealth of opportunities

Telcos are still struggling to find their ‘thing’ – apart, obviously, from building robust networks for others to innovate on top of, to create a better, digital world.

Of course it is difficult to pick the right opportunity for the right market, while maintaining and upgrading said robust network.

But it seems that there are so many opportunities out there that some must be a good fit.

The latest opportunity, which is a kind of IoT play, is to indulge in some micromobility action. Cities, smart or otherwise, are rolling out cycles and scooters in droves, and managing them could well be an opportunity for the network provider. Asset management, logistics and dynamic pricing are all within the skillsets of a telco, and an added advantage is that the opportunity is too small (at the moment) to attract the attention of a monster digital service provider.

5G is always touted as an area where telcos are in a good position to leverage the opportunity. Many are banking on the fact that they will. Yet the obvious applications – VR, AR, gaming and streaming – are all controlled by others. Even private 5G networks are not turning out to be the gold mines that they might have been. The problem here is that private network partnerships will be led by the customer, who knows the business requirements (intimately) and can pick and choose a connectivity provider, a security provider and the host of very specific applications that are required.

Telcos are faced with many choices and it seems that every time a new network technology comes along, the industry holds its breath and wonders whether, this time, it could all come ‘good.’
Yet it is not all bad. Telcos are transforming and telcos are taking advantage of partnerships and bundling opportunities and if you look at their core business, it is not going to disappear. It is interesting reading the article from MTN Consulting about utility bills for telcos increasing with 5G.

What will be as interesting, perhaps more so, is how much more utilities, Governments and corporations are spending on telecoms services. As intelligent, fast connectivity becomes a ‘must have’ then telcos are the de-facto provider. And while telcos may now be worth a fraction of a big tech colossus, it is not a bad business.

Next up, of course, is 6G and the Metaverse – a sort of giant, immersive, game-like, 3D environment – and the question will be posed again: will the telcos lead?

The answer will be ‘no’ – they will build the network, they will possibly take advantage of some security solutions and even a micromobility opportunity or two.

But don’t let us get ourselves excited and hope that telcos are about to transform into big tech wonder boys. They will be happy with the solid, increasing and predictable returns. They always have been. Disruptive.Asia

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