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5G Perspective

The race to 5G – Journey from connectivity service provider to digital service provider

India’s telecom sector has witnessed unparalleled growth in terms of data consumption, with mobile broadband being the primary mode of broadband access. The consumption got further accentuated with the pandemic.

The pandemic came with its challenges; however one of the disguised benefits is the increased pace of adoption of digital technologies and high-speed connectivity that has played a crucial role in enabling these technologies. After an era of cut-throat pricing, bottlenecked capacities, and high capital outlay, there was some respite for the capacity crunch in the March-2021 auctions across 700, 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2300, 2500 MHz bands. If 4G/LTE was all about data consumption and minimal ARPU growth, 5G and edge opportunity opens up the opportunity beyond connectivity for telcos.

Why is there a need to transform?
As consumer demand reaches 50 GB per subscriber per month soon, there is going to be a need for continuous investments in enhancing capacities at a subscriber/use-case level from the current era of capped daily/monthly buckets. The idea of straddling among metaverses will itself create new class of services at a retail level. Further, as enterprises adopt return to work and customer first identities, the appetite for a hybrid, connected, and open enterprise is increasing multifold, opening up opportunities across myriad of B2C, B2B, and B2B use-cases.

In that regard, telecom service providers (TSPs) are already making investments in 5G to enhance their network capacities. Although ROI and TCO road mapping is crucial, the extra six months for test beds will prove important as TSPs forge partnerships to build their strengths or address their weaknesses. Early B2C use-cases, such as cloud gaming, AR/VR immersive viewing, and immersive experiences are expected to transform the B2C landscape as enterprise applications around connected enterprises, IoT, digital twining with the adoption of other technologies, such as AI/ML, hybrid cloud, and analytics provide boost to B2B use-cases.

How can their DNA change?
Although there are multiple catalysts, the three that are more significant are:

    • Transforming the focus from a vertical-centric approach to a horizontal-marketplace approach, whereby the TSP transforms from a connectivity provider to a digital services provider. In this journey, cloudification and edge are going to play a critical role, which will not only virtualize the network and enhance efficiencies but also create capabilities to incubate platform-as-a-service type of new solutions for TSPs to take to market. This will also allow TCO rationalization, equipping TSPs to build capabilities around predictive analytics, security management, and augmented maintenance.
    • Modernizing OSS and BSS in favor of bespoke and agile cloud-native architecture will allow TSPs to be nimbler to meet dynamic customer demands as they evolve with 5G adoption.
    • To provide digital services to their customers, TSPs have to first become digital organizations, with their core oriented toward customer centricity. By creating a unified one truth of the customer (leveraging data lakes, advanced analytics, and AI), TSPs can predict customer behaviors, and have an omni channel engagement and service model.

Only once this internal metamorphosis is completed on the cloud-horizontal, TSPs can help clients in their hybrid/multi-cloud, agile, and hyper-connected journey.

Way forward
In the age of extreme innovation, the need for failing fast is crucial. For that to happen, internal and external collaboration need to be in sync. To shorten the time to innovate and go to market, TSPs should explore rich partnerships across technology players, hyper scalers, system integrators, OEMs, chip designers, etc.

Cloud-centric design, agile way of working, data-driven culture, and customer-focused solutioning will be the table stakes in the 5G era, and only a digital native TSP can stand a chance to win this race against technology behemoths, who have significant head-start by being closest to the digital journey of the end clients.

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