By Matt Halligan, CTO,
Optiva • October 12, 2021
The telecom consumer business is saturated. It remains fundamental to the industry, however, if the consumer rollout of 5G is any indicator, 5G may not enable the revenue growth anticipated.
Operators are introducing 5G as the next generation of mobile connectivity — not as a differentiated service with associated pricing compared to 4G. As a result, history may repeat itself similar to the evolution of 4G from 3G. 5G does, however, deliver capabilities that open doors for operators to the B2B market, including connectivity and services on top of connectivity.
In addition, new opportunities are materializing apart from 5G. The telecom space is multi-faceted and evolving, and technology innovations and emerging markets enable operators to venture further into enterprise, partnership, and B2B lines of business. Primary categories of services that operators are pursuing beyond connectivity include:
1. Media services (content services, high-quality music), immersive gaming (AR/VR)
Applying dedicated slicing for specific use cases or applications
Cooperation with the OTT suppliers
2. B2B industry 4.0 related services for enterprise
Enhancing offerings for specific verticals mainly on the IoT domain (e.g., smart cities, manufacturing, etc.)
3. B2B2X – partner services for consumers
Concrete applications resold for the value of the application (e.g., energy, fleet management, etc.)
A complete ecosystem from application to connectivity
Private network, CaaS
Fixed wireless access for consumers, SMB, and enterprises
Corporate enterprise connections
Diversification Requires a Connected Foundation
As operators deploy 5G and digitize their businesses, they are diversifying their revenue streams and creating technology enablers that will tap into new lines of business. However, connectivity remains the foundation of these activities. Mobile private networks with 5G technology and FWA, for example, are gaining momentum and providing new revenue streams. Also, other emerging services are on the rise, such as real-time gaming and enablement of AR/VR and creative OTT partnerships, that leverage advanced connectivity capabilities like network slicing.
Connectivity and non-connectivity strategies, therefore, are connected. They are not mutually exclusive. Connectivity is the foundation, although it is often table stakes. What is essential is differentiation — how you tailor connectivity for the end market to achieve their goals. Also important is how you expose other assets that complement the connectivity to better serve that vertical.
An example is the healthcare vertical and patient monitoring. In this scenario, a patient can connect automatically with the relevant medical centre in their region. This is achieved dynamically by leveraging the mobile network’s location services, QoS, and connectivity.
Boundless: Reaching Beyond
By going beyond telecom’s traditional borders, operators are focused on delivering new solutions that address specific IoT verticals. These range broadly from home security/surveillance to healthcare and building a specific ecosystem for vertical markets to delivering a bespoke offering for its B2B market. Within these verticals, operators can also offer services directly to consumers that are complementary and incremental to their FWA offering.
This type of environment feeds into the B2B2X model. For example, in the automotive vertical, operators can expand into fleet tracking. In logistics, it could be order tracking. In healthcare, home monitoring and telemetry are opportunities. In security, home surveillance and smart home automation are growing in demand. We are in the early days of the business model’s transformation, but these are examples that are beginning to yield results.
Most operators are in the initial stages, and many are selling 5G as another G. For these, the focus is around the consumer, and 5G integration is done directly to the existing BSS system. Others are building up new 5G networks and looking to implement 5G use cases to leverage features, such as FWA and other OTT use cases, including private 5G networks and specific regions, cities, enterprises, events, etc.
It Takes a Smart Village
To achieve business model transformation and success beyond connectivity services, operators need the right resources. Internal teams, external partners, and the right skills and technological capabilities constitute the fundamental toolkit for building upon the foundation of traditional connectivity. The adaptation journey needs to focus on the business, commercial, and technical elements and include the following steps and capabilities:
Identify and onboard partners with whom operators can collaborate to develop new commercial models and offer differentiated services to meet the specific needs of consumers and enterprise verticals.
Reduce partner integration complexities by adopting and using standards such as TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA) and open API standards. This ensures consistent IT requirements across all systems components, simplification, and time to market (TTM). It also ensures technical flexibility and extensibility to evolve quickly and plug in different technologies, vendors, hybrids, and varying mashups for different verticals — offering the best opportunity to address future use-cases and verticals with minimum impact and optimal TTM.
Automation for faster TTM of new services. For example, Optiva has accelerated the testing process by developing automated testing frameworks with OOTB functionalities, including thousands of predefined test use cases. Cloud-native solutions also enable this with a zero-touch, automate-everything model. Further, automation reduces the need for operational resources.
Leverage AI-driven, real-time insights into customer usage behaviour and network capacity utilization. By combining these, operators can provide optimized offers to customers, enriching their experience.
Value-added scaling to achieve the necessary TCO for the target market; IoT has a completely different scaling factor to the retail consumer.
Process traffic across millions of industrial IoT devices efficiently and intelligently based on their monetary value and meet enterprises’ process and automation requirements.
Process heavy volumes of ultra-low latency data traffic/transactions efficiently and in a distributed environment at the edge, eliminating the need to send the traffic to a centralized data centre or cloud.
Flexibility and openness for partners onboarding to your network and offerings with full control to adjust parameters, settings, etc., that are needed for the business application.
Experimentation in commercial models with the flexibility and ability to define and charge anything allows operators to roll out innovative services and identify winning services before their competition.
Empowerment and self-service for consumers and enterprises, allowing operators to partner and create new engagement models with flexible provisioning, management, and end-to-end digital experience.
Digital experience is critical in the new world, and the onboarding for an enterprise must be tailored for that segment, intuitive, and seamless to enable increased success for operators.
The Journey Beyond — Setting Out
The evolving new business model, going beyond traditional connectivity, positions operators for an accelerated path to innovation. They gain the capability to explore changing customer needs on an ongoing basis and invent new ways to satisfy them. In the enterprise market, operators will engage more effectively and focus on enabling a specific vertical. One size does not fit all, so adapting to a specific vertical will ensure a commercial model that works for that vertical.
On this journey, exploration and experimentation are vital. Operators will need the ability to do both and quickly. Since there are currently no known winning strategies — learn fast, fail fast, launch, and re-launch fast. This new journey calls for lowering your business risk and making it affordable to test new offerings. The payoff focuses on launching new and differentiated services that meet customers’ ongoing needs and usage behaviours and elevating the customer experience.
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