Article

• Oct 12 2022

Shaking it up: Diversification in the telco sector

5 min read

What it means to be a telco is in a state of constant development. What operators offer, and how they offer it, changes as each innovation arrives and builds on the last, and diversifies as operators add to their capabilities, partnerships, and portfolios.

As technology creates greater efficiency, more possibilities, and fundamental alterations to the telecom infrastructure, operators have the chance to explore new ventures, new relationships, and new streams of revenue.

Here are some of the ways the telco sector is changing, and how to navigate the changing landscape.

New players

As technology advances, infrastructure becomes more accessible, and barriers to entry fall, more challengers will enter the market. Those will range from plucky new brands to existing multinationals with diverse ambitions and deep pockets.

Often, these new players aren’t burdened with legacy tech or entrenched models — they’re free to operate in new ways, for example by entirely basing a network in the cloud. The success or otherwise of these entrants can offer a model for transformation, but existing telcos should be conscious of the risks of either: following suit too late and falling behind, or too eagerly imitating their competitors and over-committing to an untested model.

New operating models

There are set to be significant shifts in how telcos look and what they do. As demands and expectations change, and technology enables new models, operators will need to choose how they relate to customers, third parties, and even competitors. Here are some of the available operating models of the near future.

Value-focused

As the traditional SIM card becomes obsolete, and devices increasingly feature integrated eSIMs, the age of subscribing to a single ‘mobile service’ will probably come to an end. Customers will be able to choose which elements of their connectivity are provided by whom, and offering value-for-money packages (or services) will become imperative.

Integrated

It’s likely that with the arrival of 5G (and in due course 6G), the added capability of consumer devices will increase their usage for data-intensive activities like streaming and online gaming. On the topic of attractive offers, telcos may well find that bundling third-party services and subscriptions will be necessary to attract customers.

Asset-light

Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN) will operate with vendor-neutral hardware, and telcos will very like be able to rent network assets as and when they’re required. They won’t have capital tied up in long-term leases; instead, they’ll be freer to invest in their services.

Diversified revenue streams

Developments like 5G open a lot of opportunities for telcos to generate more revenue, save money, and retain more customers. Here are a few.

IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a very logical territory for telcos to claim. After all, connectivity is their business. It’s a slight departure from the strict telecommunication focus of landline, traditional broadband, and mobile phones, but it’s a sensible one.

Telcos are driving and supporting connectivity innovation. 5G is the technology that will enable meaningful and economical IoT connectivity — IoT requires the transmission of lots of data, over large distances, while consuming as little power as possible.5G is 100 times faster than 4G, and it can connect 10 times more objects.

AI

Deeper integration of artificial intelligence means cost savings, and a superior customer experience.

- Network optimisation: AI can analyse patterns in traffic, detect anomalies and issues in real time, or even predict them before they arise. Telcos can respond to issues and quickly resolve them, or even prevent them before customers notice them.

- Customer experience: 92% of adults say they’d switch to another company after 3 poor experiences. One example of an AI-enhanced customer experience would be a customer abroad, who instead of incurring heavy unexpected roaming charges, is placed on the most logical roaming plan by AI, and rather than disputing a bill, is pleasantly surprised that their operator actively saved them money.

- Customer support: The more advanced AI becomes, the more customer support it can handle. Sub-optimal AI leaves customers just looking for a way to talk to a person, but with enough development, AI will allow telcos to reduce the reliance on human customer support operatives.

Machine Learning

Machine Learning is a subcategory of artificial intelligence, in which algorithms make decisions and predictions without having been programmed for those specific actions. Some key applications for the telecoms industry include:

- Fraud detection: telco is a rich target for fraudsters, with hundreds of thousands of accounts and enormous amounts of sensitive data on file. 75% of operators experienced new types of fraud in 2021. Machine learning is ideally placed to detect fraudulent behaviour.

- Customer retention: ML can detect patterns of behaviour that suggest a customer is about to switch to a competitor.

- Social media monitoring: ML can sweep and analyse a much greater sample of social media for brand coverage and customer sentiment.

How talent delivers your innovation

From top to bottom, telcos need talent with commercial awareness, creativity, and technical expertise. With those teams on board, your business will be able to spot opportunities, devise strategies to deliver them, and be the first to market with new and lucrative offerings.

Of course, your competitors also need that talent, and will be trying hard to secure it. Partner with an expert with a deep industry heritage and an extensive network, and you’ll be the first to reach the candidates to transform your business.

Contact RPI today: people@rpint.com

RPI provides access to the top leadership and technology talent globally