The rollout of 5G is gathering momentum, with almost one third of the UK now able to access the new network. Telecommunications companies are at a crossroads in terms of where to go next, with various considerations and options for their digital journeys ahead.
Today’s communications service providers (CSPs) have a real opportunity: They can green-light initiatives that take advantage of 5G’s hyper-connectivity, and in the process can re-envision and redesign their infrastructures.
In doing so, they must reposition themselves, placing trust at the centre of a data-driven digital offering, providing seamless and frictionless information solutions, and offering better experiences for all customers – business and consumer.
However, there is a need for these telcos to mature quickly in their digital journeys as they prioritise the development of new ecosystem solutions enabled by 5G.
A new horizon, building maturity
Even before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, CSPs were at an inflection point. Continuing on their existing courses meant furnishing high-speed data services and seeking differentiation by offering entertainment services and/or advertising solutions.
As a result, each CSP has taken a slightly different road to driving revenues and plotting their futures. Now, they all need to rely on these ecosystem solutions enabled through 5G. Does it make sense for each provider to create this required infrastructure alone, each building its own set of new 5G cell towers in every region of the country?
Instead, surely it makes better business sense for CSPs to embrace openness in their business models, operating models, technology, and networks. CSPs need to accept the necessity of sharing infrastructure assets and participating as a key player in bringing together different providers in these emerging ecosystems of virtual services and solutions.
A digital maturity model for telcos
All too often, the main discussion points in telecos are about the infrastructure and hardware; the server farms that enable the cloud, the high-speed fibre-optic cables that are laid across the country, and the nascent promise of 5G.
This focus is limiting, as these points represent nothing more than the opportunity to create a smart network and an information ecosystem after all, a box is a box.
Layered telco ecosystem maturity is achievable if telcos act now. Keep in mind, however, its success is dependent on software at every level that drives openness among providers. To realise this, they need to embark on a journey towards information systems maturity. That journey has five key layers:
- Infrastructure layer: enabling core network virtualisation, cloud communications, IoT connectivity, data capture at the edge, and 5G optimisation.
- Application layer: providing nimble, modular digital operating systems with which others can use, build on, and innovate.
- Orchestration layer: allowing interfaces with third-party providers using application programming interfaces, gateways, and connectivity mechanisms to create product offerings and custom end-to-end solutions for users.
- Product or business layer: giving CSPs and database service providers ways to drive niche, industry-vertical solutions and lifestyle solutions to customers.
- Experience layer: exploring at the enterprise level and for consumers how autonomous experiences can evolve and improve, such as connected IoT products and autonomous vehicles, or using augmented or virtual reality to show, guide, teach, and improve human lives.
CSPs across the globe need help in pursuing their layered telco maturity journey to operate more efficiently at every layer in this hierarchy. They need guidance on how to monetise current and future investments in infrastructure and application development and product development. They also require help in fully exploiting new capabilities such as 5G, connected products, and Internet of Things, direct-to-consumer virtual solutions, such as individualised healthcare, and business solutions, including Industry 4.0.
The good news is this help and expertise is available, and by helping one another, they will encourage a far faster and more effective process.
Beyond 5G: An evolving ecosystem
5G is but a next step in the ongoing digitisation of core business processes and better customer experiences. COVID-19 has obviously heightened companies’ awareness of the need to conduct business virtually and digitally, and the transition towards digital operations and digital business solutions continues to accelerate.
By leveraging industry experience and deep engineering capabilities, telecommunications providers can find their footing in this new virtual world and maximise the growing potential for all of us.
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