5G is going to change the game. Wireless communications service providers (CSPs) need to know their new roles, and how they need to change to seize the opportunities that will let them expand and move up the value chain. To grow more, you need to embrace every step of the chain: connectivity provisioning, service enablement and application provisioning. You’ll need to focus your engagement, operation and production models to win over increasingly digitally-savvy customers.
There are five big things CSPs can do to take advantage of 5G.
5G means CSPs need to take a fresh look at the way they structure their operations and businesses. It’s a lot like the high street: the most successful retailers have mixed physical and digital operations, blurring the lines between online and offline. They haven’t treated online retail as a box-ticking exercise, but as part of their core operations.
Tractive is a great example – their customers don’t buy just digital or physical services, but both. Dog owners get a physical tag that sends them a digital alert if their dog strays beyond a set perimeter. It’s easy to see how a similar service could expand to your cat, your car or your kids!
The wireless CSPs that can blend digital and physical and become relevant beyond their current business structure will come out on top.
The CSP market is growing, and many customers are just as happy to buy from established CSPs as digital newcomers. To differentiate yourself, it makes sense to move into adjacent markets where connectivity is an enabler for other services.
Think about the UK delivery market, which has grown hugely to handle an impressive 3.65bn packages annually, mainly because of the growth of e-commerce and the associated need for home delivery. New technology could help it grow even more. For example, a 5G-enabled robot ‘postman’ – a small delivery robot, despatched from a conventional delivery van – could revolutionise the last mile of delivery logistics.
This technology is undergoing trials in Italy with Poste Italiane, the Polytechnic University of Milan, and Vodafone Italia. And similar concepts for food delivery are being tested elsewhere in Europe. In the US, several mass market retail outlets are trialling it right now.
So for CSPs to seize this opportunity, you need to do more than just provide connectivity – as a minimum, you need to monitor location and offer secure connections too. A rudimentary version of this is possible with 4G, but an intelligent, scalable version needs a reliable 5G connection.
The leading wireless CSPs are going beyond their traditional roles, integrating new ways of working across their entire businesses.
One of these new ways of working is partnering with other businesses to offer related propositions that expand reach and revenue for both. This is similar to the idea of entering adjacent markets, but the business to business approach helps increase innovation for both parties.
Taking a wider view of your role and what you can offer helps you form partnerships, but it also means you can get inspiring new ideas that can help you develop new business models and services. Disruption has become a watchword for our times, and it can take many forms:
From an individual company perspective, a recent KPMG survey found that Amazon, Apple and Alibaba are seen as the leading disruptors who tech industry leaders worry about the most.
Apple, for example, sources many of its innovations from start-ups and partners. Recognising that ideas can come from anywhere, it looks outside to find the most disruptive companies out there, and then acquires them.
The big tech players and CSPs in the US are leading the way when it comes to showcasing potential applications for 5G: VR and AR, 360-degree video and autonomous vehicles. Verizon’s partnership with TomTom is already helping improve public safety with 5G. Verizon has also developed an IoT platform with ThingSpace, which can potentially extend to enterprise applications in the 5G era.
I believe it’s possible for UK CSPs to catch up to the US West Coast players – but you need to properly understand how those US businesses are doing it and to think more like them. A good transformation example already underway here is the UK Government’s Digital Catapult initiative, which aims to drive early adoption of advanced digital technologies in the UK. It has already released some fascinating pieces of research. I particularly recommend Made in 5G: exploring the future of connectivity and 5G in UK manufacturing.
The old telco service development model that can take months or even years has to go. Now, digital deployments need to be ready in weeks, or even days. Wireless CSPs need to operate in ‘digital time’ to catch up to the West, which means new IT principles, development models and new automation frameworks too.
Wireless CSPs need to believe in transformation and have a clear pathway mapped out to get there. It’s a fundamental change – you can’t just be a newer, slightly better version of what you were before.
You need agility. So the tools you’re using to deliver services today (BSS, OSS) need to do more than increase automation, they need to report on agility too. You need to be able to measure your efficiency, responsiveness and agility in your delivery chain too.
Doing this right means you can better manage your OPEX and effectiveness; it’s the route to business success. Understanding where there is spare capacity in the mobile network means you can find places to improve. It’s down in the margins where improvement opportunities lie. Today’s OSS and BSS systems just don’t do this. Tomorrow’s must.
5G is a true disrupter, shaking up the market, meaning a more competitive position is well and truly up for grabs. No CSP can afford to ignore it and rest on their laurels.