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As the world embraces, and expects, smart connected devices, the telecommunications sector is under ever more pressure to deliver fast, ubiquitous 5G wireless connectivity along with an endless list of services. As society expects IoT connected everything, including cars, homes, cities, roads and more, Telcos face a huge investment to deliver the infrastructure needed to meet demands.

Connectivity bandwidth is also at the center of business change: there is virtually no technology innovation happening today that does not rely on a high quality, reliable, safe and secure telecommunications network.

Whilst omnipresent 5G wireless connectivity is clearly game-changing, it also raises wider issues around safety and data security. At the time of writing, the US airline industry is voicing serious concerns over potential interference with critical aircraft systems, such as altimeters, from high-power 5G transmissions in the C-band spectrum. Verizon and AT&T have already delayed their US 5G rollout twice and have also agreed to the FAAs demand to establish temporary 5G buffer zones around 50 airports.

With security, capacity, regulatory compliance, safety, innovation, and customer service all firmly front-of-mind, telecommunications companies are exploiting several technology trends including 5G and Fiber Optic deployments, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, the IoT, and Edge Computing.

The impact of the COVID pandemic over the last 18 months crystalized the critical importance of robust internet access globally. As the world went online during lockdown, the capacity of telecommunications networks and teams was pushed to the limit – but managed to deliver. In parallel, telco staffing has been in crisis. An aging and retiring workforce sees a shortfall in capacity and skills. Using subcontractors to fill the gaps has increased costs, forcing companies to reconsider how best to upskill, schedule, deploy and optimize their remaining on-payroll talent.

Three distinct audience segments continue to shape this sector, and each faces different challenges.

Network Operators – Communication Services Providers – must develop entirely new services and content to monetize the move to 5G. Consumers expect an immersive experience, instant response, ‘always on’ connectivity and greater personalization. Success depends on engaging new audiences, meeting even higher service expectations and implementing innovative business models. However all too often dated, multiple, non-integrated systems, poor interfaces and manual processes are preventing these organizations from delivering effective customer experiences and service.

Technology manufacturers and equipment providers are keen to deploy their technology into these new 5G networks and secure lucrative service lifecycle contracts. Challenges include greater investment in R&D, meeting stringent SLAs, regulatory pressures, installation deadlines and managing maintenance.

Finally, infrastructure providers must be able to transition the business from laying underground cables to installing small mast 5G assets and the increase of fixed wireless access. They need the ability to plan, cost and control resource and asset investment effectively.

Telcos will rethink their legacy platforms for 5G and fiber

2022 will be a do or die year for telcos who are not operationally ready to accelerate the roll out of 5G and fiber. The Operations Support Systems (OSS) and Business Support Systems (BSS) that have evolved in most telecommunications organizations are not agile or scalable enough to monetize the new revenue streams and business opportunities presented. Telcos will increasingly look towards migrating away from OSS/BSS legacy applications to modern, cloud-based Enterprise solutions that can deliver optimized, end-to-end service and asset management. Cloud based Enterprise software can quickly confer robust field engineer scheduling, workforce management, remote support, asset performance monitoring, and maintenance and operations capabilities. It can also significantly improve service levels for customers. The use of automated AI-driven technologies such as chatbots and voice recognition can decrease waiting times and enable self-service, whilst access to single, unified customer record will empower contact center staff to resolve customer issues quickly, effectively and often proactively

5G will become a critical technology/change enabler

This year will see a raft of new experiences enabled by 5G, with customer expectations to match. For example, as we continue to transition towards emissions-free transport, automotive manufacturers now rely on 5G streaming telemetry to launch viable autonomous and electric cars and light commercial vehicles. Autonomous capabilities require exceptional bandwidth and resilience, enabling connected in-vehicle services. Commercial vehicles (especially last mile delivery and field service fleets) will need seamless 5G connectivity for smart routing and scheduling to dynamically optimize vehicle range and recharging breaks.

Of course, as the 5G roll out continues, we can expect more and more local authorities to begin to embrace Smart City technology to reduce congestion and vehicle emissions, including the introduction of urban clean air emission zones with automated enforcement and digital payment.

Another example is gaming, a sector worth more than both the film and music industries combined. Much of the content is now consumed via downloads (including DLC), and the next evolution looks likely to be cloud-based gaming, which puts profound demands on bandwidth and latency.

We also see proliferation of entertainment services. For the first time some territories are starting to see broadcast TV figures dip below half of all viewing. The proliferation of streaming, social media, non-live tv, and a multitude of other content services are driving the need for next generation network provision.

Yet more diversification will create new revenue streams

The global adoption of Voice Over IP alongside internet messaging apps has eroded traditional mobile voice call and SMS revenues. Whilst several major Telco operators have already diversified to offer quad play television, broadband Internet, landline phone and mobile, further new revenue streams are needed. Developing content and content services will become increasingly important, as will having an agile business ecosystem that is capable of accommodating start-ups and M&A.

Manufacturers, meanwhile, must be able to move towards an outcome-based, servitized business model, picking up the gaps created by the 2020 Huawei ban. And as infrastructure companies install the new 5G network, it is inevitable that they will diversify into Fiber to the Home (FTTH), potentially becoming full service and content providers. It is also worth remembering around 50% of the world’s population is still without reliable broadband access. Hence, with the increased investment from governments, an upsurge in fixed wireless access (FWA) is predicted, leveraging 5G’s deeper infrastructure and spectral efficiency and expanding the revenue streams of telcos.

5G will drive the ambient computing ‘metaverse’ and growth of digital twins

The technology now exists to allow us to experience and interact together in a digital world—the so called metaverse. Equipped with a virtual reality headset and motion sensors, our physical and digital lives become conjoined. This concept is poised to become very big business: it is no coincidence Microsoft cited the metaverse as a reason for its recent acquisition of games developer Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion.

Whilst the consumer leisure opportunity is huge, the market for business use may be even larger. Already LinkedIn posts are talking about calls, meetings and demos hosted in the metaverse. The practical applications are immense, including remote assistance and support in the field via augmented reality, and education and training.

Even more significant is the potential for 5G to fuel the widespread adoption of digital twins – computer-modelled digital facsimiles of physical objects or systems that can be monitored, tested, interrogated, developed and improved. With access to 5G connectivity, remote sensors can stream data from any machine, system or process in real-time, allowing, with the help of AI and machine learning, in-depth analysis and insights to optimize performance and maintenance. This move to the “Edge” further fuels demands on bandwidth and in turn will come to rely on 5G.

A way ahead with Cloud based Service, Project and Asset (SPA) solutions

Delivering the wireless infrastructure and services needed for 5G and smart devices, and meeting ever-rising consumer expectations, will be challenging – but help is at hand. Many leading operators including Sky, Saudi Telecom Company and Get (Telia) have already turned to IFS for solutions spanning asset management, optimized scheduling, inventory management and mobile technician enablement within a single platform. Equipment manufacturers like Ericsson are using IFS to manage the rollout of 5G networks, whilst infrastructure providers such as Eltel and Allinq rely on IFS to plan and manage asset investment.

In a sector constrained by legacy service management systems, modern enterprise software specifically designed for telco can rapidly provision industry-proven operational and service capability for 5G networks now – just when it matters most.

For a deeper dive into how technology transforms the entire service cycle for telecoms, read the whitepaper: The Impact of telecommunications industry trends on CX and service management, or contact us for more information.

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