The telecoms industry is changing in significant ways
Operator voice revenues are falling as traditional offerings like fixed-line, mobile and internet services deliver diminishing returns. Profits are also falling due to regulation, the rise of over-the-top services and a decline in what users are prepared to spend on voice and data packages.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Annual spending within telco is actually expected to reach nearly $1.5 trillion by the end of 2020, according to Statistica – hardly a picture of decline. In fact, with the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and 5G, the decade ahead will see telcos play a growing role in providing the omnipresent network connectivity to accommodate these latest technology trends.
Supporting IoT and 5G innovation
IoT-enabled devices are becoming increasingly common in our day-to-day lives – from wearables and connected cars, to smart appliances. For telcos, the ubiquitous coverage provided by them is imperative in managing traffic from OTT broadcasting services, connecting these IoT devices and transporting the data generated by new technologies like augmented and virtual reality.
The rise of IoT will continue to accelerate thanks to the availability of 5G technology, which is expected to fuel an explosion in data from connected devices. This will pave the way for new paradigms of network operation and service creation for mobile operators, with smart IoT devices, sensors and endpoints becoming conduits for huge swathes of data that operators will be able to collect and process. Augmented with their existing 4G (LTE) network assets, operators will have the scope to support a broad range of new, and existing, use cases using rich, diverse data.
From dumb pipes to data enablers
As 5G develops, a new role will emerge for operators. No longer ‘dumb pipes’ for data-hungry consumers, telcos will become the holders of vast data troves that enable a new level of customer experience and service structure.
However, telcos face a challenge. The growth in 5G and IoT enabled devices will drive huge volumes of data and create endless use cases. To handle this and build new revenue streams, telcos must view data through the lens of location intelligence.
Typically, operators already manage the session data that runs through networking pipes. This data about customers and network usage is one of the unique assets that telcos own.
By fusing IoT generated data with information on customer and network usage, and enriching it with location intelligence, telcos can also become powerful data vendors. Information can be analysed and visualised to provide meaningful data services.
Collating, analysing and visualising data can result in a huge and diverse range of insights. Mining insights from hyper-scale data sets will, for example, help reduce energy consumption, enable remote surgery, guide ships into port, drive automotive vehicles, reduce crime on our streets, and improve safety on our roads. Ultimately, our cities will become happier, healthier places to live.
Telcos can also tap into a goldmine of valuable geographical and movement-related data through location intelligence. Operators can offer a range of location- and context-aware services across millions of end-points, backed by a significant change in network control, service quality and personalisation. For example, media companies could successfully deliver contextual and targeted advertising with hyper-personalised recommendations.
Extracting the value from data
To reap the benefits of a data-driven approach, new data generated from sensors and connected devices must be analysed properly. For telcos, having the data is one thing, but extracting useful output that can guide actions is another, and something telcos must prepare for accordingly.
A key focus must be on developing the ability to index and fuse all the data from the billions of varied touchpoints and make it instantly available for advanced and flexible querying. Organisations must also use a scalable cloud and edge infrastructure that has the power to explore and analyse the huge volumes of data generated. Doing so will enable telcos to gain insights from massive data sets at speeds previously unattainable.
5G offers telcos the potential to truly unlock IoT on an unseen scale. Being able to mine, analyse and enrich critical information will enable telcos build a truly intelligent network supporting IoT. Doing so will allow them to rise from the bottom of the stack, moving from being a provider of wireless connectivity, to becoming a data enabler. Able to offer rich services and enable new innovations, the opportunities to unlock positive change are huge.