27 April 2020
According to the latest predictions from Juniper Research, operator voice revenues will fall by nearly half in the next four years as traditional offerings like fixed-line, mobile and internet services deliver diminishing returns.
In addition, increasing regulation, the rise of over-the-top services and a decline in what users are prepared to spend on voice and data packages are all contributing to falling profits.
The future is 5G
However, all is not lost. Telcos still play a fundamental role in providing the omnipresent network connectivity that enables the latest technology trends. Ubiquitous coverage is imperative in managing traffic from OTT broadcasting services, connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices and transporting the data generated by new technologies like augmented and virtual reality.
As growing volumes of traffic are transported across global IP networks, annual spending within telco is expected to reach nearly $1.5 trillion by the end of 2020 according to a dossier from Statisca.
In addition, 5G technology is set to go mainstream in 2020. Today, 5G features heavily in the roadmaps of most operators. Vodafone’s users already have access to 5G in over 100 UK locations and the British government has recently announced a series of 5G testbeds.
The migration to 5G opens up a wealth of opportunities for mobile operators, paving the way for new paradigms of network operation and service creation. But 5G isn’t just about improving the network. It is also expected to fuel an explosion in data from connected devices. These smart IoT devices, sensors and endpoints will become 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.
Viewing 5G through a spatial lens
As 5G evolves, a new role will be forged for operators. Telcos will no longer be ‘dumb pipes’ for data-hungry consumers, but rather the holders of vast data troves that enable a new level of customer experience and service structure. However, to handle the huge volumes of data that the connected world is generating and build new revenue streams, telcos need to 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.
The diverse range of insights which can be ascertained by collating, analysing and visualising data are huge. Mining insights from hyper-scale data sets will help reduce energy consumption, drive automotive vehicles, enable remote surgery, guide ships into port, reduce crime on our streets, improve safety on our roads, and make our cities happier, healthier places to live.
Location intelligence enables telcos to tap into a goldmine of valuable geographical and movement-related data. 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.
A smart toolkit for the future
However, a data-driven approach presents new challenges. New data generated from sensors and connected devices can only prove valuable if analysed properly. For telcos, this means they need to prepare now so they can harvest later. Having data is one thing but extracting useful output that can guide actions is another. Telcos therefore need to concentrate 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. To gain insights from massive data sets at previously unattainable speeds, organisations also need to use a scalable cloud and edge infrastructure that has the power to explore and analyse the volume of data being generated. It is clear that 5G opens up a wealth of new opportunities. It offers telcos the potential to truly unlock the IoT on an unseen scale. However, many still remain unclear on how this vision can be most efficiently realised. Being armed with the ability to mine, analyse and enrich mission critical information will finally allow operators to make the leap from being a provider of wireless connectivity to becoming a data enabler. It will mean that for the first time, telcos have a truly intelligent network that supports the IoT. Operators will once again rise from the bottom of the stack to the top – offering rich services and influencing the customer relationship.
By Richard Baker, CEO, GeoSpock