The telecom industry has been at the crux of the global pivot to remote operations. Lacking robust and resilient connectivity, most of the world’s industries would have run aground during the pandemic!
Of course, telecom has always been a dynamic industry and sensitive to technological developments. So, what can the telecom industry look forward to in 2021?
From 5G to cybersecurity, here are five trends around telecom technologies to consider in 2021.
#1. 5G and IoT
5G and the Internet of Things are set to create a much bigger and broader backdrop for the telecom industry’s enterprise offerings.
2021 and beyond, 5G will be much more than high-speed downloads. Its combination of high-bandwidth connectivity, low latency, and universal coverage will facilitate smart vehicles and transport infrastructures like connected cars. 5G will allow telcos to create differentiated value-added offerings by embedding connectivity with products and services.
With 5G, telcos are all set to emerge as connected industry orchestrators. This implies trading fully connected industry solutions, embracing sensors, connecting value chains, cloud connectivity, and device as a service ecosystem. Telcos have changed the world around us by connecting phones, tablets, and other mobile devices, but connecting and managing increasing numbers of cars, meters, sensors, and consumer electronics lucratively will demand innovative business models.
Presently, most telco’s IoT revenues are derived from connectivity, but future revenue will also come from service enablement platforms, apps, and services. Telcos that can build and manage an ecosystem of service partners, filter data from their IoT platforms, and convert bulk data into smart data will build incremental revenue based on the data’s value rather than their ability to transport it.
#2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Advanced Automation
Artificial intelligence is likely to impact the telecommunications landscape as it will all other sectors. As the telecom industry multiplies its networks faster, service configuration, customer support, and billing processes become increasingly complex. In the face of customer demands for superior quality services, telcos are seeking useful innovations and applications to cater to their customers with delightful customer experience and service.
The chief driver for AI growth in the telecom industry is the rising demand for autonomously driven network solutions. With networks expanding rapidly, they become increasingly complex and challenging to manage. AI could profoundly impact several areas – most critical being traffic classification to reduce network congestions, enhancing network quality, anomaly detection and prediction in networks, resource utilization, network optimizations, and network orchestration. Furthermore, AI will also help to improve customer experience with virtual assistants and bots.
With advanced automation, telcos can automate back-end activities like data entry, reconciliation, or validation, streamline customer support, and carry out cross-sell and up-sell via AI-powered assisted calls. Advanced automation will help telcos lower costs, improve accuracy, enhance efficiency, and deliver better customer experiences.
Driven by stories around BitCoin, Blockchain has captured the popular imagination. The telecom industry is looking at Blockchain too. In this context, 5G could become a powerful enabler for a blockchain-led wave of telecom disruption empowering many cross-industry applications.
Blockchain is could help streamline processes, deliver cost savings, provide new revenue streams, enhance collaborations, and drive real-time transparency. Blockchain can help telcos in 2021 and beyond in areas like:
- Roaming and settlements frauds, human errors, absence of transparency can be eradicated using smart contracts on Blockchain
- Identity management can be fetched from multiple 3rd party agents and employed safely with Blockchain, passing greater control to individuals
- SLA monitoring can be made tighter with Blockchain’s smart contracts, which builds ‘one version of the truth.’
- Prevention of phone theft by storing unique device or SIM data on Blockchain which can potentially help find devices instantly
- Mobile number portability can also be accelerated with Blockchain wherein telcos can review and action requests easier
#4. Edge Computing
Edge computing, commonly known as Mobile Edge Computing, or MEC, is set to radically reshape telecom networks, with a little help from its allies 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). A study revealed that edge computing would power roughly $7 billion in revenue by 2025. Whereas as much as two-thirds of this revenue will accrue to cloud players, telcos, neutral hosts, and enterprises will play critical roles in hosting sites and facilitating connectivity.
Until now, edge computing was only building up use-cases. In 2021 and beyond, novel business models will come up that power the deployment of the edge in production. Organizations will find new ways to leverage the enhanced computing power and storage available closer to where the data is being generated and will appreciate the network saving achieved by not having to transmit data continuously between the cloud and the devices on the frontlines.
Today, the telecom industry has become an enormous data repository with access to uber-sensitive customer data. They are also the platforms upon which digital lives revolve so that any service outage or loss of data can trigger significant inconvenience for the end-users and a large-scale disruption of business operations across industries. These aspects make telcos lucrative targets for cybercriminals looking to tamper with data and networks at scale.
With strict policies like EU-GDPR now in action, telcos – whether in India or abroad – can’t afford to regard cybersecurity as anything less than a critical function. With data security becoming a vital business mandate, a large-scale shift within the telecom industry is predicted towards a security-led method.
In the coming years, we will witness players prop up their defenses against direct threats, like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, along with indirect vulnerabilities like data breaches and internal leaks. The IT frameworks facilitating telecom networks will become more robust. There is also the probability of telcos pushing cybersecurity solutions as part of their service offerings to assure better threat defense for their consumers.
Looking Beyond the Present Landscape
After undergoing numerous years of sluggish economic growth, the telecom industry, as we know it today, is enthused by these tech trends and the opportunities presented by digitization. To thrive in the long run, telcos need to drive customer value while reducing costs and differentiating themselves. It is irrefutable that the success or failure of telcos relies on their adoption of technology. In 2021, telcos can attain a competitive edge, flexibility, agility, and capacity to gain more opportunities with technology.