There was a time when driving was simple and all commuters had to do was go from point A to point B in the shortest possible time, with only the knobs in the car to worry about. Now, we are constantly updated about route tracking, engine performance, accident support and a host of other future-sighted features. This is courtesy of the mobile app that talks to my car through a data connection that is conveniently taken care of by the car manufacturer. The telecom company for the data connection could be a ghost for all anyone knows, or cares.
We know nothing about these telecom companies, yet they know everything about us – how we drive, our route preferences, when we leave our homes, our daily schedules, and every other minute detail of our lives. So, when a senior executive from the largest telecom company quotes that a change of strategy is crucial, his crystal orb is reflecting some industry truths.
Although telecom companies are what brought about the digital explosion, they do not seem to be too intent on getting on the bandwagon. As a result, a number of companies like Google, Skype and Netflix, that provide audio, video, and other media content through the Internet, have leveraged their basic services and built empires.
So, how can telecom companies get a piece of the digital pie by 2020?
By 2020, most electronic devices will be paired. Life will revolve around video, which will dictate all forms of communication and social engagements. This means, Skype will be more of an everyday, every – moment thing. Also, we will witness a rise in the Augmented Reality (AR)/ Virtual Reality (VR) experience, with the technology not just being limited to games. Apps will be the way of life and those offline will be considered obsolete. Data plans, that are considered a luxury by many, will become everyday necessities, akin to energy and water. Politicians will woo voters by dangling the carrot that is data bandwidth. It won’t be unheard of for every family to have a robot to help around the house.
Wearables are already big in the market and will become indispensable. Intelligent robots will aid customers to gain quick personalised information. Apart from enhancing vision, two-way Augmented Reality contact lenses and goggles will transmit information such as brand preferences, consumption habits, commute routes, online behaviour, entertainment preferences, location, travel planning, sleep patterns and other everyday activities to relevant service providers.
Telecom providers will be able to offer finely tuned levels of personalisation to customers. Ironically, this online dependency will also make life pervasive and intrusive.
Possibility No. 1: Telecom companies will focus more on enterprise businesses
Telecom companies will enter long – term agreements with enterprises and governments. They will focus on getting businesses as their clientele. They will liaise with governments and make most of their policies.
Services and products will be designed with an “online” chip bundled with data plans and customers will know very little about the data providers.
What must be done today:
Telecom companies must:
- Build strong relationships with large fast-moving consumer goods, product companies and Over-The-Top operators (companies that provide audio, video, and other media content via the Internet).
- Once connected appliances, cars, and the like hit the market, the demand for online chips will grow exponentially. Companies will need to invest in research and development to create an eco-system around the “Online” Chip and Business plans for Enterprises.
- Develop various plans according to data speed (and the device and appliance it will be used for) and give consumers their money’s worth
- Continue the focus on software defined networks and network technologies and create strategies that will help provide infrastructure to the service providers at a speed to match the speed of innovative solutions.
Possibility No. 2: Customisation will be king
As an increasing number of devices, that we use daily, will be connected, companies will offer comprehensive plans that will be customised for every user and every device. Every appliance, every vehicle, and every device will be connected to the Internet.
Telecom companies will come up with data plans depending on the machine that is being connected. This means, there will be different plans for home appliances, for vehicles, and the like. For example, a connected refrigerator will be able to discern the ingredients stored and will suggest various recipes of the Internet for you to utilise those ingredients! And this will require a chip; and chips will require data plans.
We will also witness the rise of various platforms where customers can customise their requirements. Some mobile network providers have an app where customers can view their bills, value added packs, and request for certain services that they want. It won’t be too long before we will witness the rise of such apps for other connected machines; if you are going on a road trip with your family and wish to download a movie to watch on your way, all you have to do is log on to the car’s app, and download one right onto your car’s system.
As the manufacturing of these chips rises, the number of glitches will also increase. This will give rise to the necessity of signing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between the manufacturers and the company that provides the data plans.
What must be done today:
Telecom companies must:
- Focus on providing intelligent end points like a Responsive Web design i.e. a Responsive Network Design that can change the plans based on the machine being used.
- Redesign self-care applications (the ones described above, where customers can customise their application), retail and call centre operations.
- Put customisation in the hands of the customer.
- Restructure billing to include new line items for end point consumptions and build plans to factor in delayed payments that would leave a customer offline (and stranded in potentially dangerous situations).
- Draft new SLAs with product vendors to ensure their brands are protected especially in the case the chips turn out faulty.
- Expose APIs for Developer forums to develop intelligent Lifestyle BOTs (for example, a security BOT that would keep track of my children’s commutes and send regular updates to the parent, or a parking BOT that would help people check out available parking slots before they arrive at their destination and reserve one).
Possibility No. 3: Data will be the new currency
Not far into the future, data will be the focus of all our exchanges and transactions. Governments will use this dependency on data and control the infrastructure that will be used for data dissipation. These governments will also subsidise data services like fuel and energy providers. As a result, Telecom companies will have to forge different strategies for pricing policy decision making and government partnerships. This might lead to a diversification of companies into two different paths – one that would offer and manage the requisite infrastructure for the transmission of data, and the other that would offer content (audio visual, primarily) or banking a service.
Big data will emerge as an important value differentiator. With voluminous and intricate data flowing through their pipes, Telecom companies will hold key insights into consumers. They will consolidate and position themselves as content management companies to create a new profitable revenue generation stream. The fragmented content market provides an undiscovered opportunity for Telecom companies to leverage their network expertise and create new age content delivery models (similar to smartphones being used as a portable TV). Media and entertainment, consumer self-care content and new enterprise content management plans with products vendors will need to be focused on.
It will be possible for Telecom companies to create apps that would be linked with banking. This way, customers will not have to carry debit or credit cards, and would be able to pay for their purchases directly from their phones.
What must be done today:
Telecom Companies must:
- Start looking at de-merger plans to segregate their networks business which will focus on next generation data networks in unison with governments.
- Emerging business models such as content and banking must be prioritised, with proper security measures in place.
- The content space will witness massive acquisition plans.
What technology service providers should invest in:
- Next generation networks expertise with new patentable concepts like Responsive Network design.
- Buy-out content management solutions companies or forge strong alliances with them.
- Build cross vertical service offerings with a focus on portfolios that are integrated – banking with telecom data, and Healthcare with Telecom and Banking.
- A global platform to utilize internal and partner services rapidly to provide resources for customers.
- Build security services offerings with more investments; predicted to become one of the largest revenue generation services.
- Build strong relationships with governments as the need for vast amounts of data increases; companies would also need to partner in areas of network design, security audits and trouble shooting.
- Digital services offerings for all the Product Vendors across all domains especially focusing on customer experience, Internet of Things and cloud.
- Re-evaluate the verticalisation, alliance strategy and Independent Identities to build speed, variations in pricing and personalization for users.
- Invest in building open source competency to enable speed, flexibility and the ability to adapt to the growing demands of the market.
- Invest in design thinking to focus on customer empathy as telecom companies will play a bigger role in customer lifestyle applications.
Head, Digital Transformation