The most successful relay race teams don’t just have exceptional individual talents, they also bring out the best in one another, offer complementary skills, and execute as a cohesive group. As we look at the current and future opportunities surrounding 5G, CSPs need to take a similar ‘relay race’ approach to select the right team members (partners) to develop and deliver new services they couldn’t create on their own. The adage that, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” rings true in 5G.
According to a recent study from the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), 5G investments are expected to reach $1 Trillion by 2025 – making it a top priority for CSPs worldwide. The report also highlights that only 5 percent of revenues will come from connectivity – the rest will come from new integrated solutions and services that take advantage of the advanced capabilities of 5G.
5G opens a world of new possibilities for businesses, whether for replacing current IT, transforming their operating models, or creating new and innovative products and services to sell to customers. But developing these solutions and being first to market requires a new mindset for CSPs and new ways of fostering collaboration across the ecosystem.
If CSPs want to capture the opportunity presented by both enterprises and SMBs wanting 5G-powered services, they need to collaborate with a broad and varied ecosystem of partners. As we look to 2021 and beyond, strategic partnerships will enable CSPs to design, develop, and launch the 5G use cases and solutions that business customers want and need.
Survey findings from BearingPoint//Beyond indicate that 60 percent of CSPs believe collaboration helps drive cost-effective, innovative solutions – and that businesses need an average of nine partners to support their 5G use cases. Nine partners. That’s taking the relay team analogy to a whole new level of coordination and requires new approaches to how CSPs and partners work together.
To capture a significant piece of the 5G market opportunity, CSPs can apply five best practices from winning relay race teams:
1. Smooth hand-offs make the difference
Dropping the baton in a relay race usually means the last-place finish. It’s no different for CSPs as they need to create a frictionless model for co-creating, testing, and rolling out new services. Ensuring smooth hand-offs and collaboration requires having a forum for CSPs and partners to experiment and innovate with speed and efficiency. Every millisecond counts in a relay race, and the 5G opportunity is no different. Speed will separate the winners and losers – by being early to market with solutions businesses and customers need.
2. Trust your team or find new teammates
Each member of the relay team plays a vital role in the overall success of the group. Successful teams have complete trust in one another to do their part in the race – with passion and consistency. By aligning with the right ecosystem partners, including those they have existing relationships with, CSPs can effectively bring the right products and services to market. Part of the equation for 5G is leveraging existing solutions, building blocks, and APIs – and adding new capabilities or different combinations – to quickly introduce relevant services.
If you can’t trust that your partner knows what they are doing, you will likely have a failed implementation. Why? Because you will always be second-guessing decisions or not taking advice on best practices. CSPs shouldn’t establish trust in the implementation phase. It should have been tested and gained early on.
3. Stay focused on the future
The outgoing runner can’t look backward when receiving the baton, which adds a challenging aspect to the race. An effective non-visual hand-off can mean the difference between winning, losing, or disqualification. The same goes for CSPs when looking for inspiration and insights to drive the next generation of 5G services. The best place to capture those insights early on will come from direct interaction with businesses and consumers. If you’re not working on something they will soon need, move on. There’s so much room for future innovation that winning CSPs will have a strong instinct for identifying those future opportunities, along with the determination to deliver new services just as clients realize they need them.
4. Timing is everything
Based on the runners’ speed, the generally accepted strategy used in setting up a four-person relay team is second-fastest, third-fastest, slowest, then fastest (anchor). Some CSPs are more agile than others when identifying a market need and executing on it. Depending on the customer or opportunity, CSPs need to determine what it takes to get to market early or first. In those situations, CSPs want to team with those quick and nimble partners. In some cases, it’ll be more important to develop an end-to-end solution versus being first. Understand the customer and market demands, set realistic milestones, and meet those timelines.
To quickly shift from being a product-centric organization to a customer-centric one, CSPs must be willing to change their strategic priorities and their internal processes to collaborate with both business customers and third-party partners properly.
5. Have a great coach
Effective coaching runs deeper than wins and losses. It also includes reaching athletes on an individual level. Having a strategic coach (leader) is critical in tapping into the right areas of expertise – and understanding the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Team roles, including the coach, need to be clearly defined from the start. While every team member needs to believe in one another and have an agreed-upon set of goals, the coach needs to ensure everyone brings their best to the table. From setting goals to motivating the team, a great coach will look at the big picture, allowing the team to focus on execution. The ideal coach brings out each team member’s best and requires a unique set of skills and experiences.
While these best practices in one form or another are widely acknowledged by leading CSPs, one big challenge remains: How to enable a level of collaboration that doesn’t exist in the market today? An ecosystem-led strategy in 2021 and beyond will allow CSPs to solve genuine problems for customers and open up fresh opportunities for co-created solutions supported by ground-breaking business models and attractive revenue share arrangements.
To help CSPs innovate and scale for the 5G market and other emerging market opportunities, this month Virtusa launched iComms, an intelligent communications marketplace. To be successful, CSPs have to integrate products and services from dozens, if not hundreds of technology providers. Virtusa iComms offers the best of both worlds – proprietary solutions and the top picks from a vast partner ecosystem – including capabilities and expertise from other providers used most often by CSPs, including AlefEdge, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Dataken, Google Cloud, Intense Technologies, MemSQL, Microsoft Azure, Pegasystems, and Salesforce.
With the number of 5G connections expected to grow to over 1 billion by 2023, CSPs can use Virtusa iComms to identify customers most likely to upgrade and efficiently scale network resources as demand increases. In addition to 5G, iComms helps CSPs build and launch new services quickly that capitalize on emerging Cloud, NaaS, and Edge trends to grow new revenue streams. iComms makes it quick and easy for CSPs by providing a comprehensive set of Virtusa offerings including 200+ open APIs, 50+ AI models, synthetic data, and pre-built solutions.
Virtusa iComms is available immediately in general release and can be accessed here.
About the Author
EVP & Head of Technology, Media, and Telecommunications at Virtusa
Frank Palermo has over 20 years of global experience as a successful technology executive with broad-based skills, including business consulting, strategy, technology and development, financial and operational management. Frank excels at cultivating an entrepreneurial culture, assembling high-performance teams, identifying emerging technology trends, and incubating innovative, high growth businesses. Frank is passionate about helping companies reimagine their digital future through the application of technology. He frequently collaborates with organizations on ways to accelerate their innovation roadmap.
China Mobile dominates with largest 5G user base across the country
China continues to take giant leaps forward, as its largest telecoms operator, China Mobile, added a whopping 15.2 million 5G subscribers in October alone, according to a statement published by the telco.
The statement highlighted that it ended the month with a total of 128.8 million 5G subscribers, compared to 6.7 million at the beginning of the year.
China Mobile currently boasts the largest subscriber pool on the planet, as it recorded a total of 946.34 million overall subscribers, up by three million from the same time last year.
The telco has already constructed and setup almost 385,000 5G base stations across the country.
“Our growth has only been made possible by the support of all shareholders, customers and members of the general public, as well as the dedication and relentless efforts of China Mobile employees at all levels,” Yang Jie, Chairman of China Mobile, said in a statement.
Yang added that the company is ahead of schedule in its annual 5G rollout targets, as the telco cements its place as having the world’s largest 5G SA network.
In parallel, rivals China Telecom added 7.06 million subscribers this month, making their total 5G subscribers reach 71.86 million. It remains unknown if China Unicom is keeping up the race with its rivals, as the telco has yet to release their 5G numbers.
However, both China Unicom alongside China Telecom jointly build and operate over 300,000 5G base stations across the country.
China’s government earlier announced the installation of nearly 700,000 5G base stations to date, as it has successfully exceeded its initial target of 500,000.
This figure is already double the number of 5G base stations built outside China, according to the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
In addition, Chinese tech titan Huawei forecasts 5G users to represent 20 percent of total mobile users in both China and South Korea by the end of June 2021, President of Huawei’s Carrier Business Group, Ryan Ding, was quoted as saying during a presentation at a company forum.
China is currently leading the line in terms of 5G development and rollout, as it received a major boost from its government when its MIIT officially issued licenses for launching commercial 5G networks across the country.
The permits were granted to the country’s elite four, which are China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom and state-owned broadcaster China Broadcasting Network.
5G has already become the new norm within large cities such as the capital, Beijing, and Shenzhen with citizens enjoying full 5G coverage.
The global fight to regulate 5G is happening right now
Almost everywhere you look, there’s a story about 5G and its impact on humanity from every conceivable aspect.
The fifth generation of mobile networks has dominated tech headlines far and wide, where every telco, tech news outlet, and private tech firm has flooded the Internet with 5G content as far as the finger can click.
No one is challenging the basis of these claims since they’re true.
Ubiquitous 5G coverage will proliferate new services and will be necessary to accommodate the growing Internet of Things (IoT), which provides constant broadband connections to a variety of new devices and applications.
From telcos and ISPs to startups and governments, retailers harnessing the power of machine learning, all business models and operations will be touched by a new era of ultrafast connectivity, and an explosion of devices.
Investors from all walks of life are looking at each and every opening to sync their teeth into a newly connected future that promises major returns, no matter the industry.
Because of that, 5G will not be a niche regulatory issue – all parts of the global economy and political landscape will be affected.
The 5G race is currently in its prime both domestically and internationally; which is why governments around the world are starting to take action to spur deployment while simultaneously looking at regulatory solutions to remedy privacy, security, and safety concerns.
Thus, the impact of regulating the fifth generation of mobile networks will cause a ripple affect shaping how we deal with the technologies of the future, as countries weigh the balance between the public and private sectors.
The UK has been fierce in its attempts to ensue safety on it’s 5G capabilities, and has introduced a new bill giving the government the power to leave out any vendor it deems as high-risk to it’s telecoms infrastructure.
High-risk vendors are being categorized as those who pose large security and resilience risks to UK telecoms. The telecoms security bill aims to forge national security powers to be able to control if a telecoms firm can use materials supplied by outside vendors.
Previous rallies against Huawei in the UK have increased in the past couple of months, with British premier Boris Johnson imposing a ban on the tech titan’s involvement in the country’s 5G infrastructure, while tasking local telcos to remove and replace current Huawei equipment from usage on a deadline set for 2027.
In parallel, a group of British lawmakers published a report citing 5G security concerns relating to Huawei’s collusion and close ties with China’s “Communist Party apparatus,” as they urged the PM to shorten the banning period.
In other words, the UK has publicly declared Huawei to be person non grata within their future plans.
The bill being studied in parliament also contains security protocols that would fine UK networks of 10 percent of turnover or £100,000 a day for those who do not meet the new standards.
The country’s communications regulatory body, Ofcom, is set to be tasked with monitoring and assessing security protocols among telecom providers.
“We are investing billions to roll-out 5G and gigabit broadband across the country but the benefits can only be realized if we have full confidence in the security and resilience of our networks,” Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden told reporters.
Dowden added that this bill will give the UK one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and would allow for necessary action to protect their networks.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports (DCMS) issued a statement saying that the current “self-governance laws in which telecoms providers were responsible for setting their own security standards, did not work.”
A statement echoed by the country’s Telecoms Supply Chain Review, considered that self-regulation offers little incentives to adopt the best security practices.
The 5G security concerns, which were ignited by the Trump administration’s trade spat with China, includes espionage, sabotage, and blackmail. The U.S. government considers Huawei as a security risk and has urged allies to shun its equipment over fears it could serve as a Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence services.
Ironically, while initial pressure to cut off Huawei and the likes have originated from the United states, there doesn’t seem to be serious talks or bills of regulating 5G networks across the Atlantic Ocean.
While U.S. Congress, from both sides of the aisle, have agreed on the importance of American 5G from a technological standpoint, the importance of protecting these networks from prying eyes and cyberattacks have barely scratched the surface.
There is no doubt that the United States is playing catch-up compared to its competitors such as China, but it’s also playing the same game with its allies.
At least 23 legislative items that specifically mention or address 5G—10 in the Senate and 13 in the House—have been introduced in the 116th Congress. Most are bipartisan and many are also bicameral, meaning the same text is supported by both Democrats and Republicans and has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.
But many have doubted the capability of the 116th Congress to be able to forge any response that will realistically change the course of US 5G deployment and security of its networks.
Experts forecast that 5G will remain a private-sector-led initiative in the US; especially since there doesn’t seem to be consensus on whether regulations will address sensitive issues such infrastructure installation, equipment to be used, pricing, security, or privacy.
In retrospect, a Biden presidency doesn’t exactly translate into a more lenient view of Huawei, regardless of the fact that the president-elect will be more consistent in his approach with the East Asian powerhouse.
However, not all of the U.S.’s rivals are technologically flourishing like China.
Russia, on the other hand, has imposed tight exposure limits for radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs), which have been laid out by the country’s Digital Economy Program, which sees much more stringent standards than what’s internationally accepted.
This has pushed GSMA to publicly advise Russia to relax those measures, since these overly strict regulations will hinder the country’s 5G deployment, forcing it to fall behind other countries with regards to its digital transformation.
“While Russia’s standards reflect public concerns about the relative safety of mobile technologies, the GSMA stresses that the risk is extraordinarily low, and that studies have shown that using a mobile phone or living near a base station does not lead to any adverse health effects,” GSMA said in a statement.
The organization specifically cited the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, which published new international guidelines after analyzing 20 years of health research. Those guidelines are far more permissive than Russia’s, which the GSMA argues are not based on medical evidence.
“The updated international safety guidelines were adopted this year by Poland and Lithuania, among others,” GSMA VP and Europe, Russia and CIS Policy and Regulation Head Daniel Pataki, was quoted saying, adding that, “Russia has a critical opportunity to spur growth if leaders enact reforms now.”
Despite the potential hiccups, GSMA expects 5G to account for 20 percent of the mobile connections in Russia by 2025. The organization nevertheless believes that the country’s rules for the operation of radio facilities will slow the growth of the network, as will the country’s bureaucratic approval process for development projects.
Zipping back to the heart of the EU, Germany is currently battling to reach a consensus within the government that a telecoms vendor poses a national security threat in order to exclude its equipment from national 5G networks, according to draft legislation reviewed by Reuters.
The latest version of the IT Security Law follows months of wrangling in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, which has been split over how to craft a political mechanism for judging whether a vendor can be trusted or not.
The consensus will prove vital for the future of China’s Huawei on German land, as the bill attempts to form a bridge between Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is for close trade relations with China, and her coalition partners in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) who, led by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, are hawkish towards Beijing.
As governments around the world attempt to set the stage for the next generation of mobile networks, the decisions made now, and in the near future, will most likely shape our interactions with the technological world as we know it.
5G consumer market set to hit the ground running
With the fifth generation of mobile technologies beginning its tortoise like rollout worldwide, the 5G consumer market is forecast to cash in on 31$ trillion by the year 2030, according to a recent report published by Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson.
The report forecasts that communications service providers (CSPs) could earn $3.7 trillion of that total, a figure that will most likely keep on rising in parallel to the digital services opportunities that accompany such a technological leap.
“It is clear that 5G will drive enormous opportunities for CSPs in consumer business over the decade. As this journey is already underway, those CSPs that quickly and proactively evolve their consumer propositions are likely to be bigger winners,” said Jasmeet Singh Sethi, Head of ConsumerLab at Ericsson Research.
By being proactive in driving 5G differentiation, service providers could gain a 34 percent higher 5G ARPU by 2030, growing their consumer revenues at a CAGR of 2.7 percent up to 2030 as opposed to flat revenues with a passive approach, which equals revenue up to $131 billion.
“About 40 percent of these revenue projections are attributed to consumer spending on enhanced video, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and cloud gaming over 5G networks,” Ericsson’s report added.
Key findings have shown that augmented reality (AR) will be the main player in the phase to come, as it will drive half of all consumer spending on immersive media by 2030.
AR gaming as the highest ranked AR application amongst consumers, with gaming likely to be the main initial driver for AR. Other application areas for AR, such as TV and video viewing, home planning and school and educational usage, will follow.
“Almost 67 percent of gamers claim they will increase their AR usage in the next five years. It is clear AR is poised to make its mark on society, and media consumption is going to be a key component of immersive experiences on the augmented road ahead,” the report explained.
The COVID-19 pandemic has played a significant role in impacting consumer purchasing power, reducing the willingness of paying a 20 percent 5G premium; however, according to Ericsson, one in three global early adopters are still willing to pay the premium.
“More time spent at home during the pandemic has resulted in increased interest in investing in emerging 5G-enhanced digital services, such as cloud gaming, immersive education (like digital AR books for kids) or services that offer remote digital live event experiences,” the report continued.
Some markets have seen rapid adoption as service providers launched a range of attractive tariffs bundled with innovative services, with South Korea exceeding 13.2 percent penetration of the mobile market with 9.25 million subscribers moving to 5G.
With attractive service bundling, Chinese service providers sold over 100 million 5G tariffs by the end of the second quarter of 2020, though only 64 million 5G phones are reported as shipped.
“By the end of 2020 we expect to see over 190 million 5G subscriptions,” the report said, adding that “as a result, 5G adoption is far more rapid than previous generations, and is likely to break the 20 percent level for share of mobile subscriptions 2 years faster than 4G.”
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