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Trends and Challenges 2021+: Five Recommendations for Action by Telecoms Providers

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Trends and Challenges 2021+ Five Recommendations for Action by Telecoms Providers

What was innovative yesterday is already obsolete by tomorrow.

This is more true now than ever in the era of the pandemic which, in many cases, intensifies and accelerates this process. The speed of development is and will always remain high in the telecommunications industry.

And here it is clear: COVID-19 is challenging for the industry, but it can also speed up innovations and advance suppliers’ competitive capabilities, especially in the e-commerce environment.

Where are the opportunities? And what matters most right now?

Particularly since the start of the pandemic, it is clear in most industries that constant change has become the “new normal.” For the telecoms industry, the most important question is how will communication service providers (CSPs) develop? Especially since many services – such as pure connectivity – are increasingly regarded as the norm, other players are advancing in sectors where value creation is the most intense, and cut-throat competition is increasing.

Against the backdrop of the ever-present goal of increasing revenues and market share, many CSPs have recognized that it’s time to become a true “real-time company.”

Digital commerce and time to market are two of the critical success factors here; while eroding customer contact and digital disruptors are among the greatest challenges.

One thing quickly becomes clear: In the first step, telecommunications companies need a future-oriented technological foundation to use their data profitably, increase earnings, and be able to generate added value.

Here are five recommendations for telcos that want to leave half-hearted projects behind and create a digital framework for the e-commerce environment of today and tomorrow.

1. Put the focus on the customer – now for real (eSIM sends its regards)

The exceptionally competitive fight for customers is not a new phenomenon.

Understanding the needs and desires of customer groups and individual users while maintaining customer contact is, therefore, more than simply part of the current agenda for telecommunications providers.

Currently, we are experiencing a rapid change in customer behavior, which requires new organizational and technological strategies.

Customer journeys are increasingly fragmented, new touchpoints arise, online and mobile dominate; previously, direct contact was a matter of course, now not much of this remains.

CSPs have to be in a position to adapt their digital business constantly to continuously remain competitive. This means rethinking and redesigning commercial offerings, employing new techniques, and integrating innovative services into portfolios. And internalizing the motto: “Experience is the new product!”

A good example of the eroding connection to the customer is the paradigm change triggered by eSIMs and the challenges that accompany them. These “embedded” SIM cards are permanently installed in devices and can be activated on the software side with various CSPs’ profiles and network information.

Device manufacturers and other providers thus have the opportunity to bundle hardware and communication services. Traditional CSPs are no longer involved, since they automatically lose direct customer contact and become “white label” suppliers.

Wherever possible, they will now seek mergers with global alliances to monetize communication services themselves once again. Additional sources of revenue could also open up in this segment, such as machines or household appliances with integrated wireless connectivity.

In every case, what’s important is to think of the customer in a future-oriented perspective and position oneself accordingly. Customer centricity – not just on paper.

2. Use Artificial intelligence and machine learning to cultivate customer loyalty – starting with predictive analytics

What, specifically, do customers want and need – in a particular situation or range of interests, at a particular time?

The more relevant and individual the information about new products, services, and offerings is, the greater the chances to acquire customers and gain their loyalty on the long term; also, to do so against the backdrop of comparison and opinion portals and publicly visible evaluations by customers.

The prerequisite is targeted marketing, which is oriented with the appropriate granularity to customers’ requirements. Through appropriate customer channels, storage, and enrichment of customer data in compliance with data privacy regulations in a state-of-the-art Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, information can be provided quickly and used for personalized marketing campaigns.

Here, the handling of technical innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) becomes an economic success factor for telecommunications companies.

Predictive analytics is already being deployed – a technique that helps analyze internal and external data, detect patterns, and anticipate future events. Important keywords: Regression analysis, multi-variable statistics, pattern comparison, predictive modeling, and forecasting.

There is also enormous potential for AI and ML in other areas of application.

Thus, within the future of the telecoms sector, scenarios can be supported involving automatic detection of network problems or the identification of accounting fraud, for example.

Intelligent and self-learning systems do not just give telcos tools for understanding their customers better and talking to them in a more goal-oriented fashion in real time; they pave the way for an end-to-end digitalization of entire process chains. Therefore: it’s time to use AI and ML.

3. Bundling, 5G, IoT, cloud, and more: Detect opportunities and think up new business models

CSPs and digital content – that’s nothing new.

For example, Viacom has developed from a CSP into a media group since 1994, with the takeover of the majority of Paramount Pictures, and later with various acquisitions such as CBS and Dreamworks Studios. For more traditional CSPs, digital content is now becoming an increasingly important instrument for ensuring customer loyalty.

The pandemic has contributed to this, in that consumers have been staying home and spending a lot of time in front of screens. Streaming is the trend, while old-fashioned TV is not making any gains, or is even declining.

In the meantime, partnerships with Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Disney+ are no longer a differentiating characteristic; instead, they are now a commodity product that customers simply expect.

CSPs thus have to play a more active role in the market for existing and forward thinking digital services to gain or maintain market share. Lurking behind this are different technical possibilities, ranging from the use of an external service under a company’s own logo to joint systems.

Another interesting bundling example is currently under development: Some CSPs are considering offering energy services in the future – and vice-versa. The rates are calculated in similar fashion and based on comparable structures, which would mean that the IT work required would be reasonable.

Right now, 5G is still largely regarded and treated as a fast version of 4G, but telecommunications providers in corporate markets will therefore increasingly expand existing business models or develop new ones; for example, in healthcare, in education, or with regard to autonomous driving.

Low latency times of less than 1 ms as well as high and predictable network bandwidth up to 10 Gbit/s make this possible. In the private sector, 5G is also opening doors for new formats, such as cloud gaming via Google Stadia, GeForce Now, Vortex, and Magenta Gaming.

The former low-bandwidth networks can in the future be used for data transfers with low network profile, which includes the Internet of Things (IoT) sector.

The cloud market is also growing by leaps and bounds.

This is also being driven by the pandemic and more people working remotely, meaning that secure storage is more important now than ever. The market share of U.S. tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google is estimated at 60 percent, and it seems that these providers have divided up the “cloud pie” among themselves.

Here, there is nevertheless still noteworthy potential for CSPs.

This is the case for telecommunications offerings that are associated with cloud services, such as customer-oriented offer bundles (telecommunications, data services, and IT systems integration) and added-value services such as application hosting.

With that in mind, the focus is also on individual services or partnerships with established providers – or arbitrary combinations of both. Most importantly, when the concern is new business models and sources of revenue: There are no holds barred!

4. Break the spell of digital disruptors

New players in the market are also increasing competitive pressure for telecommunications providers. Whereas these digital-native organizations have mastered all technologies, traditional telco providers frequently have difficulties with new approaches such as microservices architecture, event-controlled architecture, or programmable infrastructure.

An example: Thus far, telecommunications operators have not succeeded in generating much demand for their IoT offerings despite great interest. Instead, it is the non-orthodox market participants that have broken into the market.

In addition to favorable price positioning, this can frequently be traced back to simple transaction models (direct online purchasing). Many providers in this segment do not even have their own networks; they only sell products.

In these cases, the only things that can help telcos would be building their own top-quality solutions or acquire a successful disruptor, therefore entering the market quickly.

5. First digital transformation, then strategy change: Select the right sequence – and then move fast

To be able to deliver what modern, informed customers want, the telecommunications companies first have to dare to complete a true digital transformation.

This should happen prior to a strategy change – even if that is a prerequisite for a successful implementation. Many of the technology platforms that traditional telecommunications companies are using today are really showing their age. So it’s no wonder that IT costs are too high due to the complexity and redundancies of the legacy systems.

Monolithic architectures frequently form the inflexible backbone (back-end/legacy system) via which most transactions are handled (for example, payment traffic, order management, availability check, etc.).

In an environment that has to rely on agile development and microservices, these architectures impede digitalization. In these scenarios that have developed over time, the business models often have to orient themselves according to the IT possibilities, and not the other way around.

This is bad news for competitive capability, as success factors such as flexibility and time-to-market are by necessity left behind.

There are a lot of opportunities here to integrate legacy applications into state-of-the-art architectures. The most common solution is connection via APIs and connectors.

In this context, the so-called “decoupling” of the customer-oriented front end from the back-end layer becomes a central focus.

This is how providers can create personalized customer experiences, gain freedom to experiment, increase their agility, and scale more efficiently. Additional touchpoints with customers can thus be incorporated flexibly into the front end via APIs.

The goal is to realize significant cost reductions and optimize the essential KPIs: productivity, efficiency, quality, and time-to-market.

The year 2020 has shown us how quickly things can change and exactly how fast the digital transformation is proceeding.

Sooner rather than later, telecommunications companies have to transform themselves into digital service providers and E-Commerce players to stand up to and battle the “digital dragons.” This is a term that Gartner’s analysts have coined for companies that already have a functioning highly-scalable online business model; examples include Amazon Web Services and Alibaba.

Transparency instead of complexity, modularity with standards and open interfaces – this is how the digital transformation itself can be completed at high speed. It’s high time for telco providers to act.

About the authors

Steven Bailey, Chief Strategy Officer (CSO), AOE GmbH

Steven Bailey has many years of experience and expertise in the digital transformation of international companies and the development of their business and IT visions. As Chief Strategy Officer at AOE, he is responsible for business development and customer support in the digitalization and omnichannel E-Commerce strategies sector. A focal point of this work is the development of B2X transaction portals and mobile solutions that allow companies to map new business models and generate long-term revenue streams.

Uwe Ritter, Board of Directors, People at Work Systems AG

Uwe Ritter can look back on more than 35 years’ IT experience. After completing his computer science degree in Ulm in 1983, he worked for two years as a development engineer at Dornier System GmbH in Friedrichshafen. After that, he joined Nixdorf Computer AG in 1985; he remained there in international marketing for Unix systems and as Director of the international Targon support until 1990. From 1990 to 1996, he built up the technical marketing department at Oracle Deutschland GmbH. In 1996, Uwe Ritter was a founding member of Siebel Systems Central Europe. During his first years there, he was responsible for establishing sales support and marketing activities; then he took on various management positions in Siebel product marketing, and was finally responsible for Siebel’s entire technology basis as Executive Director. At the beginning of 2004, Uwe Ritter joined People at Work System AG as shareholder and chair. He is responsible for the areas of products, consulting, and development.

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Tango Networks Unveils Mobile-X Extend, BYOD Business SIM™ for Work-from-Anywhere Communications

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Service embeds app-less business extension into employees’ personal dual SIM mobile phones.

Tango Networks today announced Mobile-X Extend, the communications industry’s first service using a modern electronic SIM (eSIM) to instantly add a business-controlled extension to a mobile phone.

Mobile-X Extend places a full-featured, secure and controlled business phone on employees’ BYOD devices. Now employees can use their own mobile phones for business communications with a business identity while their personal communications remain separate and private.

“Today’s work-from-anywhere business world demands that we rethink how our employees communicate,” said Douglas J. Bartek, CEO of Tango Networks. “Mobile-X Extend is a first-of-its-kind service that reinvents mobile communications for today’s corporate users. It transforms not only how we communicate in commerce, but it greatly improves company operational efficiency and employee productivity. Now employees working in any location can be as reachable and responsive as if they were in the office at a desk phone.”

By integrating into Unified Communications (UC) platforms or UCaaS services, all business calls and texts on a personal mobile phone automatically use the business identity and can be captured and recorded for archiving or monitoring. All personal calls and texts remain private and external to company control.

“The mobile network is the most extraordinary machine that mankind has ever built,” said Andrew Bale, Tango Networks General Manager of Cloud Services. “Today we give individual businesses unprecedented control over that machine. This represents the greatest advance in business communications technology in a generation.”

With Mobile-X Extend, a business can cut landlines and the huge expense of buying, managing and upgrading company-paid mobile phones. This reduces the company’s carbon footprint while shrinking administrative overhead and expenses. The solution eliminates the cost and hassle of managing expense claims for business calls on personal mobile phones.

The service is mobile native, using the mobile network and the device’s native interface for all communications and features. That means it requires no apps or special phone clients and no training. The service offers superior, business-quality communications not possible with over-the-top VoIP.

Mobile-X Extend is based on Tango Networks’ Mobile-X fixed-mobile convergence technologies covered by more than 90 patents.

Businesses use Mobile-X for Mobile Unified Communications, Mobile First and Mobile Only communications, and work-from-home, hybrid and work-from-anywhere flexibility. It brings fully integrated business communications to mobile employees, deskless employees and first-line workers, many for the first time.

Mobile-X Extend is available for customer pilots now and will be generally available in 1Q2022. The service is sold solely through Tango Networks’ value-added resellers and communications service provider partners.

About Tango Networks

Tango Networks is revolutionizing business communications with the industry’s first mobile network built for business, controlled by businesses.

The Mobile-X service turns any mobile phone into a fully featured extension of a company’s communications platform, putting mobile voice, text and data entirely in a company’s control for the first time.

Businesses use Mobile-X to deliver easy-to-use, business quality communications for work-from-anywhere programs, remote workers and employees working from home, the distributed workforce, deskless employees, and workers on the go.

Mobile-X empowers companies to transform operations, streamline collaboration and boost employee productivity across the board. Learn more at tango-networks.com.
              

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Lessons learned from remote education: Teaching will never be the same

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remote education

Before March 2020, catching ‘fresher’s flu’ was a right of passage for university students. Fast forward 18 months and students around the world stayed indoors to keep illness at bay. However, the pandemic has taught the education sector an important lesson — the value of selecting the right communication tools.

According to UNESCO, more than 1.5 billion students around the world were forced out of their typical learning settings in 2020, with many participating in lessons online. Globally, education in the 21st century has never seen so much disruption and it has prompted critical conversations about the role of technology in delivering education.

Education isn’t the only sector that’s facing an overhaul. Over the course of the pandemic, and for several more years to come, communication technologies have grown increasingly more sophisticated. The UK increased its fiber connections by 50 percent in 2020, and while its broadband connectivity stills lags behind many other countries, the nation is undergoing massive change. As Openreach switches of the public switched telephone network (PSTN), every business will be communicating differently by 2025.

Research by broadband company Zen shows that 17 percent of large organizations are still unaware of the switch off. Education facilities also risk becoming out of the technology loop if they don’t learn from the past 28 months.

Going remote

Throughout much of 2020 and 2021, educators had no choice but to deliver teaching remotely. However, even though in-person teaching has widely resumed, distance learning could become an increasingly favoured choice, rather than an obligation.

Distance learning isn’t a phenomenon of today’s society. Back in 1969, The Open University (OU) pioneered the concept by offering students the chance to gain a degree without needing to set foot on campus. It was a radical idea for its time — yet proved highly popular. By the time applications closed for its first year of enrolment, the university had received over 100,000 applications.

However, The OU’s popularity has decreased over time with numbers of full-time enrolments slipping over the past decade. But things could be set to shift again. Increased demand for upskilling and reskilling, as well as an emphasis in the attractiveness of online learning spurred on by the pandemic, has caused a surge in OU registrations.

Overall, the total number of OU students enrolled for the 2020/21 academic year is up 15 percent on last year — from just over 141,000 to more than 163,000. While distance learning has seemed like a short-term fix to keep people safe, it’s also encouraged a newfound appreciation for the teaching method that could lead to long-term behavioural changes.

Getting prepared

We won’t be saying goodbye to fresher’s flu any time soon. While most forms of education continue in person, education facilities shouldn’t neglect the promise of distance learning.

What’s more, the past 18 months has taught every industry to expect the unexpected. Most businesses were not prepared to go remote overnight at the start of the pandemic, and education was no exception. However, having the right tools in place to ensure distance learning can be carried out effectively is the best way to plan for any other unforeseen circumstances.

One essential piece of any education facility’s armoury is the right communication tools. In particular, facilities should opt for a Cloud-based solution. Cloud-based platforms provide an easy way for educational institutes to streamline their academic communications and collaborations. They can achieve this by combining real-time voice, video, and messaging capabilities with their business applications.

Using Cloud-based software that enables Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) makes it easy for students and teachers to interact collaboratively by using real-time messaging and video. This can effectively improve completing group projects, enhances the way teachers communicate with students and cuts down obstacles in the system of education. Because technologies such as VoIP enable calls through the Internet, rather than a fixed telephone line, it’s far easier for education providers to interact with geographically dispersed students and with less ongoing costs.

As such, 90 percent of data breaches are a result of human error and using the Cloud to manage communication tools and store their associated data can help universities better manage sensitive information.

At Ringover, another huge benefit we see for VoIP technologies in education is its scalability. Our own software can be easily scaled to suit the size and needs of any business, whether it requires a complete professional phone system or additions to its existing infrastructure. With collaboration tools such as screen sharing, instant messaging, and video conferencing, Ringover’s software can help facilities of any size communicate effectively.

After several weeks of getting to know each other, it’s likely many students are battling fresher’s flu right now. However, no matter which education route a person chooses, having access to effective communications tools is crucial. Post-pandemic education won’t look the same as it did previously, and having scalable, streamlined software in place will help any facility to future proof.

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Introducing the 5G Workforce

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It’s been a long time since a technology breakthrough generated as much anticipation and fanfare as 5G. Buzz around it has been building for some time and with good reason: 5G will fuel an economic and social revolution that disrupts how companies operate while opening-up incredible new opportunities for those who have the talent to support it, a 5G workforce.

To fully grasp the necessity for a 5G workforce, you need to recognize the impact this technology standard is going to have. Consider the following:

  • PwC’s “The Impact of 5G: Creating New Value across Industries and Society” reports that 5G will fuel a variety of new opportunities. This includes “the optimization of service delivery, decision-making, and end-user experience,” which “will result in $13.2 trillion in global economic value by 2035.”
  • Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report states that the number of 5G smartphone subscriptions worldwide will exceed 500 million this year. That’s double from 2020 and the momentum will continue in 2022 when subscriptions are expected to pass one billion.

With numbers like these, it’s easy to understand the excitement around 5G. But for businesses to see the benefits, they need employees with skill sets that extend beyond the 3G and 4G worlds we are leaving behind — these networks utilized similar technologies which eliminated the need to upskill teams, hastening the transition from 3G to 4G.

This is not the case now. 5G requires people with aptitude and experience in an entirely different set of technologies. This explains why Boston Consulting Group estimates that it will create 3.8 million to 4.6 million jobs in the US alone.

As businesses begin searching to construct their 5G workforces, various skills are required to start building your 5G workforce. Some examples of areas that your 5G professionals must be skilled in include:

Software-Defined Networking (SDN): You will be looking for people that have experience with SDN, a new architecture that turns a wireless network infrastructure from a close environment to a more agile and cost-effective network, where external controller control is moved from network hardware to external controller. This allows teams to quickly introduce new services or changes. Many view SDN as the key to enabling 5G to meet its ultimate promise.

Some specific skills here include network engineering experience focused on designing, implementing, deploying and supporting a production network at an enterprise-scale as well as at an enterprise scale

Software-Defined Radio Access Networks (SoftRAN): SoftRAN is key to supporting network slicing, which is the process of creating multiple virtual networks. While each is part of a physical network, network slices can be automated and used for distinct applications with specific requirements.  

When it comes to SoftRAN, you’re seeking people who have experience in network programming, radio frequency transmission systems, C++, Linux, and Java.

Edge Computing: While 5G delivers dramatically increased network speeds (4X that of 4G LTE), it’s the edge that dramatically reduces latency. It brings the computing capabilities we experience in the network to the user, regardless of location. This includes those areas notorious for spotty connectivity that we are all familiar with. Ultimately, the edge is essential for 5G meeting its full promise.

Your edge computing people will have experience in continuous integration and delivery, Java and Python, as well as edge/IoT applications and system design.

Network Virtualization (NV): NV removes the network’s dependency on hardware, allowing it to run virtually on top of the physical network, where it can accelerate the deployment of applications, improve security, and reduce costs.

Key NV-related skills include experience with continuous configuration automation tools, application programming interfaces (APIs), programming languages, as well as success in deploying and optimizing VMware NSX environments and NSX virtual networking implementations.

5G is likely to be the standard in just a few short years, and its impact will be felt across all industries. In healthcare, a connected ecosystem will be born that is predictive, preventative, personalized, and participatory. In manufacturing, we will see new smart factories that fully leverage the power of automation, artificial intelligence, augmented reality for troubleshooting, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The list goes on.

All these innovations and many, many more are within reach but will be fueled by the next generation workers who have the requisite skills to make it all happen. For businesses, the time to begin assembling your 5G workforce and forging an ecosystem of partners to help with this journey begins now.  

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