The telecommunications industry has always been dynamic, but the pace of technological change is now faster than ever.
For telecommunications providers, standing still is not an option, and many will be left wondering if they can keep up with the changes, or if they will be displaced.
With this in mind, we spoke with Oliver Rowe, founder and CEO of Fusion Communications, about the ways in which telecoms companies can stay competitive in the face of changing customer needs.
How important is it for telecoms companies to remain customer centric in light of our growing reliance on digital technology?
“Customer centricity has always been important. Previously, traditional telecommunications infrastructure had to be operating at 100% as often as possible, keeping customers happy and connected, primarily through fixed phone lines.
“Despite advances in technology, the guiding principle hasn’t changed: keep customers happy. However, even as a customer-centric industry, we need to be proactive and anticipate what’s coming and understand the direction that society and technology is taking.”
In what ways did the pandemic impact the change in customer demands from a telecommunications standpoint?
“The world changed in 2020, and telecoms companies had to act fast with the swift move to online. Of course, there was no warning, but the industry had to deliver to meet their customers’ new demands.
“Since the pandemic, telcos have seen a shift in requirements for a digital workplace, resulting in the increased demand for high-quality network connectivity. With the surge in fixed and mobile traffic, they had to update their offerings almost overnight, fulfilling not only the increased network requirements, but also ensuring resilient connectivity.”
Research conducted by Fusion Communications found over 52% of businesses planned to adopt hybrid working long term post-pandemic. Does this percentage surprise you?
“I think many office-based businesses were always going to move towards hybrid and remote working eventually, but the pandemic accelerated the shift. Companies now realise permanent remote working is the future — pandemic or not.
“Some of the world’s biggest organisations have paved the way for this. In June 2021, Amazon stated its employees whose positions allow them to work from home could do so two days a week, and Apple now offers 100% remote work options for some of its roles, as well as a hybrid work model for others.
“For some, hybrid and remote working is a ‘no brainer’ – not only can it allow companies to reduce their overheads by removing the need for expensive office space, but it can also provide workers with the freedom to create their own schedules and work from wherever they please.”
Which technology should telcos take advantage of to cater for the increased popularity of hybrid working?
“Workplace access demands have changed with the rise of hybrid working, and users no longer rely on a single workstation, likely requiring their office and workspaces, a mobile device, and potentially a smart accessory.
“There are several technological advancements, such as the continued development of IoT, 5G, and Wi-Fi 6, that telecoms companies should take advantage of in order to provide the best solutions.
“Wi-Fi 6 will help businesses scale their working environments without sacrificing user performance. It offers faster connectivity speeds, improved battery life, and less bandwidth congestion.
“IoT allows workers to complete vital tasks without the need for physical presence, providing more freedom and flexibility. As businesses continue to adapt to hybrid working, IoT will allow them to maximise output, collect data, and analyse behaviour of employees both home and office based.”
According to the CCS Insight report, this year, global 5G network connections are expected to reach 1.34 billion. Is this expansion expected to change customers’ telecommunications demands?
“With the introduction of 5G, there is the opportunity for new revenue streams, specifically by supporting service providers relying on 5G, in addition to end users. It will allow telecommunications companies to begin monetising their networks and adapting delivery to suit a wide range of cases.
“To achieve this, they will need to focus on maximising country coverage by focusing on 5G services that are already compatible with 4G core mobile networks, followed by expanding high-speed availability, before finally reimagining their products and revenue streams with new business opportunities.”
Research from McKinsey reveals 45% of millennials and Gen Z-ers are turning to social media to access customer service, leading many businesses to switch to a ‘digital first’ approach. What effect might this have on telecommunications demands?
“There is no doubt in my mind that the digital market is dominating, and the door for more over-the-top [OTT] services is wide open. Digital natives now offer the same staple service of voice, messaging, and video calls that was previously traditional telecommunications providers’ domain.
“When customers take stock of the quality of their connectivity solutions, they are no longer strictly comparing service across standard telecommunications providers, but across their experiences with digital-native OTT services.
“Providers have the opportunity to take stock of their business models to build on services previously provided and offer something new.
“However, they should act quickly, as new rivals with little connection to the telecommunications industry are fast encroaching on the sector.”
Digital disruption is continuing to reshape the communications landscape with the rise of OTT and app technology. Should telcos be concerned by the increase in new digital start-ups?
“Telcos should embrace the change as opposed to shying away from it, if they want to avoid letting digital-native start-ups run away with new digital business model ideas.
“In fact, providers are well placed to create value in the industry if they recognise and seize the opportunity. Telecommunications providers that remain complacent risk losing out to tech-savvy start-ups, but those willing to move with the times will stand the best chance at fuelling business growth and creating potentially high-value, innovative models.”
In the new age of digital, what do you believe is the future for telecoms companies?
“Apps and OTT technologies are unable to completely distance themselves from the traditional telecommunications network, and there is an opportunity for both industries to form a symbiotic relationship.
“Telecommunications is set to expand exponentially as the world moves into 5G and beyond, and providers will need to keep pace by rolling out new infrastructure on demand. However, they need to find the right balance between enticing new customers while still satisfying existing subscribers.
“The industry has already faced challenges and proven that we can act fast to overcome them, and while they may be unprecedented, we are an industry built on going where no-one has gone before.
“With this in mind, the way we respond now to the transformation of the digital landscape will chart our pathway into the future.”