5G is here, and it will force telcos to think very differently. With all the hype around 5G itself and digital transformation in general, the fact is that 5G is forcing real change.
It is interesting to see the different attitudes towards 5G. Some teams within large telcos embrace it as a way of discarding the ‘old ways’ and some see standalone 5G as the trigger for real change. You have to wonder, though, how this new enthusiasm at a team level plays at a risk-averse Board Level.
But telcos cannot just ‘roll out’ 5G. They must become solutions providers. They must become partners with a diverse range of companies that design business-driven ideas.
As Huawei’s Deputy Chairman Ken Hu said at the recent 11th Annual Mobile Broadband Forum, “There’s no out-of-the-box approach to innovation. We’ve got to focus on real needs in real scenarios – and build up the capabilities to meet those needs. This is a challenge. But more importantly, it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved.”
He is right and it is, without doubt, true that no telco (or anyone else) can do this alone.
At last year’s DSP Leaders Summit, Josie Smith, Chief IT Architect with BT, said that there is now a fundamental shift in approach at the company because 5G is so radically different. 5G will be about collaborative thinking, not risk-based thinking. It will address some historical and fundamental telco inefficiencies and “with 5G, you have to pretend it is your first day at a great new job and you have been given some very new and exciting tools to play with”. It allows even big telcos to go from ‘legacy’ thinking to unconstrained thinking.
And some companies specialise in everything under the sun who can help, can provide the expertise for anything, any solution, that is required. And that is what telcos must tap into to succeed in this new world.
What telcos must do – and are doing – is continue to develop their skills and delivery capabilities in areas such as cloud and, importantly, integration.
Telcos are, or are about to become, tailored solution providers and therefore the ability to integrate will become crucial, just as it is crucial for device manufacturers to be able to come up with the range of devices to deliver the data.
Of course, telcos will also be the main players in opening up 5G applications for consumers. The trick, and a priority for the next few months, is to learn to work with anyone, to provide business-focused solutions (and innovation) for almost any company on Earth.