There is good news and bad news for telcos as several consultancies launch reports on how telcos are doing in the data-driven 5G era.
The good news is that we are now into the standalone 5G world, which will unveil hopefully untapped potential for telcos, who need to avoid their Wile E Coyote style booby trap, of giving the digital service providers platforms on which to make more money than them.
More good news is that telcos understand the importance of data, and most are investing in data monetisation initiatives and data ecosystems. About half surveyed by Cap Gemini’s research arm will be investing over $50 million in data initiatives and about three quarters aim to invest at least $10 million.
Investing significant capital in data ecosystems is a) good news for the players involved in the ecosystem and b) potentially good news for telcos, who are expected to lead in these partnerships and initiatives.
The bad news is that telcos are already losing ground in 5G as they juggle and struggle to find partners or find expertise in an ever wider range of technologies, techniques and skills. They come from a background of connectivity, not data analytics.
The rate at which telcos are losing ground spells terrible news. For several years now, interviews, conversations and conferences with the telco community have pointed unerringly towards 5G success for telcos in the enterprise market.
BearingPoint Beyond is the bearer of this bad news (with some good advice on improvements), concluding that only 16% of enterprise 5G deals were led by telcos this year, down from an already surprisingly low figure of 21% during 2020. The enterprises themselves led 32%.
It is, perhaps, inevitable that this would happen. The enterprise will know what it needs to become more efficient, faster and cheaper, far more than telcos. Given the hype of the last few years, it must be bad news.
The question is now ‘can telcos manage data to take back the advantage from others’? At the moment, most companies are engaging with low-level data initiatives, and while many want to engage with more sophisticated ecosystems, the industry and its observers remain sceptical about a telco’s ability (with several excellent exceptions) to take full advantage of a data-driven business.
The bad news goes further.
The sheer volume of data being produced even now is eye-watering, and telcos are struggling with a welter of regulation, ethics issues and privacy that digital service providers are not so bound up by. Telcos have ethics committees that have an innate fear of ‘spooky’ marketing. Yet ‘spooky’ marketing, done right, actually delivers those hyper-relevant adverts that we want.
What of 6G, already on the starting blocks in some countries and regions? South Korea is out in front, with initiatives in the US accelerating too. The bad news is that, in most cases, telcos are not leading the charge, and the ecosystems are now supported by agile and leading-edge digital service providers, such as Qualcomm, Samsung, Interdigital and Nvidia.
While there is some good news for telcos, unfortunately the bad news seems to outweigh it at the moment.