With mobile network operators (MNOs) in Asia Pacific facing slow or stagnant growth, 5G is an opportunity for them to seek out new revenue streams, particularly in the more lucrative and profitable enterprise segment. However, MNOs across the region are still trying to understand how to monetize 5G.
Complicating things is the fact that MNOs have been plagued by legacy practices that encourage a narrow short-term focus, unrealistic projections, a siloed approach to partnerships and solutions, and technology strategy planning that is never really optimal. Additional pressure comes from the fact that 5G is coming up at a time when customer experience is becoming a key performance metric and a top challenge even with 4G.
That said, in a way 5G might be just what MNOs need to address customer experience woes. Embarking on the journey towards 5G will bring about new ways of thinking and working to come up with end to end services through partnerships that focus on the same end-customer. The prize is the ability to regain competitiveness against fiber players and to get back on a growth trajectory.
For MNOs seeking to crack the 5G monetization puzzle, here are three things they need to do.
1. Walk with your customers
If you don’t really understand customer needs, monetization in the 5G era is only going to get harder. There is a lot of data out there that is only now starting to get processed. Bit by bit, we are starting to really and truly understand customers.
Instead of building solutions so that they will come to you, you need to go out and walk with them. The mobile services business is no longer just about enabling communications between people. It is now about enabling industry growth through solutions built through partnerships to meet the needs of the jointly targeted customer.
2. Be ready to scale
Secondly, if you can’t do scale, you can’t do 5G. Unless you are after the wholesale market, the way to fund initial investments in 5G could be via unique niches and leveraging government support to drive initial volume.
Existing partnerships can be leveraged holistically to expedite innovations to market. You will need to revisit long standing partner relationships as well as business models, and co-create more then you have ever been doing.
Capitalize on the edge that 5G will provide. Monetize and grow your customer base through new 5G services (e.g. AI processing) and help verticals to digitalize faster to meet their needs (e.g. B2B needs analytics) and solve pain points (e.g. revenue leakage).
3. Rethink your enterprise strategy
Thirdly, the enterprise segment will become important for 5G monetization. Not having a strong enterprise segment service offering is never a good idea. You will need to revisit your enterprise segment strategy, taking into account that the current technology ecosystem is not geared for the next set of enterprise service offerings. You will need to foster an open dialogue to create a platform to support all current ecosystem players e.g. OEMs, vendors and managed service providers, and future ecosystem players.
Digital services, software-defined virtualized infrastructure and security will become the three key pillars for 5G. You will need to evolve your technology strategy roadmap around these pillars.
Overall, 5G will play a key role in modernizing and transforming digital businesses in a digital environment. Understanding local demand and needs is key to 5G monetization, as well as industry collaboration. Trials by MNOs together with equipment suppliers are starting to address this and increasingly help with business model formulation.
Successful end-to-end solutions require synergistic partnerships and co-creation. For this to happen, the necessary partnerships need to be forged and workable business models and end to end solutions need to crystalize. Also, as with other disruptions, regulations too need to catch up with new 5G use cases. Regulators need to understand and be open to new rules for the intelligent digital age.
Written by Quah Mei Lee, industry principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan