A Great Telco Debate 2017: an industry in transition from introspection to altruism?

The reason d’être of the Great Telco Debate is to air the broadest set of perspectives to help people challenge and shape their thinking around future strategies. It is increasingly evident that the telecoms industry has some major shifts in strategy to adopt in order to find its place in the digital economy. Drivers for the industry are no longer the internal technical and regulatory ones but are now the wider economic drivers shaping each country’s economy. Also Economists are struggling to identify exactly how these will play out but telecoms, now as a General Purpose Technology (GPT), must adapt to the environment around it and not expect the rest of the economy to dance to the telecoms tune. Brand is a tool that telcos can build upon, but excellence in customer service and keeping promises has to be part of the brand value, product and service delivery.

It is fascinating to hear the debates and how critical we all are of the telecoms industry.  However the results of the debate voting seem to suggest that telecoms will do well. Is this perhaps the echo chamber of an industry discussing itself and should we get more outside input for future debates? On the other hand, over the last four years we have seen increasingly pragmatic views on the future of our telcos. The premium waves of mobile telephony, fixed and mobile broadband have now given way to a more utility-like role helping partners and customers join in the digital marketplace.

My high level take aways from the debates:

  • Digital economy: Telecoms must work hard to evolve into Digital Service Providers (DSPs) to lubricate the digital engine and wholesale amongst the B2B2C business models
  • Softwarisation: this is not an either or question, but a need to accelerate the move to a more open environment and drive IT along with the network agenda in order to build the agile offerings for the future
  • Platforms: infrastructure consolidation is not sufficient to be a true platform economy player. Value creation is through bringing different variables together and allowing business activity, not stifling it
  • IOT and Healthcare. Understanding the fragmented nature of industries and their business processes is key. Telcos can help streamline these industries but will most likely do it in a few verticals and more often in conjunction with third parties
  • Analytics/AI: the abundance of data and analysis possibilities are the hidden treasure of the telecoms industry. Identifying the problem to be solved is as critical as the AI and analytics tools themselves. In terms of customer experience, the industry must think about how this benefits the customers and partners in the value chain and not just the telcos
  • 5G: is not the silver bullet to ‘save’ the industry, but a framework for telcos, suppliers, regulators, governments to rethink how telecoms should evolve in order to underpin the digital drive in every country.

Some consistent themes throughout the day include:

  • Telcos now exist in an extended value chain, and may not attract the high margins they enjoyed in the past
  • Telcos are in charge of a general purpose technology, but what a technology!
  • The issue is the lack of consistent quality of broadband, rather than the scarcity of provision.

 

Summary of the Great Telco Debates and Expert Witnesses 2018

1. The role of the telco in the emerging digital economy
Mark Gregory, Chief Economist UK & Ireland – EY
Tim Pritchard, Managing Director Customer Experience – Kantar TNS
Dr Steffen Roehn, Senior Advisor –  Reliance Jio

Debate Motion: In the future, we will get our broadband from Amazon and Google
DEFEATED

2. Progress in Softwarization of the Telco
Mirko Voltolini, Head of Network on Demand – Colt
Jason Hoffman, CTO Digital Services – Ericsson
Darrell Jordan-Smith, Vice President Global ICT Sales – Red Hat

Debate Motion: Virtualization is allowing Telcos to transform into agile businesses
PASSED

3. Identifying the real business value in the plethora of platforms
Ronan Kelly, CTO – ADTRAN
Sreevathsa Prabhakar, Founder & CEO – Servify
Pratick Thakrar, CEO – Inspired Mobile
Sylvain Thevenot, Managing Director – Netgem

Debate Motion:  The network is only a support function in the platform economy
PASSED

4. IoT and the impact on healthcare:
Laurent Vandebrouck, Managing Director Europe – Qualcomm Life
Phil Skipper, Head of IoT Business Development – Vodafone

Debate Motion: Telcos with IoT will be at the heart of healthcare
DEFEATED

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Analytics driving customer experience
Stephan Gatien, General Manager Telecommunications Business –  SAP
Daniel Heer, CEO – zeotap
Orla Power, Head of Marketing – Brite:Bill, an Amdocs Company

Debate Motion: AI and Analytics will finally give customers the service they deserve
DEFEATED

6. 5G as a framework for all future telecoms investment
Clive Carter, Director of Strategy – Ofcom
Hossein Moiin, Technology Adviser – Nokia
Rahim Tafazolli, Founder and Director 5G Innovation Centre – University of Surrey

Debate Motion: The market can’t afford 5G
DEFEATED

Video highlights of the day can be seen at www.telcodebate.com

If you would like the summary document please email  chris@lewisinsight.com

My thanks all the speakers for their insights, the organizers for their efforts and participants for their invaluable contributions.

Save 29th November 2018 for this year’s Great Telco Debate.   Ideas for debate topics, motions and expert witnesses from inside and outside of the industry are, of course, most welcomed.

You’ll never think the same about telecoms again!

 

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