Optimization and digitalization: telecoms in 2021

The world over, communications service providers (CSPs) are busy putting 2021 plans into action.

These plans will inevitably center on two key areas. Firstly, telcos must protect and optimize their core business. Secondly, they must know how to make the most of the digitalization and virtualization shifts we saw in 2020.

Here’s how operators can drive growth in 2021:

Part I: Protecting and optimizing telecoms business

The impact of Covid-19 on the global economy will continue to be felt for some time. Focus on optimization – utilizing data insights and fraud prevention solutions, and managed services which allow operators to focus their resources on domestic volumes – are going to be key areas to enhance their business.

The big data opportunity: Advanced analytics

Optimizing  roaming traffic will be front of mind for operators seeking a competitive advantage in today’s altered roaming environment. The surging demand for IoT roaming provides the opportunity to boost revenues. The M2M market, for example, is projected to grow from $8.3 billion in 2020 to $21.0 billion by 2025; a growth rate of 20.4%. To harness this opportunity, accurate, 360-degree network visibility is vital. Operators must be able to automatically identify M2M and IoT devices on their network, with granular views on device type, behaviours and needs, so as to provide tailored experiences and pricing models accordingly. This is a critical step toward IoT monetization.

Security as an ongoing priority

Security remains a critical concern to safeguard operator revenues and protect their customers. The cost of telecommunications fraud is estimated to be €29 billion a year. The threat of fraud will never disappear, and in 2021 industry collaboration and investment in new solutions will be as important as ever.

We’re witnessing an increase in demand for solutions to tackle newer threats, such as robocalling. Automated approaches to fraud enable proactive infrastructure testing and real-time threat prevention, protecting revenues and subscribers.

2021 will also see the move towards standalone (SA) 5G and the roll-out of private 5G networks (more on that later!). As of September last year, the GSMA had recorded 106 commercial 5G launches, predicting that 5G will account for 20% of all global connections by 2025. This will require the adoption of robust security solutions. As such, we’ll see a greater focus on 5G IPX Security this year. This will give operators greater visibility into international threats and allow them to block attacks before they start.

A better managed business

A re-focus by operators on their core business is crucial for a return to a growth year. We expect some will value a redistributed management of parts of their voice and/or roaming business to external experts, as a way to ensure expert management of these domains, while allowing them to focus energies on the core of their business and the customer experience. BICS is already working with customers in Europe and Asia to implement this approach.

Part II: Bridging the digital divide

The second part of the process will be monetization of new opportunities. Here, operators can look to digital and cloud-based solutions.

Cloud numbers and connectivity demand

Covid-19 drove the acceleration in demand for flexible, scalable, cost-effective communications. This trend is expected to continue throughout 2021.

To make the migration as easy as possible, approaches which offer both cloud numbers and SIP trunking will be key in a swift roll-out for businesses. This migration requires secure, reliable connectivity to a cloud services provider.

Voice and SMS services have experienced a boom during lockdown. A2P messaging, for example, has seen an upsurge in demand by healthcare, banking and e-commerce sectors, a trend which is expected to continue. Operators who will increasingly partner with carriers to be able to offer these solutions to their enterprise customers, as well as enriching them with additional capabilities (such as RCS, VoLTE & 5G), will be in a better position to fill these needs.

Finally, CSPs will be tasked with supporting the huge increase in demand from their customers for high quality connectivity and bandwidth, including reach to Public Clouds. They will need to invest in capacity services as well as partner with carriers to support these expectations and deliver a great customer experience.

Private network adoption

To support the high-density and high-capacity requirements of the industrial IoT, many connected warehouses, manufacturing plants, power stations etc. will be looking to deploy private networks. An example of this is the private 5G network at the Port of Antwerp in Belgium.

IoT enterprises will be turning to CSPs to provide holistic solutions of cellular connectivity for such projects. SIM cards that can be inserted into any device, infrastructure that supports connectivity within a private LTE network (e.g. in a connected factory), as well as global connectivity (e.g. when goods from the factory are transported and tracked across the world) are opportunities for CSPs to meet that demand.

Uncertainties remain this year. However, we’re also confident that there are major opportunities for operators. Protect your core business and revenues, develop and roll out new services, and continue to offer an exceptional experience for your customers and subscribers. Adopting this dual-pronged roadmap this year will help operators drive excellence, whatever 2021 has in store.