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Profiting From a 5G Future

The introduction of 5G marks the single biggest technological and commercial advancement for the telecommunications industry to date. When all is said and done, billions of dollars will have been spent making 5G a reality.

Communications services providers (CSPs) are banking on the emergence of new products and services to drive even greater demand in the years to come. 5G will redefine the way people interact and collaborate, as well as enabling the rollout of new services specifically targeting industries.

This means it’s crucial for service providers to prioritize 5G readiness. The question is: will they be truly prepared to capitalize on the 5G opportunity? Based on our extensive work with CSPs, we believe that most are currently not in a position to take full advantage and channel the benefits of 5G into monetizable revenue streams. But why is this, and what do they need to do to get 5G service-ready?

B2B different and put B2B first

CSPs’ initial forays into 5G are predominantly looking at the technology through a business-to-consumer (B2C) lens. As the first 5G networks are launched, there is a lot of speculation as to what the killer app, or apps, enabled by 5G will be. Sigma’s view is that the greatest opportunities for CSPs lie in creating and delivering new solutions for enterprise, as opposed to consumer apps. 5G can catalyze the expansion of CSP services to include new revenue streams beyond their current propositions serving the enterprise market.

The 5G and 5G-related network infrastructure market will grow to $26 billion by the year 2022, according to IDC, and service providers are investing heavily to deliver 5G-enabled services. But, crucially, the opportunity for CSPs to expand their enterprise offerings by bringing specific propositions to industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, technology and transportation, among others, is enormous.

Make it real

Any plan to make 5G a reality will need to address not only the technological aspects of its deployment, but also the changes in processes and procedures needed to exploit these new opportunities. CSPs will need to acquire greater expertise in industry verticals and implement a more ingrained, solutions-driven approach to communications services, rather than focusing on straight network connectivity.

It will require them to move beyond their current mode of operation, responding to demand on a case-by-case basis. This helps providers to become more deeply involved in collaborative efforts to deliver industry-wide solutions. In many respects, the era of 5G may very well be defined more by changes in the way that CSPs engage with enterprises and industries than the evolution of the technology itself.

Data – the 5G frenemy

Operational readiness cannot, however, be ignored, and the ability to manage portfolio data is another key factor in 5G readiness; it is the lifeblood of the CSP business and operations and business support systems (OSS/BSS), defining their ability to create, sell, deliver and monetize services. Data should be the friend of service providers in a 5G world, but right now it looks like it will be the enemy or, at least, the annoying neighbor upstairs.

Looking into the future, we see a world with an entirely different scale of connected devices (yes, your fridge may be broadcasting live on Instagram before we know it), a wider set of network choices and configuration options, more partner offerings, and a greater choice of products from CSPs themselves – all of which means more underlying complexity. This comes with product, service and resource data on a scale that will make it significantly harder to manage than it is today.

Single point of truth

Operational readiness will require service providers to commit to product lifecycle and data management from a single point of truth: in our view, there is no other way of getting around it. Otherwise 5G product, service and resource data could become so unmanageable and disparate that the potential service value is negated by the inability to automate critical create-sell-deliver processes. Getting this right will be key to the profitable delivery of 5G services.

The key is to address the question now; to get the relevant elements of process and systems in place, before the scale of 5G product, service and resource data overwhelms current B/OSS systems.

(This article was originally published on the TM Forum blog, and can be accessed here)

Stephen Krajewski,
Vice President of Marketing