Digital adoption continues apace throughout the globe, and communications service providers (CSPs) need to be its engine. So said the speakers in the second MWC Barcelona keynote on value creation, which highlighted the ways CSPs are delivering new and better services to consumers and enterprises in the 5G era.
Bob Sternfels, global managing partner at McKinsey, said use cases in just a handful of industries present over $2 trillion in value creation. It promises an enormous growth opportunity for CSPs, and the question is where and how they can create that growth.
WHERE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION PAYS OFF
In the past, CSPs have supplied the platform for growth, but other players have maximized the opportunity, according to Andy Penn, CEO of Telstra. “And we can’t let that happen again,” he added.
But first, telcos need to change. Back in 2018, Telstra launched their T22 project to simplify their operations and improve customer experience. They encountered hurdles not just in legacy technology, but also a legacy mindset. That’s why Telstra had to invest heavily in both technology and personnel to realize T22’s vision, Penn said.
While Telstra underwent transformation to become future-ready, the process yielded positive outcomes along the way. Penn listed T22 achievements that included rolling out 5G to 80% of their customer base and cutting customer complaints in half.
Looking ahead, however, Penn identified five key trends where CSPs can play pivotal roles:
- The metaverse
- Technology and innovation
- Automation and robotics
- Digital leadership
- Cybersecurity, geopolitics and national security
What all of these trends have in common is “their success rests on the availability of high-quality, low-latency connectivity,” Penn said.
WHERE TELCOS ARE CREATING VALUE NOW
Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business, agreed that CSPs need to play a central role in the new era of connectivity, and she offered examples of what that looks like.
In the U.S., AT&T is leveraging partnerships to deliver 5G, cloud and edge computing services to specific sectors. These include AT&T’s offerings for public safety agencies, U.S. school districts and manufacturers like Ford Motors. Chow also mentioned AT&T’s project to create the first smart city in the U.S. with real estate investment trust JBG Smith.
Chow explained AT&T sees fiber and 5G as technologies that power the future.
“And hybrid networks, which serve as the connective tissue between people and businesses and things and data, will transform how we live how we work how we play in profound ways,” said Chow.
WHERE CONNECTIVITY IS STILL KEY
While CSPs can blaze new trails with 5G, there’s still plenty of unexplored territory in connecting the yet-unconnected populations around the globe.
Millicom CEO Mauricio Ramos said connectivity remains a major opportunity in the emerging Latin American markets where his company operates under the Tigo brand. Less than 50% of the population in those countries has a 4G connection, on average, and 35 percent of households have reliable broadband, Ramos said.
“Imagine the fiber we still have to build,” he added.
New technology and infrastructure can help CSPs like Millicom connect underserved markets. But the markets themselves have factors that show they’re primed for growth. Central America, for example, has a growing middle class that’s being supported by money sent back by family members living abroad. That money is helping to put more households within reach of digital services.
According to Ramos, the underserved “other Latin America” is catching up and “can leapfrog into digitally led sustained development.”
McKinsey’s Bob Sternfels closed the keynote urging attendees to broaden their definition of value creation to include inclusivity and sustainability.
“I do think we have a leadership moment that’s in front of us,” he said. “But it will require us to be bold … and to work in collaborative ways. I’m confident that we won’t miss that moment.”