Telecom 2020: Growth Drivers and Trends

Telecom 2020: Growth Drivers and Trends

Telecom 2020: Growth Drivers and Trends

 

10th of February 2020

One thing is certain in 2020: if telcos want to embrace new technologies that promise to revolutionize the industry, they will need to invest in infrastructure that enables them to support and monetize these technologies. According to a recent global EY report, telcos will pump more into overhauling their conventional IT infrastructure, making digital transformation a major driver this year.

This new infrastructure paves the way for a host of advanced customer-focused technologies: 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), to name a few. Which ones are right for you and how can you maximize your chances of success? There’s no one answer: the key is finding the right mix of offering relevant to your market and context.

 

mobile money profitability

An analysis from Telecoms CAPEX: Worldwide Trends and Forecasts 2017-2025 shows that digitalization and 5G will be the key drivers affecting CAPEX growth.

Technologies transforming telecom

Here’s a roundup of the year’s biggest trends and what they could mean for you:

5G
Higher speeds and lower latency mean that 5G supports use cases like immersive content (augmented reality, virtual reality) and high-resolution video, helping CSPs deliver an unmatched customer experience to gain a competitive edge. As 5G progresses towards large-scale commercial viability, service providers have begun trials of new use cases, and the results are encouraging them to readily adopt the next-gen technology. As more devices and use cases become viable, the revenue potential continues to grow along with the need for flexible IT systems to support them.

Cloud Computing
Cloud computing in the telecom sector relies heavily on the adoption of data and logic separation principles, SDN/NFV, DevOps, microservices, and more. It gives telcos the flexibility to acquire the corresponding services – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS), which extensively increases scalability, standardization, self-service automation, and reduces operational costs. Telecom players should adapt their IT processes and prepare for related security implications such as identity theft, unauthorized access, relinquished governance and compliance policies, data security and breach of privacy, as well as inconsistency across on-premise and cloud platforms. A recent Telecoms.com report predicts that 5G will mean wide-scale adoption of edge computing. The market is quickly evolving from a centralized to a distributed cloud, and it is expected that this year, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be processed outside of centralized data centers.

Artificial Intelligence
From virtual assistants and chatbots to knowledge engineering, smart machines, and autonomous vehicles, AI has the potential to replicate human cognitive capabilities. It will help telecom service providers offer a transformational customer experience while they manage, optimize, and monetize their infrastructure using different business models. Use cases include network optimization, predictive maintenance, virtual assistants, RPA, and many more.

Blockchain
Blockchain is a gamechanger for securely conducting business with third-parties while reducing costs and increasing revenue. CSPs can leverage blockchain to offer new services using tamperproof transaction management and automated contracting. Applications include 5G enablement, mobile financial services, data management, fraud management, identity management, instantaneous connectivity and transaction, IoT connectivity, number portability, roaming, and more.

Internet of Things
IoT will, in conjunction with 4G and 5G, change how people communicate and interact with technologies opening up new revenue streams for service providers. It is an essential part of capturing and transmitting data to power smart city use cases like smart lighting, smart grids, heating, and lighting. Telcos are applying IoT to home automation and wearable devices to enhance their overall customer experiences. In the coming years, IoT smart sensors will be implemented in gaming environments, healthcare, personal fitness goals, sports, and more.

Cyber Resilience
The telecom industry has always been the most vulnerable target for cyberattacks given the vast amounts of sensitive data stored on various complex networks. A few years ago, for instance, one of the more significant attacks compromised the personal details of 157,000 TalkTalk customers. 5G brings its own set of security threats, and telcos need to prepare for any kind of direct or indirect cyber attack. This means building adequate IT infrastructure and pairing it with talent and processes to support resiliency. Effective cybersecurity must include the implementation of threat detection, incident response methods, and prevention methods.

How to seize these opportunities

Start your digital transformation journey now

A recent report predicts that the OSS/BSS market is expected to grow from USD 2.77 billion in 2019 to USD 8.78 billion by 2026, indicating a significant potential for telcos to support diverse digital services than limited traditional services. To ensure successful digital transformation, CSPs need to upgrade to digital BSS, which can be implemented in phases to pace out investment. This helps operators seize data opportunities as the market evolves and ensures quick time-to-market, monetization, and smooth management of the latest communications services. A next-gen digital BSS stack also facilitates high-value 5G use cases, including IoT (management and offers), and experience-based charging.

Invest in 5G infrastructure
As 5G permeates, mobile operators will need to invest significantly in 5G infrastructure to deliver high data speed, low latency, and to support billions of connected devices. Besides the billions being spent on 5G RAN, the 5G Core is an important investment. 5G Core with cloud-native features expands the service capabilities of telcos; provides scalability and agility; supports 5G network protocols including extensive use of REST APIs and eases migration to service-based architecture.

Ensure strict regulatory policies
According to Statista.com, the number of devices connected to the IoT is expected to reach 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025. IoT-enabled networks are more vulnerable to major cyber invasions and crimes. Insufficiently protected devices such as laptops, tablets, routers, webcams, smartwatches, automobiles, and home security systems can be turned into weapons by hackers, cybercriminals, or hostile organizations and states, so it’s essential to implement adequate cybersecurity measures.

Overcome network coverage issues
Having reliable 5G network coverage will require a massive investment of time and finances. Operators can resolve network coverage issues by taking these measures:

Infrastructure sharing alleviates network coverage issues and helps operators deliver better connectivity and network performance by pooling resources to maximize coverage buildout.

The open radio access network (O-RAN) movement is separating the software and physical layers of RAN, eliminating vendor lock-in and allowing budgets to go much further in procuring equipment.

Network monitoring tools remain a powerful mechanism to resolve network issues. These tools provide real-time alerts to the concerned teams when there is downtime, device unavailability, performance issues, or any deviation from an accepted network baseline. Further, network configuration management tools help track any changes in settings and send alerts in case of unauthorized changes while providing a mechanism to roll back to earlier settings.

Also, Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi)/WiFi Calling helps overcome the challenges faced by subscribers due to poor or no network coverage. VoWiFi helps customers make calls and remain always-connected, increasing the quality of services and customer experience.

Automate inventory management
One of the major challenges operators face with 5G is managing billions of IoT devices. Further, with evolving technologies, the CSPs having diverse partnerships require constant efforts to manage and allocate resources and inventory. Inefficient management could lead to complicated and faulty invoices, increased risk of fraud, data breaches, insecure network endpoints, and revenue losses. To avoid these complications, CSPs should have a universal system with legacy and new automated inventory tools, which also maintain an inventory of virtual networking components and logical networks like network slices. Subsequently, deploying a next-gen inventory management system provides real-time inventory information with factual and predictive data, helping make quick allocation decisions that ensure the conservation of investment and help gain an edge over competitors.

Manage partnerships efficiently
CSPs need real-time billing and policy control capabilities to seize and monetize opportunities that all-IP 5G means new devices, use cases, partnerships, business models. This calls for diverse partnerships inherent in wholesale and 5G networks. With growing complexities of managing diverse partners, it multiplies the challenges to efficiently manage several partners like wholesale, interconnect and roaming partners, OTT/content players, distributors, MVNO, affiliates, and agents. Deploying end-to-end partner management and settlement solution (PMSS) helps operators smoothly and flawlessly manage the complete partner lifecycle and support distinct agreement policies, revenue models, and settlement modes. PMSS plays a vital role in the 5G business and has the highest potential to launch innovative 5G billing use cases like network slicing, device-based experiences, converged offerings, and more.

Digitize customer experience
A Walker study suggests that by 2020, customer experience (CX) will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Enhancing and digitizing the customer experience should top the list for every forward-thinking telco. 5G and IoT will likely emerge as the new battleground, with operators keen to employ new digital business models. And as expectations cross industry boundaries, telcos must remain focused on redefining the CX with more innovation, such as deploying AI-based tools and omnichannel support.

Be prepared for what’s next

5G is expected to significantly change the face of telecommunications. The three main use cases of 5G – Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Massive Machine-type Communications (mMTC), and Ultra-Reliable and Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) – promise to deliver superfast wireless connectivity, lower latency, and digital innovations. And while it is expected to revolutionize the customer experience, 5G will stimulate the demand for next-gen devices, adding to severe network densification. With this forecast, CSPs have huge revenue potential from their retail and enterprise clients by digitalizing the customer experience. Additionally, they can offer B2B and B2C clients an enhanced spectrum of services such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and a host of other leading-edge next-gen services. Operators can unveil the monetization opportunities that 5G promises and achieve a high-level of orchestration and automation with a robust 5G Core solution along with a modern digital BSS stack.

Rani Shanmugam

Rani Shanmugam

Marketing Content Writer

Long story short, Rani writes about the workings of telecom networks. Short story long, she has a rich and diverse background as a developer, business analyst, and technical writer for broad-spectrum solutions across various industries, and is now focused on telecommunications marketing. She unwinds by painting with her toddler son and loves to whip up elaborate meals fit for a feast.

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Native WiFi Calling Gaining Ground on OTT Calling

Native WiFi Calling Gaining Ground on OTT Calling

Native WiFi Calling Gaining Ground on OTT Calling

4th of October 2017

Making calls over WiFi is no new thing to us. It’s hard to even remember the days before online video and chat OTT services like Skype and WhatsApp. However, what was once an experience distinct from cell phone calling, requiring separate software and logins is now becoming integrated into standard cellular service, altering how people make their WiFi calls.

The Early Days of Native VoWiFi

Apple’s iPhone started the change. When FaceTime launched 7 years ago, the shift started to happen almost overnight. Like iMessage, if you were connected to WiFi, you could make FaceTime video and voice calls without using your cellular data or voice plan. The benefit to subscribers was immense, considering most people spend the majority of their time connected to WiFi. The only disadvantage of FaceTime and iMessage? It only worked between Apple devices.

Today’s Native VoWiFi

Fast forward to today. Now, calls can be made over WiFi to any other device, be it another cell phone or a landline, just by calling as you would for any call through the device’s native dialer. What does this mean? Gone are the days of WiFi calling’s dependence on OTT apps or the need to have an Apple device! For operators, instead of a threat, WiFi calling actually presents a unique opportunity for real innovation. Plus, if operators implement VoLTE, this offers users a truly seamless handoff from cellular to WiFi calls, presenting an extra incentive to not use OTT apps, as they can remain mobile, even when calls began over WiFi.

Native WiFi Calling vs OTT WiFi Calling

OTT (over-the-top) VoIP WiFi calling is a cloud-based service that requires a separate client and typically does not allow for mobility. Carrier WiFi calling, on the other hand, is integrated with the mobile carrier’s network, uses the native dialer on the handset, and is generally an extension of the mobile subscription plan, and typically includes a seamless mobile experience.

Native vs OTT WiFi Calling

 Native WiFi CallingOTT WiFi Calling
DescriptionUsers’ devices directly access IMS networks to perform voice services with few changes in the core network. Calls will glide from cellular to WiFi and back again without any interruption in service.This is similar to what Skype calling or a voice call over WhatsApp offers, which works great until you leave the WiFi hotspot. Calls will drop as soon as you are out of WiFi range. It is unavoidable for calls to drop since there is no seamless handoff from cellular to WiFi.
Advantages
  • Unified dialing/message interface. No need to fire up a third party app.

  • Voice service continuity can be achieved utilizing the same phone number (seamless handoff).

  • Same QoS maintained as that in VoLTE.

  • Easy set up on the user’s device (just turn on WiFi calling option).

  • Only IMS network remodeling required.
  • Easy to deploy, no IMS or additional network infrastructure necessary

  • From a user's perspective, all he/she needs to do is download the app, register and it’s ready to go.
Limitations
  • An ePDG needs to be in place.

  • Limited user devices support WiFi calling, currently the latest models of iPhone, Samsung, LG, HTC to name a few (this list is naturally going to get bigger over the time)
  • Not a carrier-class voice solution, thus less reliable.

  • Lack of service support

  • QoS not guaranteed (no ownership of customer experience).

  • No general and regulatory services provided. (i.e. Emergency calls).

  • No standards defined.

Native WiFi Calling Benefits

Overall, native WiFi calling can be a win-win solution for both subscribers and operators. According to an Ericsson Consumer Lab study1, the key reasons users are interested in native WiFi calling are those shown in the chart below. Users value the fact that they do not need to download any extra apps or perform any additional logins. They also appreciate that their VoLTE calls get seamlessly handed over once they come in the range of WiFi, and vice versa. But, the bigger drivers are extended coverage and eliminated roaming charges. Gone are the days of going out on the back patio to get a better signal because the inside of your house is a dead zone. Or avoiding calls while traveling abroad for fear of the massive roaming charges you might rack up.  For carriers, these subscriber benefits correspond with distinct business gains, such as reduced CAPEX and OPEX, new revenue streams, competitive advantage, improved customer experience, increased international service, improved quality of experience, and first-mover advantage.

Voip wifi calling

Conclusion: Watch Your Back, OTT!

With all the benefits of native WiFi calling, it’s easy to see why OTT apps are losing their stronghold on the WiFi calling market. It will be interesting to see how the OTT market changes over the next few years to try to remain competitive and relevant!

Learn more about WiFi calling with Alepo’s white paper.

Ryan Gray

Ryan Gray

Partner and Sales Director

Ryan is intrigued by where telecommunications will go in the next few years. As a Partner and Sales Director, she’s been exposed to many aspects of the industry in different technologies and markets. When she’s not speaking in telecom acronyms, you can find her traveling the world, skiing the Colorado Rockies or doing DIY projects on her home.

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WiFi Calling vs. WiFi Offload

WiFi Calling vs. WiFi Offload

WiFi Calling vs. WiFi Offload

    20th of September 2017        

While on a call the other day, it occurred to me that even highly knowledgeable people in the telecommunications industry have a difficult time deciphering the differences between WiFi calling and WiFi offload. The two types of technology are both constantly talked about, and often in relation with one another, but somewhere along the way, the defining line of what distinguishes them has become blurred. I’ll try to clear up this confusion so that you can make clearer decisions when the time comes for you to consider WiFi strategies. To start, let’s explore WiFi Offload…

The (Abbreviated) Origins of WiFi Offload

Years ago, the industry was hit with a pair of realizations: 1) the current cellular infrastructure wasn’t going to be able to handle rapidly growing data usage and 2) WiFi is a much cheaper and easier network to build than cellular. So, the solution of utilizing WiFi to handle cellular traffic was born.

So, Just What is WiFi Offload?

Getting slightly technical, WiFi Offload uses EAP-SIM/AKA technology, to automatically “offload” cellular users onto a recognized WiFi network as soon as they come in the range of the hotspot. Offload is as straightforward as it sounds. The EAP-SIM/AKA authentication compares the SIM information in a user’s phone to the information in the mobile provider’s home subscriber server (HSS). If the SIM credentials match, it kicks a user off of the cellular network and puts them on the WiFi network, without any action from the end user. The experience is seamless for the user and they shouldn’t even notice that their phone has been offloaded onto WiFi. This is similar to the way that your phone automatically connects when you come within range of your home WiFi. The difference is that the user is automatically offloaded onto hotspots they have never connected with before, and there is no need to enter a password or key.

Why Mobile Network Operators are Interested

Offload helps operators ease network congestion and improve the quality of service their customers receive in high-density areas. Often, operators will put hotspots in crowded public locations, like a stadium or downtown area, where network congestion is high. Operators can also “expand” their network coverage, installing hotspots in areas with poor cellular coverage, instead of installing a microcell. The main benefit here? WiFi is MUCH cheaper.

If those benefits weren’t enough, operators can form partnerships with other businesses/ISPs/MNOs in the area, or worldwide, to let their subscribers automatically offload onto the business/ISP/MNO WiFi networks as well. The advantage here is that operators can expand their network without making any investment in hardware. Plus, they can gain revenue by letting other operators’ customers roam onto their WiFi network.

Depending on their business model, operators utilizing WiFi offload can either continue to charge customers at the same rate they would for cellular data or provide WiFi access free of charge. Regardless of charging models, operators and customers gain significantly from utilizing WiFi Offload.

Operator Gains:

  1. Free up space on the cellular network, especially useful in high density/congested areas
  2. Provide a higher-quality of service (QoS) to all users
  3. Form partnerships to expand their network coverage without investing a dime in hardware

Customer Benefits:

  1. Save cellular data if their operator doesn’t charge them for the WiFi use
  2. A boost in QoS makes streaming movies and video chatting much better, and customers won’t experience the frustration of not being able to send a Snapchat or post to Instagram when they’re at the biggest football match of the season.
  3. Say goodbye to dead zones! Customers will love the increase in coverage locally and/or worldwide.

So, What’s WiFi Calling?

WiFi calling is related to offload, but not quite the same. So, now you have a network of WiFi hotspots around the city, and you are offloading users onto it. Great! Now the issue is, how will a user choose to make a call?

The Rise of OTT Apps

Traditional mobile phones could only make calls on voice networks (2G and 3G). To fill this void, OTT apps like Skype and Whatsapp hit the market with high-quality calling and messaging enabled over any data connection, LTE or WiFi. Operators then started to see a huge decline in the revenue they used to get from voice calling and text messaging. Users realized that they could save their minutes and messages by simply calling and messaging with their OTT apps. Operators were forced to focus on data as their key service offering. Finally, voice over LTE (VoLTE) was introduced and calls could be made over a data connection. But, calls still couldn’t be made on WiFi. But it was only a matter of time. Today, all new phones hitting the market are WiFi calling enabled too, meaning a user can make a call on WiFi with their phone, without using an OTT app. This is often referred to as VoWiFi. But, native VoWiFi calls (not through an OTT app) will not work on a WiFi calling enabled smartphone unless the operator makes the required changes in their network. This is what a WiFi calling solution provides. So, until the operator changes out their network, their users will have to use an OTT app to make VoWiFi calls.

The Fall of OTT Apps

The time has finally come for operators to take back what they have lost from OTT apps. When an operator has a network that supports both VoLTE and VoWiFi, they can provide a seamless experience to their users. So, when a user is on a WiFi call and they move out of range of the WiFi hotspot, the call is seamlessly connected to the LTE signal and the call can continue uninterrupted, and vice versa if they come back into range of a hotspot. Because all new handsets are WiFi calling enabled, this functionality is going to become progressively important as calls are increasingly made on a WiFi or VoLTE connection, as opposed to the traditional voice networks. The fact that operators are already decommissioning their 2G and 3G networks is an indication that all calls in the future will be on LTE data, which is going to increase the need for seamless VoLTE to VoWiFi calling.

Why Mobile Network Operators are Interested

The key benefits of WiFi calling for operators:

  1. Combat OTT apps and gain back lost revenue
  2. Provide a better, controlled QoS compared to OTT apps
  3. Provide benefits to subscribers. Happy subscribers = loyal subscribers!

The key benefits of WiFi calling for users:

  1. Simplicity! No need for an app. Just call straight from your phone’s native dialer.
  2. Calling over WiFi doesn’t use up talk time minutes
  3. WiFi calls don’t waste LTE data!
  4. WiFi often has a much higher-quality and a clearer sound

Conclusion

So, while WiFi Offload and WiFi calling are distinct, they both provide benefits to operators willing to shift their network to support calling over WiFi. While offload is designed as a dynamic solution to congestion and limited coverage, WiFi calling provides an opportunity for customers to originate calls over WiFi, not just get offloaded when the cellular network falls short. This gives customers and operators the opportunity to preserve cellular network integrity, and offer higher-quality calls at a lower price. To combat OTT apps and increase customer satisfaction, WiFi Offload and calling present the perfect opportunity to increase revenue and quality of service in a highly competitive market with plateauing or falling profits.

Ryan Gray

Ryan Gray

Partner and Sales Director

Ryan is intrigued by where telecommunications will go in the next few years. As a Partner and Sales Director, she’s been exposed to many aspects of the industry in different technologies and markets. When she’s not speaking in telecom acronyms, you can find her traveling the world, skiing the Colorado Rockies or doing DIY projects on her home.

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