How the pandemic has accelerated digital enablement at global telcos


Spotlight on Digital Enablement | Disruptive Telecoms

Communications service providers (CSPs) have been pivotal in enabling the shift to a more digital lifestyle since the beginning of the pandemic. What can they do to keep up? Overwhelmingly, and accurately, global CSPs are responding with digital transformation.

Of course, many telcos have already been on the path to digitizing their networks for some years now, but this past year has accelerated modernization faster than ever before. And this is only the beginning.

The pandemic has had an immeasurable impact: on lives, lifestyles, society, and industry. For millions around the world, digital connectivity has helped redefine a new normal, keeping businesses, governments, and societies connected and afloat. With lockdowns across countries forcing them to stay home, people switched to working, streaming, and learning online, even consulting doctors through telemedicine. Retail businesses, which had to down the shutters of their physical stores, moved online – where they will likely stay for the foreseeable future.

The growing dependence on digital services has put the spotlight on the role telcos can play beyond providing simple connectivity.

Customer needs in the pandemic

To support more relevant and innovative use cases, operators must first understand how the pandemic has shaped retail and enterprise customer expectations. Different geographies each have unique requirements depending on their infrastructure, regulatory demands, and so on, but some themes are common around the world:

  • Virtual services: many countries are yet to vaccinate large parts of their populations, which means it’s still necessary for people to stay at home. Several enterprises and their employees have realized in the past year that can not only survive but thrive through remote working, so long as there is telecom infrastructure to enable social distancing.
  • Bandwidth: as more people work from, study, and live at home, they need residential networks that can support increasing bandwidth consumption, much of which was earlier handled by enterprise networks.
  • Secure and reliable connectivity: offices earlier ensured security through enterprise networks. As more and more office devices are connecting to the internet from home networks, the residential network now needs to provide enhanced security and reliability.
  • Speed, latency, and improved network offerings: Public and 5G open a world of possibilities for consumer and enterprise use cases, and telcos need infrastructure to support diverse needs such as ultrafast speeds, low latency, reliability, security, network slicing, and more.

The three key drivers for digital transformation

Digital enablement provides a host of benefits to operators: it increases operational efficiency, drives profitability and revenue, helps bring services to market faster, and improves company agility. Most importantly, it facilitates CSPs to keep pace with newly evolved customer needs by enabling:

Customer centricity

The way customers interact with their CSP is changing. Many of our telco clients have reported a steady rise in the number of digital customer interactions versus offline ones over the past few years, but they have witnessed a far more pronounced increase since the beginning of the pandemic.

With more customers now expecting a digitalized, personalized, ultra-fast, and zero-touch experience, here’s what telcos can deliver today:

  • Provide the in-store customer experience through a digital channel: digital stores, e-KYC, and self-onboarding mean customers can go online to complete many of the tasks that could earlier only be completed in stores.
  • Automate customer touchpoints: provide a friendly, easy-to-use, and clean UX on all channels that customers use to interact with the CSP. Digitization makes it possible to minimize physical contact through virtual troubleshooting and omnichannel self-care over social platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, and virtual assistants like Alexa and Cortana. This includes digital interactions with agents or chatbots.
  • Leverage data to create personalized offers, promotions, and plans: personalize CX using technologies like AI, ML, and IoB (Internet of Behavior).

Anywhere Culture

One of the main requirements today is enabling ‘anywhere operations’ for retail customers, enterprise employees, as well as distribution channels to support their customers from any corner of the world. This also holds true for telco operations; operators should aim to reduce manual and in-person touchpoints. Removing location constraints demands robust and flexible backend systems that are supported through digital OSS/BSS.

5G, with its high speed, reliability, low-latency connectivity, and more, also facilitates the introduction of a new era of services. The possibilities are truly limitless: doctors performing surgery from anywhere in the world, high-speed internet services for students to attend virtual classes via video conferencing from an otherwise inaccessible village, millions of devices talking to each other and sharing data to help the health department identify probable COVID clusters, self-driving vehicles and smart traffic management, and much more.

Process Automation

Digital transformation helps integrate automation across all business processes and at all levels. Improved internal processes through automation result in higher productivity and improved operational efficiency.

Automating backend processes lets operators efficiently handle complex and repetitive tasks, free up network resources, reduce dependence on staff, minimize errors caused by manual intervention, and keep operational costs low.

Investing in modernizing their OSS/BSS stack enables telcos to launch, manage, and monetize new services faster. It achieves this through a combination of capabilities such as cloud-native services, microservice-based architecture, open APIs and standardized workflows, automated provisioning, fulfillment, testing, chatbots, as well as support for workflows, RPA, and other modern use cases.

CSPs can also automate sales processes, streamlining the sales life cycle, centrally managing day-to-day operations, organizing customer databases, sending timely quotations, ensuring prompt responses to clients, and managing the sales pipeline. They can reduce the workload of creating workflows, sending emails, and configuring alerts and notifications. In addition, they can also leverage data using advanced analytics to make constant improvements to their sales process, identifying potential lucrative sales.

The benefits of sales automation include higher volumes of sales conversions, personalized offerings that help then boost brand loyalty, and more.

What the future holds

There is, without doubt, scope for telcos to evolve and grow even in these challenging times. The fate of the virus is unknown, but digitalization is here to stay. The key is to consider investing in future-proof digital innovations that help streamline business operations and optimize network infrastructure.

A combination of modern technologies such as sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) facilitates richer and more advanced CX and takes automation to new heights. It enables telcos to reinvent the way they engage with customers and keep pace with their evolving digital lifestyle needs.

Operators can deploy many next-gen use cases on legacy networks by implementing modern business support systems. And 5G, with its ultrafast speeds, high bandwidth, and low latency, is set to revolutionize telecom services as well as industries, with applications across manufacturing, healthcare, transport, the Internet of Things (IoT), entertainment, and countless others. It remains just as relevant if not more in the pandemic, with increasing demand for its modern and advanced applications. As early movers in helping operators implement 5G, we at Alepo are confident that next-gen success is possible with an action plan that involves selecting the right deployment model for your business goals, striking lucrative cross-industry partnerships, creating a cybersecurity strategy, and beginning with use cases that you can easily monetize by catering to your customers’ unique needs.