It used to be that writing a predictions piece was a bit the same as last year, but a bit more advanced. There were only so many ways to make basic telephony services exciting. But in the last couple of years everything has changed. This on-going change was highlighted by the $85bn AT&T / Time Warner deal announced in October 2016. This was a public sign of where the telco industry is going in 2017. The deal also highlighted how quickly telcos are changing – evolution is exponential in this industry and not linear. So, with this in mind, here’s my top telecoms/ digital services predictions for 2017.
1. Automated Networks will become Production systems. Changes in Operators software infrastructure and Operations will automate to allow the marketing ambitions of the Operators to be unchained from slow legacy systems. Many leading Operators have modified their Technology strategies to separate out real time, in session service creation and management from very large inflexible billing and network equipment systems. Indeed many are now deploying middleware as adjunct to large IT and Network systems to allow their marketing teams deploy quickly dozens of different campaigns per annum in a safe, frictionless manner than makes the Operators more like Internet companies than traditional Telco or Cable Operators. This in turn means that Content and experience are the new differentiators – it used to be the network was the main differentiator. Not anymore. The network is an enabler – one which customers expect to work. Securing rights to content (movies, sports, TV shows) and offering these (as many multi-play operators are doing) will be a main differentiator to attract new customers. Keeping these customers will be about delivering a personalized experience – across all channels, for all services. This will prove interesting for many service providers as they look to get a single view of the customer, in real-time, for all services used and using that to drive package upgrades.
2. The Wholesale Market will really become active – and there will be a lot more opportunity with MVNOs, MVNEs and Enterprises who will want to utilise het-net connectivity to deliver IOT type services as well as traditional voice and data services. This will mean that “Network as a Service” type capabilities will be an important offering for Operators. It also means that Operators will likely move to compete with Intermediaries like Jasper/Cisco as they seek to share in the huge opportunities in this space.
3. The many universes of SDN/NFV will solidify into standard models and systems as Operators move to deploy these technologies into their production environments. This will herald a period of operators wanting to work with multiple vendors, (not just the large stack 2 or 3), who lead on innovation but are “open” plug and play vendors. Capability, reliability and innovation are central to the Operators realising the benefits of their journeys to becoming Digital Service Providers. This also means that the huge universe of Opensource will become polarised into that which will be adopted and that which will be forgotten
4. Mega digital transformation projects will die. In 2016 we seen a few press releases about billion dollar, 5 year digital transformation projects. In the last 2 years we’re seen many telcos transform themselves into entertainment companies. We’ve seen service providers who will sell everything from taxi services to home security to healthcare. How can anyone plan a BSS project for longer than 2 years out? By the time the project is complete it will be out of date. Service providers are on a digital journey – on a road with many unforeseen twists and turns. As such they need many smaller projects, with a much quicker time to value. The days of a mega-vendor locking in a service provider to a 5 year project that is dictated by the vendor’s release strategy are a thing of the past.
There’s many more advances that 2017 will bring. Information security and data protection will be huge issues in the industry leading to possible new evolutions driven by regulation or market positioning. In both consumer and enterprise business segments, the use of machine learning and AI will start to really get traction and of course we should not forget the inevitable rise and rise of Wi-Fi, and connectivity with everything, or is that everything with connectivity – either way we’re in for an exciting 2017.