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In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Anthony Goonetilleke, group president of technology and head of strategy at Amdocs, shed light on the company’s role in the telecoms sector, the importance of connectivity in today’s era, the best approach for telcos’ digital transformation journey, and what standalone 5G can bring.

Tell us about Amdocs, the company’s history, and your role in the telecoms sector.

Nearly 40 years ago, Amdocs started as a Yellow Pages company and later moved into the telecommunications sector. At the heart of connectivity, today we serve the biggest blue-chip companies worldwide, whether they are telecom providers, cable providers or wireless providers. Communications service providers (CSPs) on almost every continent are our customers.

With 29,000 employees around the world and global revenue of $4.3 billion in fiscal 2021, we're very honored and excited to be in the position we are in today, following a lot of hard work. We believe our job is to improve customer experience across the industry. Currently, when Gmail or WhatsApp is down for a few hours, people instantly react that it’s such a pain. But if connectivity like phone or internet are down, that’s a real problem - and not one that we take lightly.

We serve everyone involved in connectivity and work with tier-one customers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Vodafone and Singtel Group. We’re hyper-focused on telecoms, and the billions of dollars we have spent in R&D to innovate within this sector are testament to that. We have decades of experience in how things work, what good looks like and what entails a next-generation customer experience.

When we think about big trends, ubiquitous connectivity feels like it’s getting closer to reality – how do you see that playing out in the coming years?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, connectivity became the beating heart of our society with livelihoods at stake, a hybrid workforce and remote schooling on the rise, and the next level of technology emerging. Imagine going through lockdowns without any internet access — the world as we know it would have ground to a halt. Connectivity was the only thing that allowed society to function with a semblance of normality. With this in mind, we believe that the telecom industry is more important now than ever.

Connectivity underpins some of the most exciting tech trends, from e-commerce to content streaming and the metaverse. The beauty is that we are moving towards a world where you can benefit from this connectivity no matter where you are. Think how far we’ve come in the past decade. Whether you are in Silicon Valley, London or Dubai, you can have the same access to technology and connectivity and it’s getting better with 5G and broadband, among other network improvements. Cultural and geographical boundaries are being broken down by technology, and the world is becoming smaller as a result.

At Amdocs, we create amazing experiences built around connectivity. From buying, using and connecting a phone, to accessing new services and enjoying next generation ‘wow’ moments, it needs to be seamless and straightforward. We feel that our job is to reimagine what the next experience looks like. We live in a golden age of technology, with 5G and cloud at the forefront of a series of advancements that will make the world amazing in the coming years.

Amdocs is a global company, and the Gulf is an area you’ve identified as a key growth market in 2022 and beyond.  What are you bringing to the region in terms of capabilities and experience?

First of all, the Gulf is a region that we are very focused on as we feel that we can add value here, and we want to be part of the ecosystem. We are investing money in terms of putting people on the ground and building local capacity. We are already working with the best service providers around the world and there is every reason that should include the Gulf.

We may not be a unicorn startup, but in the ways that matter, we're still a young company. We wake up every day energized to enter new areas and create new ways of bringing value to our customers. The Gulf is ideal in that it is very advanced from a network perspective, particularly in terms of 5G rollout. 

If you are a new communications company based in the Gulf, Amdocs is the one-stop shop you can come to. We have a unique model of products and services, and you can get the full stack – all the way from an app to provisioning on the network side.

Think of Amdocs as a LEGO store where we have 5G, cloud, and edge ‘building blocks’ that customers select as per their needs. Rather than buying a full set, by choosing the kind of block you want, the only thing stopping you from building something is your imagination.

We also have a very high rate (over 90%) of delivering successful project transformations. There is nobody else that has that type of success rate, with most of our competitors only having between 40-50%. When you’re a connectivity company, you want to partner with someone that is never going to leave, is loyal, and invests in R&D. We believe great things can happen when we come together with our partners in the region.

What advice do you have for Gulf-based telecoms operators looking to embark on a digital transformation journey in 2022 and what is Amdocs role in this?

This advice is not specific only to the Gulf but to every kind of C-level executive. Your competitor is not the next telecom operator. The competition for telecom operators or service providers today is the web-scale companies and other industry disruptors — the Ubers and Amazons of the world — because consumers expect these next-generation user experiences. Those are the types of experiences that they expect from their CSPs, too.

As a service provider, you need to take your traditional competitors off the table and raise the bar by thinking about the experience you provide to customers. This needs to be the experience they are accustomed to on a day-to-day basis (e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Airbnb, etc.). You need to reimagine your experiences and change the competitive landscape.

Most importantly, you need to start. You cannot assume that since you have a lot of customers, you won’t be displaced. Technology is changing very fast, so to be competitive you need to grow and add new services. 5G, cloud, eSIM, and edge computing, among others, are technologies that are ripe to be used right now. If you’re not using them and if you’re not creating that next-generation experience, someone else is going to do that and they will take your customers away from you.

You don’t want to wake up and feel like you were Blockbuster or Blackberry where you were at the peak and suddenly, your customers are gone. The digital transformation doesn’t happen instantly; it’s a build-up. These amazing technologies that we're investing in and building on are going to change the landscape in the next five years.

If you're a customer in this space, no matter what journey you take, Amdocs can partner with you from the start. You can either start small with our self-service commerce offerings or you may want to do a full transformation like our major customers (e.g. AT&T, T-Mobile, Vodafone, etc.) are doing right now in 5G. If your biggest pain point is cost reduction and flow automation, you can choose end-to-end service orchestration. If you want to reimagine your next-generation experience, our digital experience arm projekt202 can help.

What impact will the arrival of standalone 5G have on telcos and their customers — and is there a killer use case you are looking forward to?

I would say standalone 5G is the north star, as it really brings the full power of 5G to the table. This allows us to build these amazing experiences such as embedding connectivity in a VR headset with low latency, delivering medical equipment at a carrier-grade mission-critical level, and adding millions of IoT devices that may previously have encountered problems on a 4G network.

In terms of a killer use case, I don’t think there’s one silver bullet. From my perspective, the one I look forward to the most is coverage. This means that no matter where I go in the world, I will be connected to 5G and I will be getting broadband speeds on my phone. I'm looking forward to the day that a child in Addis Ababa gets the same broadband speeds as a child in San Francisco, Manila or Jakarta.

A world that has ubiquitous connectivity is something I hope to see in my lifetime and I think we can do it. With regards to that, as a company, we’re also focused on closing the digital divide, so I'm looking forward to the day when technologies democratize across the world and people, regardless of location, can seamlessly access it.

The amazing combination of equality, technology, and connectivity — that's the type of world that I want to help to build and be a part of.

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