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Gerardo Canta, managing director, Accenture, Communications, Media and Technology lead in Middle East, Africa, Russia and Turkey

The rapid adoption of digital technologies is changing our lives and the way businesses operate at an exponential pace. The number of connected devices is doubling every four years and we are seeing double digit growth in the number of hours we spend consuming digital content annually.

These advances have increased disruption in the market and offer the potential to drive new revenues, create new value and deliver new experiences to delight customers. Yet, for established companies, the digital explosion can also mean added competitive pressure. There is a sense of urgency for them to capture new opportunities, but they struggle to move quickly enough to do so.

The most powerful business models in the digital economy are platform-based. Open platforms are the key to the success in driving economic and social growth. They enable businesses to move away from the traditional linear relationships with suppliers and customers and adopt a more dynamic and fluid model. It allows them to easily connect an entire value chain through well designed application programming interface (APIs), offering new operating and revenue models, sometimes across industries. 

Technology companies that are born digital have long understood the power of platforms, but there is little evidence that the Communications industry is  moving quickly or decisively to embrace the transformational power of platforms to capture new growth opportunities. They are now facing a stark choice: disrupt or be disrupted-and many are doing both at the same time so that they can continue to grow their core while rapidly adapting to the new market realities.

In spite of a dynamic and disruptive market, here are several positive indicators that suggest CSPs have a prosperous future.

CSPs have the trust needed to become a successful platform business
According to the Accenture digital consumer survey, consumers trust CSPs. Year after year, they top the charts regarding personal data, even ahead of the banks and digital natives. In the era of cybercrime and digital privacy violation, digital trust is a phenomenal asset to be leveraged and positions CSPs well to reap the benefits of becoming a platform business. Take the connected home as one example where they could reap rewards. Consumers are confused when using new smart devices because of managing the ecosystem of connected products, lack of personalization privacy concerns and a lack of customer support. Our survey revealed that 71% of on-line consumers globally who own or plan to purchase connected home services, would choose a telecom operator had they been offered it.  

Access will be a critical revenue growth driver over the next five years
While paid content revenues are expected to grow 2.6% CAGR by 2021, internet access will grow three times more up to 6.3%. The infrastructure investments that CSPs are making in broadband connectivity will definitely payback in the medium term, reinforcing the pivotal position of the carrier as the enabler of the digital ecosystem.

Every CSP operates the biggest computing network in the world
With continued growth in the mobile industry, there are more than 8 billion connections today powered by CSPs, each of them with the computing power of a mini server and several gigabytes of memory. This puts them in a prime position to launch innovative digital services at scale.

To quickly capitalize on the strengths above and capture the untapped opportunities that digital can provide to a CSP, there are three main aspects to be addressed.

The consumer of the CSP services has changed, but the services have struggled to keep pace
The services and content people are consuming have dramatically changed in recent years and we have seen the rise of the 'super consumer', which is those who are most engaged and drive most value. For example, while app traffic has grown 1.4 times in the last two years; mobile web has almost doubled. 700 million people listen to music largely unavailable for licensed download or streaming every month, and about half of them produce new content themselves and post it online. Changes in behavior are accelerated faster than ever before; households have become more diversified and fragmented, and consumer expectations continue to become more demanding. 

We believe that the way to address these rapidly changing behaviors and expectations is to embrace a service design approach, profiling customers as different personas, deeply understanding their values and expectations and re-thinking their digital experience, service portfolio, support and every aspect of the interactions. This is not a one-time exercise, but an ongoing process that should be embedded in the company culture and processes as an ongoing driver of innovation and market offerings.

Service design has a very wide set of application opportunities for a CSP. It requires going beyond the core services to design high value solutions such as smart cities, smart health, education and more. Accenture has successfully been working with CSPs in the Middle East to create a design-oriented culture through the use of a 'Design Studio', bringing together international designers within the CSP's premises and working closely with their teams to embed knowledge and methodology into the company's daily activities at all levels.

The internet of everything is a reality
More and more products have built-in smart technologies and can be connected via a fast network, creating a new layer of connected intelligence. These sophisticated, contextually-aware digital services designed to anticipate and respond to your needs are 'living services'.

The race to transform every traditional product into a living service has begun, as cars are becoming entertainment and communication hubs, homes are becoming connected ecosystems of utility services and appliances, and industrial applications are already in use such as cargo ships that are transmitting data and their routes being optimized by intelligent systems.

Connectivity is the key enabler of such transformation, putting the CSPs in a privileged position to design, build, sell and manage living services, especially in the B2B domain. However, a few elements are required to fully exploit these business opportunities:

  • Deep industry skills are required to design these services, develop realistic business cases, shape proper solutions that can leverage living services technologies.
  • Developing the right partnerships for hardware and software and creating an environment where the CSP can test, pilot, and prototype new living services together with industry clients in an agile and rapid fashion. We have already seen several operators become technology incubators and pilot innovative technologies to shape such living services.
  • Addressing security is a primary aspect. It must be embedded in all processes, services and products and security processes must be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

A connected ecosystem with the CSP at the heart
What makes a CSP the preferred partner in business and the preferred brand for a consumer? It is the ability to aggregate an articulated ecosystem of services into one single, flexible and reliable platform.

CSPs have an advantage in this increasingly fierce competition because of their 'local position in the different markets allows the operator to connect not only end customers with several digital services, but also to create a new platform-based business ecosystem of talent, open data, infrastructure and services. We are seeing increasing success in the region for operators that help support the governmental innovation agendas orchestrating this national ecosystem.

Be a great business in the digital age
CSPs must play a key role in enabling new, open, digital platforms and delivering differentiated consumer experiences. They have the opportunity to become platform based and the growth driver in the digital economy. But they must disrupt now or face being disrupted.

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