Digitalization is Rapidly Redefining the Telecom Industry

Written by: Saquib Ahmed

“The first thing a refugee asks for, upon arrival at a camp, is not water or food, but the WiFi password.”

This is what the CEO of Turkish mobile phone operator Turkcell, Kann Terzioglou, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding that a smartphone has become a basic human need because it allows displaced people to connect with the loved ones they have been separated from.

While communication services are not as important as food and water for human survival today, everyone needs equal access to digital services and smart technologies to fully participate and keep up with the world that is all set to enter into a new era of globalization – thanks to the rapid digitalization the world over.

The telecommunications industry is at the foundation of this digitalization, shaping the way people interact and conduct business, driving the fourth industrial revolution forward, and setting up an era in which advances in multiple technological areas – specifically when it comes to emerging tech – such as 5G, Big Data, Internet of Things, edge computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. These and many other technologies are congregating to fundamentally change the world. However, to realize this future, the industry must compete with market disruptors and new entrants by adopting new business models and launching innovative intelligent services.

Telecommunication companies play a vital role in connecting people and improving the lives of millions. In recent decades, the telecommunications industry has undergone tremendous technological development, and the capacity and coverage of mobility, broadband, and Internet services have continued to expand. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates that by the end of 2019, there were more than 4 billion Internet users, of which more than 3 billion were in developing countries.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the importance of telecommunications services has become particularly evident. Telecom operators have realized remote work and remote learning have helped people all over the world to stay in touch. They have strengthened their support to the national healthcare system, state and local governments, and corporate customers to keep important processes going. The increasing trend of video-conferencing, telemedicine, e-learning, and online shopping are all among the many proofs of the growing importance of telecommunications in the everyday life of an average user.

The evolution of the network has created opportunities for telecommunication companies to lead the way, enabling other industries to reshape their business processes. Telecommunication products consisting of mere voice, messaging, and data services are eroding. Competition from IT service companies is forcing traditional telcos to embrace new technologies as digital service providers and try innovative business concepts to increase relevance to customers and maintain healthy profit margins.

In this new era of digitalization, the combination of emerging technologies and unabating attention to customers will pave the way. The digital transformation of the telecommunications industry involves instilling the most advanced technological solutions to promote business development, gain a competitive advantage in the market, and ensure an expanded and enhanced customer experience. Thus, the winning telecommunications company will have to provide compelling services and a unique user experience while protecting privacy and ensuring safety. They will have to attract customers through personalized end-to-end experiences at each touchpoint while continuously improving their offerings based on the feedback.

The telecommunication companies that can best collect, protect, and respond to data from customers will score high at customer preference. However, to thrive in the economy, successful telecommunication companies must go beyond basic customer experience. They need to listen to feedback about their services and product portfolio, employee satisfaction, and even brand strategy and respond to it accordingly in order to attain excellence. However, to put these strategic priorities into action, telcos need to pursue transformative business models to offer a more sophisticated experience to both their employees and customers.

Pakistan has also made significant strides in the field of telecommunications, which have emerged as prominent contributors to the country’s economy. To further facilitate its growth, Pakistan’s telecom sector has been given an industrial status by the government for the fiscal year 2021-22. Recently, the Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication has also announced the launch of 5G in the country by December 2022 and hinted at a collaboration with technological giants. With such large-scale projects on the cards, our economy would soon be fully versed with cutting-edge technologies, including blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the likes.

The occurrence of the pandemic has played an important role in promoting the development of digitalization in the industry. From education and health to commerce and finance, telecommunication-led digitization has revolutionized our everyday life, bringing us to the cusp of a world where access to almost all our needs is just a tap away. Therefore, most companies are transforming or have adopted a large number of technologies in their operations. Pakistani telcos are also gearing up to streamline and update their operations with the help of agile digital tools so that they can deliver a quality consumer experience.

However, due to the competitive environment between network operators, the main focus is to provide maximum benefits for general users in terms of access to modern services and better service quality. In order to win in this experienced economy, intelligent companies must learn to link experience with operations. They must use both experience and operational data to guide their business decisions and gather insights from customers, employees, products, and brands at every touchpoint.

One of the main goals of telecommunications is survival and development, and digital transformation will help them achieve the same goals. Therefore, technology adoption must be aligned with sustainability to ensure that the industry survives these turbulent times. In general, the telecommunications ecosystem is set to undergo many changes. Digital transformation is one of them, and it will play an important role in shaping the future of the telecommunications industry and enabling it to make progress in the future.

About the Author

Saquib Ahmed is the Managing Director at SAP Pakistan.