Are Mobile Operators Prepared for the Digital Future?

by Matt Klassen on September 24, 2015

Over the last several months global real-time business support systems leader Openet has been busy polling the telecom world, attempting to gauge the readiness of the industry for the transition to digital. The survey team connected with 101 operators, asking them about the changes that digital services and channels are creating in mobile market, the answers to which offer an interesting glimpse into where operators see the telecom industry today, and how they plan to bridge the gap between traditional telecommunications services and the digital future.

The study reveals that while operators want to better engage their customers with personalized, relevant digital content in real-time to drive up data consumption (and revenues); such endeavours are inhibited by the “inflexibility of existing systems.”

Simply put, operators have big plans for how to effectively compete in the evolving digital age—real-time services, improved customer engagement, faster product development etc.—but find that their legacy systems are holding them back, meaning, surprise surprise, that the past is once again the greatest barrier to moving towards the future.

For months now we’ve known that the future of telecom means embracing digital services, lest operators become yet another antiquated entity of a bygone world, forgotten by the evolutionary process. But as the traditional role of the telecom operator is threatened, Openet’s survey attempts to find out exactly where operators see these threats coming from.

Of course it comes as no surprise that the overwhelmingly popular answer is that operators face pressure from Digital Service Providers like Netflix, Facebook, and Google, companies that aren’t traditional mobile operators, but who ostensibly operate as such, offering customers more features, services, and engagement than the telecom industry has ever thought possible.

Beyond DSPs, however, is the threat of MVNOs, companies like Google, for instance, who are not simply offering digital services, but who are actually building mobile infrastructure, threatening to usurp the last ironclad hold operators have on our mobile existence.

So how do operators envision overcoming these competitive threats and improving their product (and, of course, maintaining their relevance)? As mentioned, operators are looking towards faster, more relevant connection with their customer base, with some companies looking towards Big Data to provide the information they need to better reach customers, while others focus on improving the time between promotional concepts and execution and between product conception and development.

Briefly stated, operators are looking to their greatest asset, their networks, as the backbone of their transition into the digital realm, with many focusing on bundled, multi-channel digital services as the best road to success. For some this means creating more digital services to offer customers, for others this means partnering with existing DSPs to increase the value of their services. Beyond that, some operators view the evolution of IoT as a strong growth area as well.

While this survey covered a wide range of issues, all relevant to how operators view the shift to digital, the one thing that really stood out was perhaps the most obvious, that operators struggle to deliver on their digital promises due to their legacy systems, the infrastructure that was the backbone of our telecommunications for decades, but now stands as nothing but an expensive inhibitor to further future growth.

“These findings highlight a real mismatch between positive intentions from the operator community to leverage all the advantages of targeted, real-time offers and the technical realties of making it happen,” said Barry Marron, the global vice president of marketing at Openet. “In an age of virtualised BSS, technology need no longer be an inhibitor to digital transformation and customer centricity.”

Of course it should come as no surprise that Openet is ready and willing to help with these legacy issues with its own BSS products…but I digress.

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