The global telecoms industry rose to the challenges that the pandemic created, facilitating communication for work, school, healthcare and social life throughout multiple lockdowns. But what does telecoms’ future hold post COVID-19? A recent McKinsey report argues that an industry-wide reinvention is just what’s required, with increased focus on digital solutions over physical assets. Let’s explore how the telecoms industry is adopting digitalisation on every level.

Individuals, companies and entire industries were forced to switch to remote working and review their operating methods over the last year, which has brought digitalisation to the forefront of business agendas.

 

“Opting for digital solutions is no longer an option, but a necessity.”

 

Moving away from physical assets is being seen at every layer of the telecoms industry — the rise of e-commerce, open platform IT architecture, and eSIM capabilities.

 

Digital operations

The decreasing popularity of retail stores isn’t anything new, but the events of 2020 have certainly accelerated the decline. A 2020 study by Capgemini Research Institute revealed that 59 per cent of consumers worldwide said they had high levels of interaction with physical stores before COVID-19, but just 24 per cent identified the same post-pandemic.

Forced closures for the majority of 2020 meant that e-commerce became the only option for both consumers and retailers. Telcos were left with no choice but to digitalise their retail operations to offer their customers an alternative way to shop and purchase hardware and mobile plans.

The convenience of e-commerce has had a lasting effect on the telecoms industry. In May 2021, electricals retailer Dixons Carphone announced that their Dixons, PC World and Carphone Warehouse brands will disappear from the high streets as part of their rebrand to Currys, reinforcing the idea that consumers rely more and more on digital avenues for telecoms products and services.

 

Digital products

E-commerce and the decline of the high street have digitalised the purchasing process for telecoms customers, but the reach of digital doesn’t end there. A SIM card is an essential piece of kit for any telecoms customer, playing a fundamental role in enabling mobile communication. Device authentication has been traditionally enabled through physical SIM cards, which hold a Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) to authenticate a device onto a network. That is, until the arrival of the eSIM.

eSIMs eliminate the need for a physical SIM card — instead, device authentication can be enabled by downloading a secure element that can be permanently embedded into a device. eSIMs have been gaining traction rapidly, and are expected to be used in between two and three billion smartphones by 2025 according to GSMA Intelligence.

For consumers, the move away from a physical component enables remote provisioning, allowing users to set up their devices instantly without needing to wait for SIM card delivery. For telcos, this streamlines their onboarding process by eliminating the need for logistics and the associated costs of supplying and delivering physical SIM cards to customers.

 

Digital customer experience

However, with digital operations and products on the rise, service providers must also ensure a seamless customer experience to complete the digital journey. Research shows that 32 per cent of telecoms customers find it difficult or time-consuming to manage their telecoms plans via their operator’s mobile app or online store. Moving towards an API-led open architecture will enable operators improve the digital experience for their customers.

Traditionally, integrating innovations in Internet of Things (IoT), software as a service (SaaS) and big data have used point-to-point connections as and when they are required. However, this leads to inflexible systems that are prone to failure and resource-heavy to maintain. API-led connectivity separates APIs to deliver a modular architecture that can be used to compose new services and capabilities, while also democratizing access to enterprise data for increased productivity.

Mobilise’s M-Connect digital platform is a fully customisable, modular solution for service providers (SPs), which allows them to offer their customers a personalised user experience by adopting an API-led open architecture. Separating integration APIs from processing APIs avoids any impact on the overall architecture of the platform if components are added, removed or exchanged, preparing SPs for future changes to operations.

The telecoms industry is at the centre of our increasingly digital world — enabling smooth communication between people and devices alike. Facilitating the digitalisation of other industries and the entire world, it’s important that telcos keep up with the digitalisation that they are enabling in their operations, products, and services.

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