5G is creating a new era of enterprise opportunity, but can telcos capitalise?

The enterprise market is ripe for adopting 5G services, but operators have work to do to unlock value in this growing customer segment

5G is considered the first generation of mobile tech that is set to have a greater impact on the enterprise rather than consumers. KPMG estimates that £3.35 trillion in value is waiting to be unlocked across major industries that embrace 5G such as government, finance, healthcare and manufacturing.

Ericsson, meanwhile, estimates that the addressable market for what it calls “industry digitalization” could grow to about $700 billion by the end of the decade. 

However, this opportunity has required a shift in mindset, both for operators – who are targeting a new type of customer – and for enterprises, which must weigh up how to most effectively invest in new technologies.

A recent report by the TM Forum summarises the situation as follows;

For the first time ever, the mobile communications industry is prioritizing the enterprise market. Indeed, for the past 30+ years, its whole focus has been on serving individuals and consumers, but 5G is changing the target. Now mobile operators and their suppliers believe there is more potential for revenue growth in serving enterprises than consumers.

So what is the appetite for 5G among enterprises? According to a recent study by Nokia, which conducted in-depth research with 1,000 IT decision-makers across seven vertical sectors, nearly two-thirds of companies are aware of 5G and 47 percent say they have already started planning to implement it. Encouragingly for telcos, 61 per cent of businesses said they would look to a mobile operator for advice and guidance when planning 5G deployments.

Energy and manufacturing firms were revealed to have the highest awareness of 5G (see chart). Nokia says that these verticals are exploring 5G for its potential for advanced use cases including infrastructure maintenance, remote machine control, and cloud robotics – all applications could be accelerated following the Covid-19 pandemic.

5G enterprise opportunity graphic

Source: Nokia

Video monitoring and detection was seen as the top enterprise use case with 83 per cent finding it appealing and 48 per cent citing 5G-enhanced video monitoring as a near-term opportunity. Indeed, 75 per cent of businesses surveyed already use video for monitoring purposes, and were therefore deemed able to readily grasp the additional value that 5G can bring in terms of high-quality and uninterrupted video streams.

Nokia says that larger businesses are likely to purchase 5G-enabled video monitoring and detection technology as part of a wider suite of security services, making the security industry an attractive channel to market for service providers. Other top enterprise 5G use cases identified in the survey included Connected Machinery, Fixed Wireless Access, Connected Vehicles, and Immersive Experiences.

So how will operators realign their business models to tap into these types of opportunities?

Whilst providing connectivity services will always be part of an operator’s offering, it is thought they will need to evolve to provide platform services that will allow them to focus on specific applications. According to the TM Forum, this would allow an operator to use connectivity as an enabler as part of an end-to-end solution that could, for example, provide low-cost air conditioning services in a building using IoT. Whilst this approach might capture a larger proportion of enterprise spending, the organisation believes that connectivity (or (‘Connectivity-as-a-Service’) would offer “a far more realistic, achievable opportunity for CSPs”, albeit one with less upside.

But according to a 2020 Omdia 5G report, only one in five of early enterprise deals have been “CSP-led”. Clearly, operators must seize the enterprise opportunity now or risk being outflanked by a new era of competitors.

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry.

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Telcos and the public cloud: the debate set to ignite MWC21

Should telcos be embracing the public cloud?

We talked recently about the challenges and opportunities facing telcos looking to run key parts of their business (OSS/BSS) directly from the cloud – and becoming cloud-native.

This issue has come into sharp focus with the latest twists and turns involving the mobile industry’s largest trade show, MWC, which is still planning to go ahead as an ‘in person’ event in late June despite a string of cancellations from high profile exhibitors.

One company that won’t be in Barcelona is Ericsson. But, in a surprising twist, Ericsson’s exhibition space – one of the largest on the MWC show floor – is being taken over by a public cloud consultancy called TelcoDR. The consultancy’s outspoken founder is talking up the move as symbolic, representing a move from the old guard to a new era of telcos running their businesses from the ‘public cloud’ – i.e. based on one of the so-called ‘hyperscale’ cloud providers such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

The reality is not quite so clear cut. Many of the established vendors supposedly threatened by this trend are themselves enthusiastic supporters of the public cloud. Only a few days ago, for example, Nokia signed deals with all three of the big cloud providers to extend reach of its Cloud RAN and Open RAN technology and accelerate 5G deployments. A spokesperson said the company was “building an ecosystem of public cloud partners that will ultimately support our customers and help them to build compelling 5G use cases”.

Telcos have been striking their own deals with pubic cloud providers for some time. One of the most notable was the deal between AT&T and Microsoft Azure last year: the US operator said it was becoming a “public cloud-first” company by migrating most non-network workloads over to Azure by 2024. In the UK, 3 UK has said it is aiming to reduce costs by 30 per cent by moving its OSS and BSS to the public cloud.

There are multiple benefits for telcos using the public cloud rather than building cloud infrastructure themselves or going with a hybrid model. As George Glass, CTO of the TM Forum explains in a recent post:

Public cloud providers have invested heavily in the automated management of their cloud infrastructure, and this is something that CSPs can leverage with the move to public cloud. The scale of public cloud is such that the promise of compute or storage on demand can be a reality, which is especially powerful if you have applications that experience significant spikes in resource demand. The flexibility and scalability, together with the speed of response in a public cloud environment, are compelling when compared to having to build your own infrastructure.

However, public clouds may not be suitable for every type of telco application. In a recent white paper, IBM’s Red Hat explains how the public cloud may not be the right option for certain applications that require low latency, large amounts of storage, specialised compute, and network protocols. It adds also that telcos must also be mindful that their public cloud partners are (or have the potential to become) competitors to a telco’s core communication services.

It concludes that a ‘multi-cloud’ approach may be the best strategy for now:

When business uncertainties, whether market or execution risks, are high, public clouds offer an efficient way to expand footprint, launch pilot programs, and elastically scale. When production services and applications have established, more consistent demand, private clouds are often able to deliver economic advantages and improved control.

This debate looks set to continue into MWC and well beyond. Stay tuned!

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry.

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Which channels should you be using to reach telcos?

A new report has shed some light on how telcos are influenced in selecting and buying from vendors

Last month we highlighted the problem of ‘digital fatigue’ as a result of the Covid pandemic – and the challenges this presented for B2B marketers, particularly those at tech vendors that want to influence – and eventually sell – to telcos.

A new study by tech PR agency CCgroup, ‘Navigating telco turbulence’, has examined this matter further. It attempts to understand which channels deliver real influence amid a changing landscape of how vendors reach their telco customers.

When asked which marketing channels had the greatest impact on them when it came to increasing their awareness of technology vendors, 55 per cent of telco buyers cited the telecoms trade press, such as telecoms.com, Light Reading and Mobile World Live, as having the greatest impact. The ‘business technology media’ was ranked second.

Notably far down the list was ‘industry events’, reflecting – perhaps – the diminishing importance of trade shows as a result of their year-long absence from the calendar.

Virtual events scored marginally better in terms for raising awareness, but it was also noted that “46% of telco tech buyers believe that vendor participation in an industry or virtual event is a strong indication of its expertise or market leadership on a technological development or issue.”

More than a third (38%) of telco tech buyers said they had watched live or pre-recorded content from industry virtual events during 2020.

Telco Channels graph

Interestingly, the channels that influence buyers to select vendors for RFPs was significantly different to those used simply for building awareness. ‘Internal business analysts’ was the biggest influence here, identified as a “deciding factor” or “major influence” by 57 per cent of respondents.

“Most telcos have teams of internal business analysts to research market and technological developments and drive innovation,” explains the report. “These individuals track market progress by consuming information from a variety of different sources – including vendor websites; industry, national and international media; industry analyst research and industry events.”

When it came to actually selecting a vendor to take part in an RFP process, around half of all respondents could point to industry analysts (51 per cent) or internal business analysts (48 per cent) as having a major influence or being a deciding factor to a vendor being selected.

Telco buyers were also asked if the pandemic had caused them to delay making purchases. 70 per cent of respondents said that this was true, but the majority of delays (55 per cent) had been for less than 6 months.

“What is clear from the analysis is that vendors trying to influence telco buyers must understand the combined impact of a wide variety of different channels if they are to maximise their chances of success,” the report concluded.

At eContact Services we have seen first-hand how the disruption of the last 12 months has impacted how vendors engage with telcos, and what this means for generating and closing sales leads.

The ability for vendors to meet with their prospects ‘face-to-face’ at in-person trade shows will hopefully be possible soon – but it’s clear that the ‘old normal’ will not be returning.

Experience and expertise will be key to navigating this rapidly changing landscape. At eContact Services we draw on our deep understanding of our sector, which includes a database of more than 150,000 telco contacts.

For more than 20 years, our core service has been QUALIFIED lead generation, arranging one-to-one meetings and conference calls with the key people in target accounts, taking the pressure of your sales teams to start ‘cold calling’ potential prospects.

So why not give us a call today?

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Going native: the challenges telcos need to overcome to effectively run OSS/BSS from the cloud

Upgrading systems to run cloud-native apps is key to telco success in the 5G era – but the migration won’t happen overnight.

Like lots of other businesses, telcos have been moving towards cloud-based architectures in recent years. From a BSS perspective, the move away from legacy systems to a ‘cloud BSS’ brings the promise of lower costs, automation and the ability to roll-out new product offerings at speed.

The move to software-defined and virtual networks has helped expediate this migration, but it is taking time. As Ericsson noted in a recent paper, legacy BSS systems may in some cases be “decades-old” but are still being used by telcos around the world today. This makes a quick switch to a fully cloud-based architecture impossible.

“Implementing a completely new, side-by-side stack while maintaining the legacy one isn’t really an option,” writes Ericsson’s Israel Mor. “A gradual, stepwise re-architecture of BSS components to a cloud architecture is needed in order to get the benefits of the cloud while safeguarding existing revenues.”

In a recent report, TM Forum outlined how this situation has led to some confusion around what precisely counts as cloud migration: is it simply “lifting and shifting” existing applications using cloud containers or is it the deployment of applications designed from the outset to be ‘cloud native’?

This question has come to the fore in the 5G era, where telcos need to quickly deploy – and quickly monetise – new types of services and target new types of customers.

As Nokia explains: “Cloud must be re-architected to cloud-native so that [telcos] can get breakthrough business agility in rapidly onboarding new apps and deploying and operating new services. The scale of 5G brings many more devices and a very diverse mix of services, there’s no way legacy operations can keep up.”

To understand how these cloud-native apps work in practice we need to dig a little deeper into the technology and understand the terminology. Intel provides the following high-level description of the four important features of a cloud-native set-up:

  • Microservices: services that work together as a distributed system. Microservices are small, focused and autonomous.
  • Containers: a method of virtualisation that bundles an application with all its dependencies – required executables, binaries, libraries and configuration files, for example – into a singular package.
  • Continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD): a DevOps technique that supports frequent code changes or service updates (sometimes daily) while verifying that those changes do not negatively affect service functionality.
  • Dynamic cloud-based management: taking advantage of automation, Containers-as-a-Service (CaaS), and other orchestration tools to keep the network up and running 24/7.

Meanwhile, Ericsson has developed a “holistic” approach to cloud-native that requires four areas to be fully addressed in order to maximise the benefits: 1/ application design and development, 2/ technology and infrastructure, 3/ processes and ways of working, and 4/ management and orchestration.

TM Forum backs the need for such a holistic approach: “The challenge for CSPs lies in converting the enthusiasm for all things digital at the top of the organisation into a detailed vision for the entire business,” it says. “Without a holistic strategy, cloud migration could fall victim to short-term budgeting decisions.”

Thankfully, vendors are innovating at pace in a bid to help telcos meet these challenges. In January, for example, Google Cloud and Nokia announced a partnership to bring new solutions to CSPs built on a cloud-native 5G Core. Based on Google Cloud’s Anthos platform, the deal enables CSPs to build an ecosystem of services that are deployable anywhere, from the edge of the network, to public clouds, private clouds and carrier networks.

Such offerings will smooth the path for telcos migrating to cloud-based infrastructure – but it may take time for the industry to become ‘fully native.’

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry.

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Engaging with prospects in an age of digital fatigue

Your potential customers are suffering from too many Zoom calls and you still can’t buy them a coffee at a trade show. So what’s the solution?

It’s been almost a year since the first lockdowns were implemented around the world, forcing people to conduct their lives and their business online.

The availability of services such as Zoom, Microsoft’s Teams and others has enabled work life to continue. But it has come at a cost.

London’s South Bank University was one institution that looked at the impact of digital fatigue in employees. It found that remote working generally leads to increased tiredness or “Zoom fatigue” for employees and longer recovery times compared with onsite office work.

Moreover, it added that video calling over Zoom and other platforms is more tiring to deal with than other forms of digital communication (such as emails, texts, or chats), as video calls require higher levels of self-control and regulation of emotion.

This move online has been particularly disruptive for those in B2B marketing, where building meaningful relationships with prospects is key. At a time when trade shows and other face-to-face networking events aren’t available, how is that achieved?

Most marketing departments have sought to replace face-to-face events in their go-to-market strategies with online replacements such as hosting their own webinars and virtual roundtables, or attending third-party virtual events.

The results are often been mixed, underlining the fact that, while the shift to virtual events has been necessary, it has not been easy, nor is it sustainable.

A survey by El Advisory published in November found that selecting the right platforms and formats for proprietary activities had been the biggest challenge in the move to virtual events – 39 per cent of respondents citing this as a ‘high priority’.

This was closely followed by another key challenge: the ability to networking and generate meaningful leads in virtual environments.

This situation can create a perfect storm: businesses having to rely on unsuitable digital channels to generate leads by reaching out to potential end-customers suffering from digital fatigue. It’s hardly a recipe for success.

This is where marketers need expert help. eContact Services has been supporting its clients on virtual events for many years, and understands how to leverage events to drive business objectives.

One of the first questions our clients ask us is whether to attend a third-party virtual event or ‘go it alone’.

Online events organisers are coming up with innovative ways to replicate the trade show experience, but no-one has yet really figured out how to do online networking effectively. As a result, many third-party events can offer little beyond sponsorship packages.

This has served to loosen the grip of the big events organisers, prompting many companies to host their own events in a bid to connect directly with their customers and prospects. In this instance, hiring the services of a specialist company that can identify and target the right audiences and drive them to your event should be a key investment.

Our approach to getting the right people to your event is the same as our approach to delivering qualified sales leads for our clients: we draw on our deep experience and knowledge of our sector – which includes a database of more than 150,000 telco contacts.

For 20+ years, our core service is QUALFIED lead generation, arranging one-to-one meetings and conference calls with the key people in target accounts, taking the pressure of your sales teams to start ‘cold calling’ potential prospects.

Even in the age of Covid we continue to provide the ‘human touch’ via our telemarketing approach.

And in the age of digital fatigue, that’s been more important than ever.

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High-fidelity holograms and digital replicas: examining the early promises of 6G technology

As 5G deployments ramp up, industry visionaries are already looking ahead to 6G. In this article we examine where we are on 6G today and what it promises to deliver when it eventually arrives. 

6G? Surely we can’t be talking about 6G already? 

Most of us don’t yet own a 5G phone. In many markets around the world even 4G is still in its early stages of rollout. 

But remember this is the telecoms industry, which loves to jump ahead to the next big thing – and 6G is the next big thing on the mobile horizon. 

If you think the gap between mobile generations – or ‘G’s – is getting shorter, you’d be correct. According to a recent report from Samsung, the time spent defining a vision and developing technical standards has shortened from 15 years for 3G to just eight years for 5G.

And with the ITU-R officially due to start work on 6G this year, this acceleration means we could see commercial 6G services come to market as early as 2028 – with mass adoption by the end of decade. 

Now that the 6G countdown has begun, governments, industry players and institutions are jostling for position to take a leadership role in shaping the new technology.

In Europe, for example, the EU-funded REINDEER project aims to build a new type of multi-antenna-based smart connectivity platform to power future 6G systems and is designed to position Europe as central in the development, standardisation and eventual deployment of 6G. Ericsson announced this month it would be taking a leading role in the project. 

Meanwhile, Ericsson rival Nokia is at the forefront of another EU initiative known as Hexa-X which is tasked with creating “unique 6G use cases and scenarios, developing fundamental 6G technologies.” 

On the other side of the Atlantic, the industry has jointly launched the Next G Alliance, “an industry initiative that will advance North American mobile technology leadership in 6G and beyond over the next decade.”

And the other likely 6G superpower will, of course, be China, which last year launched what it claimed was the world’s first 6G satellite.  

But despite these developments we’re still some way away from understanding what 6G will look like or what it will be able to deliver. 

In a white paper published this month, Counterpoint Research defines 6G in spectrum terms – as marking the jump to so-called terahertz communications. It says use of this spectrum range (between 300GHz and 3THz) will mark a step change as the industry aims for terabit throughputs, microsecond latencies, and huge capacities.

In terms of use cases, Counterpoint adds that this leap will provide the necessary bandwidth required to transport holographic images and videos over wireless links. 

“Lower microsecond-level latencies could unlock real-time tactile applications such as almost zero-lag remote collaborative surgeries, real-time remote control of machines, and more,” it says. “Further, high-resolution digital twins or digital replicas will be used for interaction between the digital and physical worlds through mixed-reality devices and the power of AI.”

The era of the 6G-powered ‘digital twin’ may be some years away – but Samsung has identified a number of megatrends which will shape the development of the 6G market over the coming years. 

Firstly, it predicts a shift to the ‘machine’ as the main user of 6G rather than the human, as the number of connected machines grows exponentially. It is envisaged that the number of connected devices will reach 500 billion by 2030, which is about 59 times larger than the expected world population (8.5 billion) by that time. It also highlights the role of AI and open-source equipment in building and operating a new era of intelligent networks. 

Encouragingly, Samsung’s ‘6G Vision’ also sees the new technology as a force for social good: “A wide deployment of 6G will reduce differences in regional and social infrastructure and economic opportunities and thereby provide alternatives to rural exodus, mass urbanisation and its attendant problems.” 

In concludes that 6G will “tremendously contribute to the quality and opportunities of human life,” – so let’s consider it something to look forward to. 

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry. 

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Life on the edge: edge computing explained and why it matters for telcos

Edge computing is one of those new concepts in telecoms that we keep hearing about. But it’s not always obvious what the ‘edge’ is and why it’s important.
So let us explain.

Edge – or Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) to give it its correct name – refers to apps and services that can be accessed ‘closer’ to the end user by deploying infrastructure at the ‘edge’ of a service provider’s network.

In the traditional model, the processing and storage of data usually occurs on remote servers residing far away from the end user or device. This is increasingly the case as more of our information is held in the cloud – which usually means servers operated by one of the big cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft or Google.

But these remote, centralised cloud servers come with disadvantages in an age where end devices are requiring ultra-fast speeds and super-low latency response times.

The answer is a distributed cloud within a geographically dispersed infrastructure, which brings the cloud as close as possible to where the data is being requested.

Edge computing is also a key concept underpinning 5G. According to Ericsson, 5G will account for around one-fifth of all mobile data traffic by 2023, while around a quarter of 5G use cases will depend on edge computing capabilities.

“The main benefits edge solutions provide include low latency, high bandwidth, device processing and data offload as well as trusted computing and storage,” says Ericsson.

This means that edge will be fundamental to both new 5G-powered enterprise and IoT services, and consumer applications such as virtual reality and gaming.

Let’s have a look at some real-world use cases where this combination of edge computing and super-fast 5G networks can make a difference.

In the automotive industry, most modern cars have cellular connectivity but streaming information about the car and its journey back and forth to a mobile network can be costly and inefficient. That’s a problem when, according to Intel, an autonomous vehicle will be able to generate up to 4TB of data per day.

Instead, edge capabilities allow a connected car to process data in real time, eliminating the need for centralised processing. This unlocks a range of new opportunities in areas such as self-driving, smart traffic management, and better fuel efficiency and car maintenance.

There are also multiple use cases in industrial settings: for example, using edge infrastructure to optimise production lines and provide real-time AI to monitor stock levels.

“By extending cloud computing to the edge, [enterprises] can run AI/analytics that make actions faster, run enterprise apps to reduce impacts from intermittent connectivity and minimise data transport to central hubs for cost efficiency,” explains IBM in a recent report.

Today only round 10 per cent of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralised data centre or cloud. But, by 2025, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 75 per cent.

So what does this mean for telcos?

A report last year from Omdia concluded the rise of edge computing will see operators face increasing competition with app developers, cloud providers – but would also present an important opportunity to unlock new revenue streams.

“As 5G technology and networks evolve, edge computing can provide a high-performance, on-demand, and cost-effective platform capable of supporting a growing number of use cases [but] CSPs will need to establish their role in the value chain by determining the right business model and partner(s) and also where new revenues will come from,” the report concluded.

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can grow your business!

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From networks on the moon to 5G robots: the ten stories that shaped the telco world in 2020

2020 was a tumultuous year for all – and the telco sector was no exception. As we approach year-end, eContactServices looks at the ten telco-related stories that made an impact this year.

1 – MWC gets canned

Mobile World Congress was cancelled just two weeks before it was due to open its doors for its 2020 edition, becoming the first major event to fall victim to the pandemic. The absence of physical events in 2020 had a far-reaching impact on the industry, forcing many to rethink how to connect with customers and launch products. But the problem with pushing everything online meant that people were overwhelmed with digital content. Dealing with this ‘digital fatigue’ will be a key challenge for the year ahead.
Read more >

2 – 5G goes mainstream – and telcos seek to monetise

More than 100 telcos worldwide have now launched commercial 5G networks, but monetisation remains a challenge. As 5G matures, BSS is playing an increasingly important role in enabling 5G operators to quickly define and deploy new offerings. Operators will also be hoping that new high-profile 5G devices, such as the first 5G-equipped iPhone (the iPhone 12, unveiled in October) will be the catalyst for strong consumer uptake of 5G services.

3 – 5G becomes embroiled in Covid paranoia

The Covid pandemic unleashed many conspiracy theories that gained traction – but the one suggesting that 5G masts were responsible for spreading the virus had particularly dangerous consequences. Around 90 attacks targeting UK telecoms infrastructure had been reported by May, forcing the government and the industry to address the issue.

4 – Mobile networks climb Everest… and reach the moon

China Mobile and Huawei secured publicity points in May by deploying a 5G network at the top of Mount Everest, the Earth’s highest point. Not to be outdone, Nokia announced in October that it as working with NASA to bring a 4G-LTE network to the moon – part of a project to enable a “long-term human presence on the lunar surface.”
Read more >

5 – Nations compete to set the 6G narrative

As 5G network deployments continued around the globe in 2020, the conversation inevitably turned to what happens next. According to a Samsung white paper, the ITU will begin work to “define a 6G vision” in 2021 with the standard will likely be completed around 2028. However, 2020 saw the first signs of activity with the EU launching a 6G initiative and China successfully launching what it described as the “world’s first 6G satellite”.
Read more >

6 – Open RAN revolution disrupting telco supply chains

Momentum behind ‘Open RAN’ equipment gathered significant pace in 2021 led by vendors such as Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless. Meanwhile, many high-profile MNOs are now pursuing Open RAN strategies. In August, for example, Vodafone became the first UK operator to launch commercial Open RAN, switching on a new 4G network in Wales
Read more >

7 – Telcos selling off phone towers to preserve cash

2020 saw an uptick in the number of telcos deciding to divest their physical infrastructure to specialist companies. The most significant deal occurred in Europe where Hutchison (owner of the 3 mobile brand) sold almost 25,000 towers to Spanish towers company Cellnex in a €10 billion deal.
Read more >

8 – Nvidia acquires ARM in $40bn deal 

Perhaps the most significant piece of M&A activity in the telco space in 2020 was Nvidia’s proposed $40 billion purchase of the iconic UK chip designer, ARM. The deal has regulatory hurdles to overcome before it is finalised, but the companies aim to eventually build an AI-powered computing giant.
Read more >

9 – 5G robots come of age

In June, Qualcomm announced its new RB5 platform in a bid to accelerate the market for 5G equipped robots. The platform is a set of hardware, software and development tools that will allow manufacturers “to create the next generation of high-compute, low-power robots and drones”, and could kickstart robot momentum into 2021.
Read more >

10 – Voice calling makes a return

Another consequence of the pandemic was a resurgence in voice calls. Orange France, for example, noted that the number of voice minutes on its network doubled in the first two weeks of lockdown. As we know at eContact Services, voice calling provides that ‘human touch’, which is all-important when doing business. We hope this trend continues into 2021!
Read more >

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Ten things we’ve learnt attending online events in 2020

It’s been a tumultuous year in the events business. The global lockdown meant that almost all major ‘in person’ events were cancelled from March, with Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress becoming the first major casualty. And it wasn’t just the big industry events that had to go online at very short notice: product launches, networking events and press conferences all had to go virtual too.

The hope is that ‘in-person’ events will make a return at some point in 2021. But the ‘virtual event’ is not going away, and this year has served as a crash course in what works and what doesn’t when events go online.

eContact Services has been supporting its clients on virtual events for many years, and understands how to leverage events to drive business objectives. Below we share some of our do’s and don’ts based on the online events we’ve attended this year:

  • Assume your tech will go wrong, and plan accordingly. The biggest challenges in online events are likely to be of a technical nature, either on the host side or the participant side (or both). Technical glitches will always occur, but you can mitigate against problems by not over-complicating your offering. It’s the one area where you should play it safe.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Big industry events tend to last several days, but no-one is going to sit on a Zoom call for that long. Plan your content in short, snackable bursts that keep participants engaged.
  • Do it differently. The move online has lowered the barriers to entry and heightened competition for delegates. What’s your event’s USP? To stand out, you’ll need to be bold – don’t be afraid to try a new approach!
  • Know your audience. This remains true, whether real or virtual: understand your audience and tailor your programme to suit their needs. Do they want to hear from the CEO or the technical guys? If it’s a press event, do you have news? (and just because your CEO is the most important person in the company, it doesn’t make him or her the best presenter!)
  • Get the right people to the event. Your event will fail if the objective is sales leads and the only people you get tuning in are your competitors! You’ll need an expert partner – someone like eContact Services in fact – to ensure you are inviting the right participants.
  • Interact with your audience. A virtual event should be a two-way experience that enables interactivity with your audience. The ability to ask questions, vote in real-time polls and even offer prizes can drive audience engagement.
  • Figure out how to network. This is the biggest challenge when transferring in-person events online, but could be key to long term-success. Think about how to build a community around an event and how to allow participants to connect with each other.
  • Online events aren’t just for 2020. Physical events will hopefully return but online events won’t be going away, and the future will be a hybrid of the two. Aim to develop a long-term plan that develops your online events offering over time.
  • Marketing matters. Just because you’re online, you’ll still need to invest in marketing. And if delegates don’t have the draw of a few days away in a city such as Barcelona, you’ll need to be innovative in how you promote and position your event.
  • It’s early days – keep experimenting. No company or event has got this 100% right yet – but keep an eye on best practice and innovations, and keep evolving and improving your offering as you go.

Our view: Ensuring a return-on-investment from a third-party virtual event can be challenging, especially if a sponsorship package delivers the vague promise of ‘brand awareness’ and not much else.

Online events organisers are coming up with innovative ways to replicate the trade show experience, but investment in lead generation services is always a more effective solution if the end goal is securing qualified leads for your sales team.

Meanwhile, the move to virtual events has loosened the grip of the big events organisers, prompting many companies to host their own events in a bid to connect directly with their customers and prospects. The success of these events – no matter how professionally delivered – will depend on getting the right people to attend. Hiring the services of a specialist company that can identify and target the right audiences and drive them to your event should therefore be a key investment. We’re a lead generation company with 20 years’ experience in the telco space. You should be speaking to us.

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How the Open RAN revolution is changing how the world builds networks

eContact Services looks at the momentum building behind Open RAN and how traditional telco supply chains are being disrupted as a result.

The Radio Access Network – or RAN – is the most critical and costliest part of a mobile network, the part that enables a mobile device to connect to a network. RANs are traditionally built by large network equipment suppliers where the hardware and software elements are tightly ‘coupled’, making interoperability between equipment from different vendors difficult – or impossible. This means that the customer, the mobile network operator (MNO), can be ‘locked in’ to a single vendor. It also means that competitors to these large suppliers – regardless of whether their technology is more innovative or efficient – can struggle to gain traction.

But all this could be changing.

A push towards a so-called ‘Open RAN’ approach has been gathering momentum as we move into the 5G era. Thanks to advances in network virtualisation, Open RAN is enabling operators to run software-based network functions using open interfaces. These open interfaces allow, for example, the use of one supplier’s radios with another’s processors.

Many high-profile MNOs are now pursuing Open RAN strategies. In August, for example, Vodafone became the first UK operator to launch commercial Open RAN, switching on a new 4G network in Wales using cloud-based software from multiple vendors. And last week it announced that, as part of the UK’s government mandate to reduce reliance on Huawei, it would replace more than a third of its Huawei estate with Open RAN equipment.

On the other side of the world, Japan’s Rakuten is another high-profile Open RAN advocate. A new entrant into the advanced Japanese market, Rakuten Mobile launched the world’s first fully virtualised cloud-native network last year and is aiming for 3 million customers by year-end. Last month it struck a deal with Spain’s Telefónica to cooperate on a “shared vision” to advance Open RAN, 5G Core and OSS.

In a recent report, the Dell’Oro Group calculated that the market for Open RAN hardware and software will account for close to 10 per cent of the total market by 2025 and surpass $5 billion in cumulative revenue over this period.

“Momentum is improving, and we have adjusted the outlook upward to reflect a confluence of factors including promising results from initial commercial deployments, growing support from incumbent RAN suppliers, and increased geopolitical uncertainty acting as a catalyst for operators to rethink their supplier strategies,” Stefan Pongratz, VP at Dell’Oro Group, said in a statement.

The “geopolitical uncertainty” refers to the controversy around Chinese vendors such as Huawei, which is providing a catalyst for change in some markets.

Another firm, ABI Research, expects total capex on Open RAN to soar to US$40.7 billion by 2026.

“Trade wars and the global pandemic have resulted in tremendous restrictions on the telecom supply chain and disrupt the evolution of new technologies,” said Jiancao Hou, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “These effects will accelerate the development of Open RAN and open networks.”

Vendors leading the Open RAN charge include companies such as Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless – and many believe this new generation of suppliers could cause serious disruption in a market dominated by large players such as Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia.

But the established players are also wanting to influence how the market develops. In July, Nokia announced its commitment to Open RAN, taking the approach of building open interfaces on top of its existing solutions. However, Ericsson has been less enthusiastic, arguing that more work needs to be done to address risks, such as the increase in security vulnerability caused by the decoupling of hardware and software functions.

Two industry groups have emerged to promote Open RAN: the Facebook-backed Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which runs deployment working groups for its 500+ members; and the O-RAN Alliance, which focuses on setting the open standards. The O-RAN Alliance was founded in 2018 by AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DOCOMO and Orange.

Many operators and vendors are involved in both TIP and O-RAN, and the two industry organisations are working together. However, as a fast-growing marketplace, navigating the Open RAN ecosystem can be a complex process for companies wanting to reach key decision-makers.

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