The pandemic has altered both consumer and business behavior, and telecommunications companies are at the center of this evolution. Telecoms have become the essential backbone for interoperable global networks that allow people and companies to stay connected. But with global adoption of 5G fast becoming a reality, telecoms face new challenges. How does consumer connectivity accelerate emerging revenue opportunities? How does it prompt a new role within an evolving value chain?

In short, telecoms need to move beyond the role of providing the network backbone and enabling content delivery. Crucially, they must decide if they’re going to power customer relationships for others or own that relationship themselves. Although some industry players have made good strides in seeking incremental revenues through a broader ecosystem and facilitating the interconnectedness of adjacent industries, more must be done – and at a faster pace – to create better experiences or reduce costs. 

Follow the Leaders

Telefonica and Telstra are good examples of the post-5G future. Telefonica, a global telecom headquartered in Spain, had launched O2 mobile banking services in 2016 to Munich’s Fidor Bank AG. Now, it has announced a new partnership with Comdirect Bank in Germany, which required it to provide more than an app, and connect its innovative network strength with a commercially branded tech platform via O2 to offer high-quality customer mobile banking services to Comdirect’s online banks.  

Meanwhile, Telstra invested for years in a series of distinct acquisitions to form Australia’s largest e-health company, Telstra Health. Now, with a common platform, technologies, ecosystem framework and specialized industry talent, Telstra can move quickly into a meaningful role in powering networks to shape the future of connected healthcare services.

Cross-Industry Opportunities

With COVID-19 accelerating the need for a multitude of industry solutions in diverse areas, telecoms have the opportunity to use their connectivity, speed, data-gathering, edge processing and advanced analytics capabilities to deliver solutions that not only enhance experiences but also improve lives. Industries with the most tangible traction include:

  • Support for telehealth. Evolving for two decades, telehealth has spiked in use during COVID. Healthcare providers and consumers now realize the degree to which remote delivery of healthcare positively impacts downstream costs, quality of life and human prosperity, while also requiring a new level of digital inclusion. With 5G, patients’ relationships with healthcare providers and payers will increasingly be forged through remote and digital means.

    In addition to enabling virtual face-to-face meetings between providers and patients, 5G will allow near-real-time transmission of biometric data for analysis and diagnosis. This will allow care providers to monitor time-sensitive data like the condition of heart patients following surgery, cancer patients’ response to chemotherapy, diabetics’ blood-sugar levels or clinical trial participants’ response to therapies in development, promoting improved patient outcomes.

    To solidify telecoms’ role in digital healthcare, emerging and network-dependent health players will need to collaborate to remediate health risks in real-time.

  • Enriching the sports fan experience. With the convergence of sports, gaming and technology in the form of fantasy leagues or grassroots European football, fans can monitor players’ performance and perceived value – while being entertained – through real-time content. The interconnection of sports leagues and network providers will result in the streaming of a 360-degree view for fans, both at home or in the stadium, resulting in a curated and personalized experience that can be monetized through advertising, player/game apparel and hospitality. 
  • Empowering drivers with information. Telemetrics and advances in digital monitoring are completely altering vehicle diagnostics and the availability of vital safety information. Alongside this, interconnected data can also provide instantaneous information to drivers about their wants and needs, through the network.

    In the future, this will include not just traffic patterns and route suggestions based on location services but also answers to questions about shopping, restaurants and attractions, all enabled through not just network transmission but also a brand that customers trust and continuously turn to.

Utility to Value: Changing the Customer Relationship

First and foremost, telecoms need to identify how they can make the most impact and create the most value in the customer relationship equation. This means focusing on building strategic use cases for industries or powering them at the nexus of their partners’ ecosystem.

Here are four recommendations for telecoms to reap the opportunities ahead:

  • Assess market needs and the competitive landscape to better understand what new products and services in non-traditional business lines will create revenue streams and opportunity potential. This will also help telecoms identify the talent gaps in skills and industry expertise between converging industries, as well as highlight which use cases are clearly defined, aligned with the market and can advance the business.
  • Work with ecosystem partners to openly share their unique strengths in designing a future state. For example, Verizon, Microsoft and Cognizant recently announced a partnership to leverage the strengths of each brand to simplify and accelerate the building of industry solutions such as a cold chain to keep medicines and food safe.
  • Assess technology strengths and weaknesses. We’ve developed a digital maturity model for telecoms to identify strengths and gaps across five key areas: infrastructure, applications, orchestration, products/business and experiences. In an upcoming blog, we provide details on each digital layer and its impact on new product, service and experience models.
  • Define a role in the ecosystem and the relationship with end users. Telecoms can choose to brand new services and products, as Telefonica has, or they can power and augment the relationships and experiences in the digital services ecosystem, as Telstra has. In Telstra’s case, the telecom needed to decide on the role it would take in the solution: interfacing with patients or powering the experience and interacting with the telemedicine partner ecosystem. Often, telecoms fail to make it clear to the industries they serve which role each ecosystem participant will play in the product/service to provide a clear brand experience.

The Road Ahead

5G presents both a challenge and an opportunity for telecoms, which must transcend the networks they’ve built and leverage them to add differentiating solutions and enhance customer experiences.

While leading telecoms have already explored investment in adjacent industry offerings, many others continue to search for ways to more organically infuse themselves in what is a continuously evolving value chain. While certainly the stakes are high for anticipating new consumer and cross-vertical needs, so will be the rewards.

To learn more, tune in to Cognizant’s GSMA virtual roundtable: “Innovating with 5G and IoT in a Virtual World.” You’ll hear Verizon, Intel and The Football Association share their experiences in driving 5G and IoT innovations in healthcare, entertainment and sports, and technology.

Daniel Weinbaum

Daniel Weinbaum

Daniel is a Senior Manager within Cognizant’s consulting arm. He helps leading media companies rethink how they interact with and monetize their... Read more

Prashanth Bhushan

Prashanth Bhushan

Prashanth Bhushan is a Senior Director at Cognizant Digital Business and has global responsibility for building and delivering solutions for communications services... Read more