Stephane Richard, CEO, Orange Group used his welcome address at MWC 2019 to outline his concerns for the telecoms industry as it looks to rollout 5G

The telecoms industry must overcome a number of key challenges if it is to remain profitable in the run up to 5G rollout, according to Orange’s chief executive officer.

During his opening address at MWC 2019 in Barcelona this week, Orange’s CEO, Stephane Richard, said that the industry faced three key challenges as it races to roll out next generation mobile networks across the globe.

Richard said that the telecoms industry stood at an “exciting and stimulating” cross roads, but that it must do better on reducing operational expense, boosting innovation and dealing with ecological concern, if it wanted to maximise the potential of the 5G era.

“The first and most obvious challenge for telcos is an operational one.  The move to a digital world requires massive investment over the next few years.  We absolutely want to keep on investing in our networks in order to deliver the 5G revolution,” he said.

“But at the very same time we’re facing increased competition not only from our peers but also from OTT players, where the competition should be fair. Add to this the fact that probably for the first time in telecoms history we face a serious risk of destabilisation of the global supply chain,” he added.

Richard also called on the sector to sharpen its focus on innovation and to prioritise 5G research and development initiatives as a matter of urgency.

“In my mind, the second challenge for our industry is innovation. Telecoms operators have missed out on a big part of the value generated by the digital revolution so far. When you think about digital innovation, you think about the startup ecosystem or GAFAM and BATX, which benefitted from the connected world that we as telecoms companies have created and ensure every single day.

“But we also need to be honest and admit that we’ve not always been at the cutting edge of digital innovation.  But fortunately it’s not too late to change this,” he said.

Finally, Richard spoke of the need to overcome environmental concerns and of leaving a sustainable industry for generations to come.

“Last but not least, one of the biggest coming challenges for our industry is environmental. Mobile operators worldwide acknowledge the existential threat posed by climate change.

“Some studies predict that society’s energy consumption is set to triple over the next decade, in line with the ever-greater digitalization of our economies and daily lives.

“The telecommunications industry currently represents 2-3 per cent of global energy consumption. This figure will increase, possibly even double over the next decade, meaning that our industry may start to be seen as a problem in terms of its global carbon footprint.

“In the next few years all businesses will be required to sign-up to meaningful commitments on societal issues related to their activity, and this will be especially true of telecoms operators.  We will need to both reduce our environmental footprint and offer sustainable digital solutions for our customers.

“This is why the GSMA is proposing that our industry takes a leadership position in moving towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, in support of the Paris climate change agreement,” he said.