The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of enterprises as the usual way of living was suspended. As lockdowns and social distancing became part of our lives, the enterprises had to hustle to take their businesses online to maintain business continuity.

Digital transformation is now essential not just for businesses but also for nations and continents to gain and maintain a business edge in the market. Governments are realizing the growing importance of being at the forefront of the digital economy. For instance, China has set a target for the digital economy to account for 10% of its GDP by 2025, and it plans to build a modern market system for the digital economy by 2035. Similarly, the European Union has released its 2030 Digital Compass strategy to achieve gigabit connectivity by 2030. All this promises to accelerate the digital transformation of the enterprises and use automation to gain new efficiencies and capabilities.

Best-in-class communications networks form the foundation of the digital transformation of enterprises. 5G, which is being deployed by service providers in all geographies and is becoming mainstream in several regions, is enabling enterprises from several industry verticals to fast-track their digital transformation plans. As pioneers of 5G, the Chinese service providers recorded strong growth in the enterprise market.

Five Dimensions For Telcos  

Strategy Analytics recently released a more in-depth GUIDE to the future whitepaper to envision the future of the digital networks. It lays out five key dimensions for telecom operators to enhance capabilities and provide a cutting-edge infrastructure for businesses to realize their potential in the ever-growing digital economy. 

1. The service providers need to focus on network connectivity, digital services, and industrial collaborations. They need to ensure a best-in-class customer experience to improve their service capabilities across all market segments. Further, the service providers are able to form partnerships and collaborations between the public and private sectors and with other industry players and hyperscalers. These will allow them to explore new opportunities in the business and industrial space. 

2. The service providers have to transform their operations to be able to leverage network automation for greater operational efficiencies and optimization of the network configurations. Several technologies, like 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G, coexist, adding to the network complexity and operational and management challenges. Further, in 5G, the service providers will need to meet the diverse requirements of different business verticals. The third aspect is that the service providers need to be able to benefit from data assets in their networks and operations. All this is possible only with automation-led network automation. Unfortunately, the legacy network infrastructure is not built to address these new demands. 

3. The service providers must leverage their own resources or collaborate with hyperscalers to build competencies in cloud services. Leading Chinese operators are actively developing their own cloud services. For example, by leverage Huawei’s over 30 years of technical expertise, Huawei Cloud can provide fully connected, high-speed, and stable networks and services to its users, to expedite their cloud transformation and protect their applications and data.

4. The current best effort data transmission provided by most telecom operators for consumers and vertical industries can no longer meet their actual needs, as guaranteed, on-demand and differentiated user experience is becoming a trend. The requirement of user experience has now shifted from “use as much as you have” to “use as much as you want”. Therefore, the guaranteed, on-demand and differentiated user experience has become a new approach for operators to realize value in many modes. For example, operators can adopt different pricing models to fulfill the future demand of to-C and to-B market for deterministic and guaranteed experience, such as the specific need of KOLs on the Internet for uplink bandwidth and the deterministic requirement of various industries for latency and bandwidth.

5. Telecom industry must play an active role in bringing down carbon emissions for social and economic development. Telecom service providers can do their bit for the environment by improving energy efficiency, increasing the use of renewable energy and supporting customers to bring down their carbon emissions. Further, they can increase the use of advanced ICT technologies to reach their target of net zero, and to enable energy conservation and emission reduction in other industries.

Network Evolution Targets for Sustainable Business Development of Telcos 

Strategy Analytics’s whitepaper further proposes a set of network evolution targets to drive the sustainable business development of the telcos towards 2030. Essentially, service providers need to improve their capabilities and set the roadmap toward 2030 in five dimensions of expanding services, innovating efficiently, leveraging resources, competing on value, and contributing to society.

The whitepaper brings forth a set of network evolution targets to serve the operators’ sustainable business development toward 2030. For instance, mobile broadband will evolve to 5G-Advanced, which will provide intelligent network solutions and will cover new use cases. Further, fixed broadband will develop to F5.5G, an enhancement for F5G that has been standardized by the ETSI F5G Group. In addition, as per the whitepaper, the Passive Optical Network (PON) will be upgraded to 50G PON, the metropolitan area network will be upgraded to 800G, and the backbone network will be upgraded to more than 400G by 2030. 

In another eight years, all services would have migrated to the cloud. The cloud-network synergy will drive IP networks to evolve to IPv6+ completely. Further, the telecommunications network is entirely moving toward intelligent operation and maintenance.

The whitepaper presents a business blueprint for the telecommunications industry and its strategic value is being recognized by analyst firms, industry executives and experts. "The GUIDE vision shows Huawei’s thoughts on the telco’s roadmap for the next decade and provides some clues for future discussion," says Guang Yang, Director, Service Provider Group at Strategy Analytics, Inc. 

The time is now right for the telecom industry to follow the roadmap set by Strategy Analytics to build the networks of the future to capture new and emerging markets. It gives a direction to the sector to steadily move towards its vision of providing a best-in-class customer experience by collaborating with other industry players and building autonomous networks for greater efficiencies.