Communications service providers (CSPs) across the globe are at crossroads today. They are struggling with decreasing revenues from regular voice, data and messaging services and increasing competition from non-traditional Over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp, Viber and Apple’s iMessage, among others.
According to the consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is coming down for telcos in all the regions. Moreover, CSPs are recording a drop of as much as 30% in SMS messaging, 20% in international voice and 15% in roaming. It is a case of a double whammy for the telcos. While on one end, the voice revenues continue to plummet and on the other end, the high investment required to provide ubiquitous and fast data services is disproportionate to the returns.
“The telcos today are under immense pressure to bridge the revenue gap because revenue from voice is stagnant and the revenue from data realization takes a long time. Moreover, investments to provide data infrastructure is high, but the returns are low,” explains Viswanathan Ramaswamy, Vice President, Global Technology Competency and Practice, Wipro.
Pressure on traditional revenues implies that it is increasingly important for the telcos to explore new digital business models. “The CSPs need to reduce dependency on voice and regular services, and to this end, they need to launch new services at a rapid pace to fill this revenue gap,” adds Ramaswamy. Wipro is working with CSPs across the globe to help them transform their business so they can leverage opportunities from the fast evolving digital ecosystem.
Why Do Telcos Need To Digitize?
There are other drivers for telcos to go for digitization. The new-age digital subscribers demand ubiquitous coverage, faster speed and exciting services, which compel the CSPs to focus on the quality of service (QoS). The existing legacy networks, which were built for voice and not data, are incapable of meeting the ever-increasing demands of a digital consumer. This modernization of the networks requires a significant increase in their capital as well as operational expenditure. Unfortunately, the telecom industry is today facing tremendous margin and competitive pressures, making it difficult for them to further invest in the infrastructure.
The telcos are also struggling with an unprecedented pace of technology evolution. Even as CSPs cope with the requirements of the always-connected consumer, they have to gear up to face the demands of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications, virtual reality, Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality. Indeed the telcos must transform their networks, business processes, organizational structure and mindset to continue to remain relevant in the times to come.
“The end consumer of telecom services is increasingly becoming digital savvy and expects similar experiences and services from telcos as well. The end customer is also looking for differentiated products and services that are in keeping with his/her unique needs. So the service providers need to adapt to what their subscribers want. In a business-to-business ecosystem as well, the telcos need to engage with partners to launch new services and these partners have adopted digital practices, making it imperative for telcos also to go for digitization,” explains Ramaswamy.
These digital services can be the new growth engines for the service providers. A Mckinsey report says that digitization can help telecom operators improve their profits by as much as 35%. Digitization is not just about bringing down operational cost and boosting productivity but also to offer compelling experience and products to the end consumer, which in turn will lead to real topline growth.
However, it is easier said than done. Digitization doesn’t just involve deploying new technologies, which is just one part of the equation. It is imperative for the telcos to transform themselves from Communications Service Providers (CSP) to Digital Service Providers (DSP) to address the changing market scenario and end customer expectations. A DSP leverages technologies such as automation, analytics and cloud-based platforms to gain an edge over a traditional CSP.
“The telcos need to take a holistic approach and completely reimagine and reinvent their business processes to provide a uniform customer experience across channels, products and services for a greater and more meaningful engagement,” says Ramaswamy.
So, What Does This Transformation Entail?
A few years back digital meant a one-off technology implementation, but this is no longer the case. The telcos now need to go beyond making a few cosmetic changes. They need to transform their processes and systems to be in a better position to leverage the digital opportunity.
“To transform, the CSPs need to focus on customer experience. The telcos need to ensure that they provide a uniform and seamless customer experience across channels, products and services,” says Ramaswamy. For instance, all contact channels (online, mobile and physical) with the user can be digitally integrated into a single database to reduce the cost of customer interaction and also to enhance convenience at the same time. Customer communication can also be moved to messaging systems and apps to reduce human intervention. Wipro offers a complete onboarding platform, Digital Care, across multiple channels, for service providers.
Enhancing customer experience is also about being aware of his/her needs so that the telco can offer a customized and differentiated product. This is possible with real-time analytics, which reveals insights in the usage pattern and empowers the telco to provide just the right product, thus ensuring customer delight.
“Spontaneous, real-time responses and interventions are critical in the digital era to increase customer engagement. Next generation Operations and Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS) enable the telcos to meet the changing customer demands. Telcos need to upgrade the existing systems to prevent customer churn,” explains Ramaswamy.
A fundamental difference between CSP and DSP is that the latter offers services beyond the traditional services of voice, messaging and data. These new services can be in the areas of Internet of Things (IoT), mobile banking, healthcare, education, smart home and smart enterprise, among others. Clearly, the telcos would need to engage with a number of partners to offer these services.
“Typically, a DSP would engage with a huge number of partners to offers a plethora of products across various verticals. CSPs need to add capabilities in their systems and processes to facilitate this,” says Ramaswamy. Wipro’s DeltaVerge is a complete partner lifecycle management solution for the telcos trying to make the digital transformation. It brings manufacturers, distributors, retailers and service centers on the same platform, thus encouraging collaboration and empowering the telco to reduce the time to market.
By their very nature, DSPs are more adaptive and proactive to meet the customer’s demands. The hallmark of a DSP is a faster rollout of services, and it is not possible without automation for service creation and enhancing operational efficiency. It can reduce service provisioning time and makes it possible to introduce new services faster, thus bringing down cost and increasing revenue. On the customer side, it increases customer convenience.
“Manual processes are time-consuming and prone to error. Automation ensures the speedier rollout of services and a better customer experience. Most importantly, it helps telcos to substantially bring down their operational cost dramatically,” says Ramaswamy.
A crucial part of telco transformation is virtualization, which adds the much-needed agility and flexibility in the network, thus enabling faster rollout of services. Monolithic hardware infrastructure is not capable of meeting the requirement of a digital era. Virtualization can allow a telco to launch new services and applications in a matter of hours and days instead of months with the earlier hardware-based products.
“Migration to the new virtualized network is not a small task and involves planning, thorough testing and collaboration. A microservices-based orchestration allows that the products and services are delivered with the least delay. It is possible that new network will co-exist with the legacy infrastructure for some time,” says Ramaswamy.
The digitization journey of a CSP is not possible without a scalable and a reliable network infrastructure. A Cloud-based infrastructure where resources can be re-allocated and balanced depending on requirement or consumption patterns is going to be the key.
Traditionally telcos work in silos with hardly or little interaction between the different divisions. Digital transformation entails an overhaul of the traditional systems and processes to ensure that the front-end is in perfect sync with the backend operations.
“Based on our engagement with some of the biggest telcos across the globe, we believe it is essential that the service providers adopt a holistic approach to transformation. Making a few changes here and there is not going to deliver the desired results,” says Ramaswamy. Wipro is working with telcos across the globe to take the digital leap.
Leveraging Learnings From Other Industry Verticals
It is ironic that the telecom industry that forms the very basis of digitization for other industry verticals is struggling to transform its processes and organizational structures.
Other sectors like retail and finance are much ahead in digitization, and clearly, the telecom industry can learn from these verticals since they have had some experience in digital transformation. Wipro is in a unique position to bring these learnings from other verticals to the communications industry.
“Digital transformation is not just about deploying technological solutions but also involves a new way of conducting business, both internally and externally. It is also about doing away with organizational structural silos that inhibit growth and adopting practices which encourage collaboration. It is here that telcos can learn and adapt practices from other verticals. Cross vertical pollination is the key philosophy behind Wipro Digital, and we bring this expertise in our telecom engagements,” explains Ramaswamy. Wipro Digital is the digital business unit of Wipro and collaborates with clients from different industry verticals to deliver customer-centered digital transformation.
Digitization is a must for telcos to not just add new revenue stream but to also ensure customer satisfaction of the existing subscribers. In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for telco digitization, but with the help of an experienced partner, this journey can open new revenue streams and vast possibilities for the service providers.