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Openet: Martin Morgan’s 2017 Telecom Trends

It used to be that writing a predictions piece was something of a retread of the previous year, with a few more advances.

There were only so many ways to make basic telephony services exciting, but in the last couple of years everything has changed – as exemplified by the $85bn AT&T/Time Warner deal announced in October 2016. This was a public sign of where the telco industry is going in 2017.

Content is most definitely king, but just having access to content isn’t going to be enough. Any content strategy needs to be built on the foundation of customer centricity, and this needs to be enabled by automated and real-time systems. The deal also highlighted how quickly telcos are changing. So, with this in mind, here are six telecoms/digital services predictions for 2017.

Mega digital transformation projects will die: In 2016 we’ve seen few press releases about billion-dollar, five year digital transformation projects. Over the last two years, we’ve seen many telcos transform themselves into entertainment companies. We’ve seen service providers who will sell everything from taxi services to home security to healthcare. How can anyone plan a BSS project for longer than two years out? By the time the project is complete it will be out of date. Service providers are on a digital journey – a road with many unforeseen twists and turns – and as such they need many smaller projects, with a much quicker time to value. The days of a mega-vendor locking in a service provider to a five year project that is dictated by the vendor’s release strategy are a thing of the past.

Content and experience are the new differentiators: It used to be the network was the main differentiator - not anymore. The network is an enabler – one which customers expect to work. Securing rights to content (movies, sports, TV shows) and offering these (as many multi-play operators are doing) will be a main differentiator to attract new customers. Keeping these customers will be about delivering a personalised experience – across all channels, for all services. This will prove interesting for many service providers as they look to get a single view of the customer, in real-time, for all services used and using that to drive package upgrades.

Differentiating content using BSS: Recently AT&T announced that their DirectTV NOW service to mobiles would be zero rated. This is the most obvious method of using charging capabilities to make one content service more attractive and thus increase usage. I think we’ll see more creative pricing when it comes to delivering content in 2017. These could include bundling of personalised content for loyalty offers, sharing content (e.g. in a household) and even personalised advertising subsidising content charges.

Security as a marketing message: Data security isn’t something most consumers thought about too much. Then in 2016 there were some high profile security breaches. The result – lots of media coverage and consumers worried about mobile banking. Being able to assure customers that their internet service is secure will become an increasingly important message in 2017. Indeed as the enterprise sale offering advanced, security features could become more important than cost.

Data ownership and trust: Some operators in Europe have started to sell anonymised usage data for market research purposes. Others have come out and stated that customers own their usage data and should have their own customer data vaults. The key here is trust. Getting customer consent for selling data is required by law in most countries. If a service provider can develop trust with their customers then they’ve a better chance of getting their consent to use their anonymised data. This enables the service provider to open a new revenue stream. Personalisation, relevance and providing assurance about security will play a major role in developing this trust.

The rise of intelligent assistants: Will 2017 see intelligent assistants such as Google Assist and Amazon Alexa enable IoT to become part of households in a meaningful way? If so, what will be the effect on service providers? Could this new service enabler/channel go head-to-head with the service providers’ (and their partners’) content offerings and as such divert more of a consumer’s digital spend to Google or Amazon? Will we see some service providers partner with suppliers of intelligent assistants to provide not just content delivery, but also access to self-care and marketing services? This could include voice recognition setting of parental control settings, asking for a search of TV programmes, checking their balance, updating data share, etc, etc. Mobile devices have been described as the remote control for peoples’ lives. Will intelligent assistants provide the voice-controlled remote control for households?

There are many more advances that 2017 will bring. Adoption of NFV and automated networks will increase, as will the use of machine learning and AI. Not forgetting the rise and rise of Wi-Fi, and connectivity with everything, or is that everything with connectivity – either way we’re in for an exciting 2017.

Martin Morgan is the VP Marketing at Openet.