Communications service providers (CSPs) have seen the expectation of their customers evolve rapidly over the past 10 to 15 years, and simply being able to provide users with a fixed or mobile voice service and basic messaging is no longer enough in a modern, digital age that has seen a growing demand for varied and personalised offerings.
This is according to Ahmad Sayed, regional head and vice-president: sales, Middle East and Africa at Nexign, Joint Stock Company, who adds that the change started with the advent of the internet, and the additional functionality that it enabled on end user devices – right from web browsing, and email, to more interactive forms of instant messaging.
“We have now seen a revolution in the financial services industry, with CSPs starting to deliver many similar services in Africa. In addition, the people who stand to benefit from e-banking are often from rural areas that are not served by the traditional providers,” Sayed says.
This is just one industry that service providers are looking to, in order to uncover new opportunities for growth. In making the transition to becoming digital service providers, they will be able to play a vital role in the development and deployment of Smart Cities, Smart Industries, Smart Utilities, Smart Transportation, Smart Healthcare, and more – with each of these requiring good communications networks in order to function.
Sayed explains however that CSPs first need to digitally transform their business in order to take advantage of these many opportunities, and put in place the right solutions and technologies, such as fully digital business support system (BSS).
“In the case of financial services, CSPs need to be able to support real-time account balance management for interactions with payment systems, e-commerce, banks, and processing by using customer balances for third-party transactions. This enables operators to open up new and non-traditional revenue streams, and to mix financial and telco technologies, such as credit cards, and real-time money transfers,” says Sayed.
Similarly, a capable IoT platform is required if service providers are looking to efficiently monitor, control and manage connected devices, diagnose any problems on connected devices, reduce maintenance costs, gain new ways of monetising low-margin subscribers, and attract new customers through value-added IoT services – including building IoT partner ecosystems with a range of vertical solutions.
“CSPs today have placed considerable importance on digital transformation, and are reviewing and even making changes to their organisational structures in order to speed up their transition. The appointment of positions such as Chief Digital Officer shows that this is a priority for them,” explains Sayed.
Ensuring systems are ready for the digital world is key if service providers are to take full advantage of new technologies, such as 5G and blockchain. Sayed points out that providers from both developed and developing markets are already trialing 5G, and the remaining operators will need to digitally transform if they want to compete.
Furthermore, operators must build digital partnerships and collaborate more efficiently with other industry players on a global level. There are already examples of collaboration between BSS vendors and companies providing blockchain solutions, which enables CSPs to implement new business models, form new partnerships, and create new roaming products and complex bundles that include digital non-telco services.
Sayed points to several once well-known global brands – which have since fallen into decline due to their hesitation to fully embrace the transition to digital – as a cautionary tale for those operators who do not have in place any plans to transform themselves into digital service providers.
“CSPs are getting caught up in the race where the demands of enterprise customers and end users are continually increasing, and they need to be able to meet these if they are to stay relevant. Those providers who digitally transform their operations are the ones who will reap the rewards of being able to keep up with new product and service requirements, meet their customers demands for greater personalisation, and ultimately overtake the competition,” concludes Sayed.