Read our predictions on the technology trends that will shape telecom over the next decade.
Now that 2020 is finally over, companies are turning their attention towards future plans. Even with the disruption of the COVID pandemic, leaders are thinking about where to go from here. And for telecoms, there is a lot to ponder when it comes to future technological strategies. So, we’ve curated a list of top tech trends that we think telecoms should expect to take center stage in the coming years.
5G Arrives (Take 2)
5G telecom networks were perhaps the most visible strategic casualty of 2020. We all remember the excitement (some would say ‘hype’) around major telecom company’s plans to unveil faster, stronger, better networks – a.k.a. 5G networks. And then there was COVID, and those plans got put-on hold.
Now it looks like the wait may finally be over for U.S. customers, anyway. AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint, and Verizon have all rolled out 5G coverage in various areas. However, the other part of this puzzle is devices that support 5G speeds; while they are available, most people are still using their LTE devices for now. However, Ericsson forecasts that there will be 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions by 2026; the same sources say that only 4% of Americans currently have 5G subscriptions. As we expect teleconferencing and remote work to survive and thrive post-pandemic, look for the demand for a faster, more reliable network to grow.
AI Continues to Drive Telco Innovations
AI and telecoms have already established a profitable and long-lasting professional partnership. In many ways, the data-crunching capabilities of AI are a natural pairing for telecom’s immense data streams. Thus, we’ve seen AI revamp telecom’s customer service (via chatbots, Natural Language Processing, and AI-enhanced communication systems). On the business end, we’ve seen AI deal with churn prediction and mitigation as well as new product/service analytics. On the marketing front, there’s hyper-personalization and (again) advanced analytics. And finally, there’s network optimization.
The common driver for most of the above is customer satisfaction combined with an understanding of what’s feasible in a given market or area, and AI excels at identifying where these two intersect. So it’s no surprise to see many telecoms give priority to investing in AI this year.
Smarter Cities, Businesses, and Homes Present New Opportunities
Internet of Things (IoT) devices have moved firmly into the mainstream. We’re used to smart thermostats, lights, security systems, and more. And industrial IoT applications have already been well-documented. What’s interesting – although less publicized – is the rise of data-connected cities. Worldwide, many major cities rely on device data for things like real-time crime information, energy savings (e.g., self-monitoring water systems that alert users to potential leaks) smart traffic lights, traffic pattern analysis, and more.
For telecoms, this presents a possible revenue stream that wise companies should certainly keep on their radar – if it isn’t already there.
See the Dawning of the SONs
SONs – or self-optimized networks – are networks that can self-configure, optimize, and heal. Such networks ease CAPEX and OPEX planning and support the faster deployment of mobile broadband. Essentially, the networks rely on algorithms and network data analysis to adjust configuration parameters as needed. However, to meet the challenge of modern (and very complex) networks requires the collecting, processing, and analyzing data – another way for AI and telecoms to form a successful partnership.
Look for more SONs to enter the telecommunications field in the next few years, as customers demand more bandwidth for their AR and VR experiences as providers look for a way to improve networks’ performance.
Yes, My Glasses Are Connected to the Internet
The mobile device category hasn’t exactly led the way in design innovation recently. But look for that to change in 2021, as foldable smartphones and multi-display devices become more available to consumers. The trend now is towards smaller, lighter devices that fit easily into a pocket; at the same time, no one wants to give up their luxurious big screens. The natural solution: a foldable smartphone. It’s not a new idea but advances in manufacturing and materials have made foldable smartphones relatively affordable (and durable enough to venture outside the lab).
Similarly, expect wearables to gain in popularity. As mobile data speeds go up and connections strengthen, people will become ever more open to using smart eyeglasses, watches, rings, and bracelets as portals to the web. And with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) continuing to gain traction amongst consumers and brands alike, expect to see smartphones supplemented – or possibly even dominated – by wearable devices.
AR, VR, and OTT Offerings Emerge
OTT services are already well established in the telecom realm. The preceding trends – wearables, advanced networking capabilities, data connections that are more reliable and offer higher speeds – will similarly usher AR and VR further into the mainstream.
For telecoms, perhaps the most interesting applications for these technologies will be in entertainment and gaming services. With wearables becoming more common, telecoms may well expand from offering streaming movies to VR gaming services. On a more practical note, AR and VR solutions can also be used for remote maintenance and repair work (i.e., by demonstrating how to perform a repair) as well as for marketing and sales purposes (e.g., releasing a new game or product via a VR “trial”).
Telco-Tech for Customer Satisfaction
In 2021 and throughout this decade, technology will increase rapidly and telcos will have to work to keep up with the pace. But companies that pay attention to the trends and invest in building a network and services that will meet customers’ high expectations can receive a notable return for their hard work.