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Telecom Trends 2020: 5G, AI, IoT and cybersecurity to dominate telcos space

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: It would be not be an exagegaration to say that the world today resides within a mobile phone. Smartphones, IoT devices, and high-speed wireless connectivity have made information, services, and content available at the touch of a button. Rapid technological advancements in the field of telephony and communication have given rise to an interlinked, connected global paradigm.

As we move towards an increasingly digital-first future, it behoves us to take a look at the developments affecting the telecommunications space – the driver of our connected tomorrow.

5G to bring newer service and revenue models

has been the topic of hot discussion within the telecom industry for some time now, and for a good reason. The higher bandwidth, low-latency telecommunications technology will increase network coverage and address connectivity issues. More importantly, it will allow for technological innovations such as edge computing, AI, and machine learning to become an integral part of applications and processes delivered to the end-consumer.

To make such digital enablement possible, however, governments and enterprises will need to explore robust partnerships and tech integrations with telecom companies.

This will pave the way for newer offerings, as well as novel models of service delivery and revenue generation – all positive news for a space that is currently struggling to sustain operations while minimising cash burn. Telecom players will also see their roles evolve from pure-play technology distributors to holistic providers and enablers of differentiated, tech-led services.

AI to drive operational optimisation

Another space that should be eagerly watched in the telecommunications sector in 2020 is (AI). AI and related technologies, such as machine learning and robotics process automation (RPA), are already being extensively used within the industry. From marketing and customer experience to end-user service delivery, all aspects of the telecom business are being transformed by the touch of AI.

There's a reason for this adoption. Telecom players are looking to optimise processes and streamline workflows for more efficient and effective operations. AI-based solutions present the most perfect avenue for them to do so.

Moving ahead, we can expect telecom operators reengineering their networks with AI and machine learning to make them smarter. The use of such technologies will also open the door for more accurate predictive analytics that optimises critical processes such as network maintenance, fault identification, and fraud detection. Insights generated by AI-led analytics frameworks will also enable better planning, design, and strategic decision-making for telecom operators.

IoT to become dominant area of play for telecom companies

Players in the telecom space and other related industries, such as chipset manufacturing and mobility solutions, have been eagerly tracking developments in the IoT space. This is because of the scope of the potential disruption that the domain represents.

To begin with, IoT-led solutions are expected to help telecom operators achieve a better remote overview of their base station and data centre operations. It will also provide these players with a lucrative avenue to diversify their offerings and maximise revenue generation. For instance, MG Motor India's latest vehicle, the Hector, comes equipped with OTA capabilities powered by an IPv6-ready, M2M embedded SIM solution developed by Unlimit, Airtel, and Cisco. In 2020, we can expect more telecom companies, IoT solutions providers, tech players, and manufacturers to explore such cross-domain partnerships related to IoT deployment and network operations.

Cybersecurity to become integral component of telecom operations

Telecom operators, today, have become huge data repositories with access to sensitive customer information. They are also the vehicles upon which our digital lives move; any service outage can cause a major inconvenience for the end-users, as well as a large-scale disruption of business operations across industries. These factors make telecom companies more lucrative a target for cybercriminals and threat actors looking to compromise data and networks at scale.

With stringent policies such as the EU-GDPR now in effect, telecom operators – whether in India or abroad – can no longer afford to take cybersecurity as a secondary function. With the protection and security of data and resources becoming a critical business imperative, there is expected to be a large-scale shift within the telecom space towards a security-led approach.

As a result, we will see domain players shore up their defences against direct threats, such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, as well as indirect vulnerabilities such as data breaches and internal leaks. The IT frameworks supporting telecom networks will become more robust. There is also the possibility of telecom operators bundling cybersecurity solutions as part of their service offerings to ensure better threat defence to their customers.

The author is executive vice president at . Views are personal.

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Eric Zhou
Eric Zhou
Eric Zhou is executive vice president at UNISOC
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