— It should come as no surprise to anyone who owns a phone with an Internet connection, but the Telco industry is among the sectors that have been shaken by the digital revolution from the ground up.
It all started when the adoption of IP-based networks was a standard. Not only did this turning point change Telecoms as a whole, deconstructing the complexity of physical networks and simplifying the management process. It also made our customers’ lives easier, broadening the number of available services and improving the efficiency of the system, whilst letting them conveniently add and remove the services they did or did not need.
Combine that with the rise of software-defined networks (SDN) – a dynamic network architecture that is manageable, cost-effective, and flexible to the needs of the high-bandwidth – and you get two major factors that contributed to the disruption of the Telecoms industry. But there’s more. In fact, we’ve only seen the very beginning of this transformation. Here are four major drivers of innovation that will need us to rethink daily work in the Telecoms industry in the near future.
CONNECTIONS WILL BECOME A COMMODITY
Imagine a world where every single device will have a feature connecting it with the outer world - the so-called Internet of Things. We are quickly approaching it. According to the estimates that have been made so far, in the near future there will be billions, if not trillions, of connected devices, from phones to refrigerators.
So, what happens when everything is online and operates in a cloud? Well, connectivity will become a commodity, just like water or air - something Nicholas Negroponte foresaw in the late 90s. Our lives, on the other hand, will depend on that connectivity far more than today, giving network operators a pivotal role: the role of possessing the infrastructure to run all these networks will make them able to mould the connectivity according to each customer’s needs. As a consequence, stronger security measures will become necessary. We’ll need deeper protection and we’ll have to focus on resilience: in case a network is hacked, rather than just try to fix what went wrong, it will better to shut it down shortly and bring it up effectively again. This is going to dramatically change the way our security teams currently work.
5G MEANS QUALITY SERVICES
5G will revolutionize the concept of the “one-size-fits-all” network. With 5G, the network can be partitioned, each slice dedicated to a specific feature. Take a pacemaker, for example. If continuously connected to a terminal in a hospital, this device can give you a warning when the risk of a heart attack increases. For that to happen, though, you need a reliable and secure connection: 5G lets us allocate you the exact amount of bandwidth that you need. Another example is related to VR and gaming, where the user needs a latency below 30 milliseconds in order not to get motion sickness. 5G lets network operators allocate a slice of bandwidth specifically to that purpose, in order to make your gaming experience enjoyable.
Yes, every service can benefit from having a super-efficient, smart connectivity, and this could happen all over the world thanks to the 5G roaming service. 5G is also an all-access technology, so you don't care about whether you are browsing at a WiFi spot or on a 5G mobile network, or if you are connected to a picocell — 5G combines all of these access points, guaranteeing you a seamless Internet experience. From our point of view, this will make operators able to cope with the restricted bandwidth that you usually have in the current mobile networks, bringing the services we offer closer to perfection.
ALLIANCES WILL PREVAIL
Another trend for the Telecoms industry includes mergers of big telecommunication companies on one hand, and an improved cooperation between the players on the other. We will witness something similar to what happened within the airline industry, where big alliances have grown and the flights of one company are often operated by another. In the Telecoms industry, operators will need to cope with the lack of scale every company has by cooperating with other network operators. This collaboration, on a global scale, will put them in a stronger position when negotiating with companies like Google – companies which usually don’t sit at the table with single (and smaller) players.
WITH AI, WE NEED AN ETHICAL REVOLUTION
One thing is for certain: in the future, we will work even more closely with machines. We therefore need to raise a global discussion about ethics. The technological changes that will affect the Telecoms industry – as well as many other sectors – pose to us new threats and bring us new challenges. Machines and artificial intelligence are already superior to humans, and they will mostly likely be able to pass a Turing test soon, resulting in a situation where no one will be able to detect whether they’re talking to a machine or to a person. This raises many questions.
How and to which extent can machines be tweaked? Do they have any sort of personality? Are they becoming individuals? Are they vulnerable? And how can we relate this new reality to the ethical standards that we have right now?
We have to redefine the human position in this evolving world. Something similar has happened in the past - so it’s not a first time - but the tremendous speed of today’s transformation is unprecedented. We’ve had industrial revolutions before, but they gave society the time to adapt to them in terms of decades. Today, we’re talking about years. Or even less.