Shiv Kumar Singh, COO, NEC Corporation, India

Digital transformation has picked up speed and continues to do so at an accelerated pace in the dynamic business environment. This is clear and supported by the digital transformation trends which showcase how the value of businesses, revenue-wise as well, has been preserved or even heightened with digitisation. Research suggests that the global digital transformation market is expected to grow to $1,009.8 billion by 2025 from $469.8 billion in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.5 per cent during this period.

It’s been a while since organisations have adopted ‘digital transformation’ and made significant efforts to incorporate technological advancements in their work. Amongst the early adopters of this trend has been the telecom industry. For telecoms, digital transformation is all about the modernisation of processes to be capable enough to compete with the new-age organisations and meet the ever-evolving market demands. This change brings about numerous operational adaptations that look at creating new value and ensuring that everything ranging from communication to services is digitised.

Some innovative technological practices that are set to transform the Indian telecom industry include:

Robotic process automation

Automation in the customer journey through chatbots, virtual assistants and knowledge management systems are key to reducing labor-intensive and mundane tasks. The introduction of robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning (ML) in the system would not only facilitate network management but also improve network infrastructure, digitise processes like invoicing and ensure instant customer query resolution. According to a research report by Gartner, nearly 78 per cent of telecom industries have adopted RPA, which in turn has resulted in rapidly extracting data from one system and moving it to another in order. RPA, combined with artificial intelligence (AI) processing, supports automated network optimisation to ensure that faults are addressed in real-time with minimal human intervention. Metaverse is also one such technology that presents a unique opportunity for organisations to trailblaze new routes for growth. Telecom operators can leverage metaverse-based platforms that combine multiple technologies such as 5G to bring the internet to life. In a virtual world, telecom operators can use metaverse platforms to generate virtual experiences for setting up new routers, etc..

Customer relationship management

Keeping the customer at the core of all business processes is fundamental to every business. In telecom, industry players require the use of customer relationship management (CRM) to track, analyse, and manage interactions between existing and new customers. A strong CRM software helps ensure smooth customer interactions, increase in sales, customer acquisition and retention, and minimal risk. The process of immediate feedback to the team in charge is the key factor in ensuring customer satisfaction. Key here being the focus on customer satisfaction and retention as the market space is extremely competitive and quality of service would be a significant differentiator.

Business analytics

The introduction of business intelligence and analytics with the use of ML and AI will aid the telecom industry in managing and processing a bulk of data. In order to cater to customer requirements and offer them a seamless experience, telecom companies must enhance their operations, analyse customer data and boost the overall efficiency. The applications for AI and ML across telecoms are endless. AI in mobile network infrastructure is expected to lower costs by automating functions that would otherwise require human interaction and to speed new revenue-generating service offerings, which becomes increasingly crucial in the deployment of edge, open radio access networks (O-RAN), and cloud-native 5G cores. With 5G being the latest generation of wireless technology, it offers the ability to connect a very high density of sensors. AI brings with it a new computing paradigm in which algorithms learn from the data to efficiently handle the ever-growing amount of information that sensors generate, including being able to infer patterns and trends in near real-time.

Big data

The concept of big data has been around for a while now; most organizations now understand that if they capture all the data that streams into their businesses, their application can offer significant value to organisations by deriving the necessary insights. Big data technologies such as cloud-based analytics can significantly reduce costs and increase efficiency when it comes to storing and processing large amounts of data. This is especially crucial in an industry like telecom where there is a bulk of data across technological devices. Big data analytics, for example, enable organisations to predict peak network usage so that they can take measures to relieve congestion. Network outage prediction, maintenance optimisation, efficient resource utilisation and lowering of operational costs are also a few outcomes of right exploitation of such technologies. It can also help identify customers who are most likely to have problems paying bills as well as those who are about to change service providers, thus exacerbating churn.

Internet of things

With the internet of things (IoT), telecom providers make it easier for people and gadgets to communicate with each other. It is vital for Telecom businesses to develop novel services and applications to monetise IoT solutions. The most important moot point here is the fact that numbers of IoT users (being machines) is likely to be many orders higher that the human end users. Adopting software-as-a-service (SaaS), backend-as-a-service (BaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) models will help in the betterment of business operations and the delivery of improved services to customers. New and innovative IoT solutions allow telcos to use wide area networks (WANs) that establish energy-efficient communication between machines. These low-power global radio networks in IoT devices allow telecom organisations to generate an additional source of revenue. Furthermore, network providers can also develop new applications, products, and services on the IoT to multiply their profits in the industry.

To sum up

One of the key objectives for telecom companies is to survive and thrive in the digital era and keep abreast with the changing technologies. Single most important challenge telcos face today is to retain customer base and reduce operational expenditure (opex) while striving for increase in clientele with the aim to increase average revenue per user (ARPU). Therefore, technological adoption must be implemented bearing in mind long-term viability and achievability. All in all, the telecom industry is set to undergo numerous changes, with digital transformation being key to this shift. The adoption of innovative technologies will play a massive role in shaping the future of the telecom ecosystem, making it progressive and profitable in the long run.