Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their thinking with our audience. In this piece Boris Maurer, Communications and Media industry lead for EMEA for Accenture, outlines some of his thoughts on the major trends and discussions from MWC 2024.

Guest author

March 7, 2024

5 Min Read

As we return to our day jobs and catch up on some much-needed sleep, I believe it’s important to reflect and learn from what was discussed in Barcelona and understand how those meetings and conversations will help shape changes in the Communications industry in the year ahead.

As with previous MWC shows, the Fira was buzzing with new innovations featuring everything from flying cars to rollable phones and even eco-friendly thread made from kombucha. But the biggest change from the show this year for me had to be the shift away from 5G to focus heavily on generative AI. We can see how this is influencing how consumers will consume services in the future like the “app-less AI phone” concept from Deutsche Telekom.

Yet behind the buzz of the excitement of the new products on show, there were very real discussions about an industry that has been facing some well-documented difficulties. In many ways, it’s a bit like Groundhog Day because some of the themes have been talked about for several years now. However, I think something has shifted when you talk to the CSPs. They have acknowledged that time isn’t on their side, and they are ready for change, perhaps because they realise the impact generative AI can have on the industry. They also increasingly realise that their transformation is a team sport and need an ecosystem to support them.

During the show, we had many discussions that centred on three major areas where CSPs recognise change needs to happen.

Getting the customer experience right

Connectivity is crucial but CSPs struggle to boost revenues with one reason being high customer churn. Adapting to evolving customer expectations is essential, as the traditional "one size fits all" approach is obsolete. Individuals seek tailored solutions, not just in services but also in customer care. CSPs must go beyond providing basic connectivity and offer advice on optimizing services for customer benefit. They can assist in data usage optimization, bill anomaly detection, and provide security guidance.

To stand out in a competitive market, CSPs need to transition from conventional telecom services and explore value-added offerings such as entertainment and security. This is not new thinking, but the integration of generative AI can revolutionize customer interactions, replacing frustrating chatbots with conversational technology capable of understanding customer intent and delivering high-quality responses. This shift enables CSPs to engage customers 24x7 with hyper-personalized communication, intuitive interfaces, fostering loyalty and driving growth. Quick adoption of technology and diversified service offerings can position CSPs to connect closely with customers, helping take one step towards meeting the industry's growth aspirations.

Modernising the core of the business

In the rapidly evolving communications industry, digital transformation is no longer a choice but a necessity. Factors such as market changes, outdated technology, climate concerns, regulatory shifts, energy costs, inflation, geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruptions, and talent shortages demand continuous reinvention from the CSPs. If they are going to survive, they must embrace a holistic reinvention process, integrating people, culture, and purpose with technology at its core.

As 3G and copper networks are phased out in favour of fibre and 5G, CSPs stand at a pivotal juncture. A forward-looking telco will feature a digital core organized around artificial intelligence, cloud, security, and platforms, emphasizing interoperability. Openness and prioritising an API first approach facilitate easier customer and partner engagement, fostering standardized and interoperable services for constant reinvention. Standardization offers scalability within and across telcos, unlocking new monetization avenues.

A robust digital core positions CSPs to adapt to industry changes, placing the cloud at the network's centre for flexible, scalable delivery. This approach fuels innovation for both the network and its associated products and services. Next-generation networks enable CSPs not only to reinvent their own businesses but also to catalyse innovation in other industries, directly influencing their financial performance based on how they construct and expand their networks.

Investing in networks that can meet the needs of the future

It’s well known that digitalization has far paced network capacity in recent years. Yet the networks are still expected to keep up with the demands not only of today, but the undoubtably increasing demands of the future. Despite increased spending, businesses often prioritize maintaining legacy networks over modernization, leading to technology debt, rising costs, and security vulnerabilities. This stagnation impedes innovation and scalability.

Networks need modernization to facilitate evolving technologies like generative AI, mobile asset tracking, and computer vision for quality assurance. The CSPs at MWC were discussing the ways in which they can possibly do this. That is to start shifting budgets away from legacy repairs, and simply stabilize the current networks, then integrate advanced technologies for innovation and business resiliency.

Embracing change while establishing robust networks is fundamental for supporting transformations driven by technologies like cloud computing, edge computing, 5G, data analytics, and artificial intelligence based on cloud first open architectures and ways of working.

Final thoughts

We may not have seen any fundamental changes for the industry in Barcelona this year, but I do believe from the conversations I had, that there is an appetite for change and an excitement for the Communications industry in a generative AI world. We are definitely at an inflection point. I’m hopeful that when we meet at the show next year, we can talk about progress that has been made and not just what has to be done.

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Boris Maurer is Senior Managing Director and Communications and Media industry lead for Accenture in EMEA. Within this role, he is responsible for the strategy, offerings and business, as well as the network of professionals who serve Accenture’s Communications and Media clients in the region. He has served telecommunications, energy and high-tech clients for almost three decades and has helped clients develop strategies with transformational deals, delivering value at scale and enabling them to deliver next-generation services.

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