What will be the top three global challenges & opportunities facing the Telecom industry in 2015?

The telecom industry has been in turmoil for some time already. The voice and data volumes in traditionally fixed and mobile networks are declining, and the trend continues to give headaches to operators, who are increasingly turning on their business priorities to provide content in their networks.

1.     Ubiquitous communications – is there capacity enough?

Telecom users are connected wirelessly to the internet and other services all the time at home and at work. Increasingly many transportation companies, including trains and buses, now offer wireless connections to their customers. Not to forget airlines, which are rapidly updating their planes to allow WiFi-connectivity – and even the possibility to use mobile phones – during flights.

This is why there is increasing press for cities and other public players to provide free-of-charge wireless access at city centres and market places. The private players have already understood their responsibilities and have a free-of-charge WiFi-access in their boutiques and shopping centres.

The challenge for the telecom industry will clearly be how to handle the declining data volumes over the mobile networks (GSM, 3G, 4G), as the WiFi-access available all over will provide a free-of-charge connection.

 2.     Cloud storage – what about the data security?

Although smart phones have become increasingly smarter, the users still have a number of devices with which they wish to have access to all of their data, especially photos, videos and music. They may have a laptop with Windows, an iPad with Apple’s iOS and a smart phone with Android – too many operating systems to allow easy synchronisation for a normal user.

Here come the cloud services as an answer. The telecom industry has found the cloud services as a good sales argument, so almost everyone is providing one. We seem to have a sky-high trust in these cloud-services – of course, nobody can steal anything from there! If we are honest with ourselves, we actually do not know very much about these cloud-services. Where are they located, who administers them, how good is their data security?

This is an easy service for the telecom industry to sell, as typically they do not provide the cloud-services themselves. To add customer value and be successful in the field companies must embrace fresh and creative power, as well as flexibility of open cloud. The ability to manage a large amount of consumer data and anticipate customer behaviour through data analytics, at the same time as keeping it confidential is a unique opportunity to shine and stand out from its competitors.

3.     Soft-SIMs are coming

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication has extended already all forecasts, and this business area is one of the fastest growing within telecommunications. These applications have great potential to erupt in the market. By leveraging their network assets, large customer bases, and distributed field forces, telecoms players can increase value.  M2M has endless possibilities, and some of the most used already are automated meter readings or supervising fleet movements.

Traditionally M2M has utilized mobile communications technology, i.e. GSM, 3G or 4G. This, however, means that M2M utilities demand a SIM-card and a mobile phone number.

Many countries have already needed to review their telephone numbering plan for mobiles to allow enough capacity for exploding demands. Another issue is that telecoms authorities still demand number portability to also cover M2M – and this would mean costly SIM-card exchanges for thousands or millions of equipment spread all over, geographically.

The answer here is the soft-SIM. A “SIM-card” which is made by a software without needing a physical card at all. A soft-SIM would allow, for example, an operator change in a number portability operation to be carried out over-the-air, which would bring huge cost savings to M2M service providers who, at the same time, would be able to enjoy benefits – i.e. lower prices – of competing operators. Operators, naturally, have tried to slow-down the soft-SIM development, as is it not in their favour that the customers could change operators too easily. The soft-SIM development has been active for years; will the year 2015 be a break-through?

To summarize

If innovated correctly, Telecoms have great potential to move from passive infrastructure providers to platform and solutions providers. For the establishment of successful business opportunities, it will be integral to build good customer relationships and a strong channel presence. We can be confident that, utilizing this platform, exciting business opportunities will be presented.

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Jukka Rakkolainen

About Jukka Rakkolainen

Mr. Jukka Rakkolainen has extensive experience in ICT business for over 25 years. He holds a M.Sc. (E.E.) from Helsinki University of Technology. Jukka has held a number of senior management positions within the telecoms industry, and he also has experience in the telecoms industry from the public authority’s point of view dealing with telecommunications regulations. For the past ten years Jukka has been involved in international telecommunications regulations; Eight years with the European Communications Office dealing with issues related to numbering and networks, and thereafter as an independent ICT consultant specialising in telecommunications regulations and numbering, naming and addressing schemes within telecoms networks and services.