There is no doubt that COVID-19 has affected many industries that may never revert to pre-virus norms. Telecoms supply chain disruption and deployment plans were broken virtually overnight. Forced social change exposed weaknesses that demand corrections and provide opportunities to Telecoms players across the world.
The huge shift in work patterns as people work from home exposed the rigidity and weaknesses of Network coverage and capacity models like never before. Content providers were forced to throttle data rates and online conferencing providers scrambled to add server capacity. These factors added to the almost concurrent emergence of the fifth and next generation of wireless and internet connectivity, or 5G, brings significant opportunities to existing and new entrant players.
The threat to existing Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s) could not have come at a worse time. The MNO model was already being shaken and may be completely broken by the COVID-19 crisis. Corporations will react to COVID-19 by reducing their central office requirement, which will require dispersed Telecom network coverage patterns to local areas vs the current model which clusters network coverage to metropolises where major global organizations are based. Private Network structures present opportunities for communities to take control and monetarize outside of the old models.
Private Networks have been proven on a small scale in oil and gas operations. Now, the introduction of 5G using IP based Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) technologies in a much smaller cell infrastructure offers unprecedented power to local communities. Just in March 2020, the giant Spanish network operator, Telefonica announced an agreement to develop 5G O-RAN technology with partner companies Altiostar, Gigatera Communications, Intel, Supermicro and Xilinx. This is particularly important as the utilization of O-RAN will mean that there will be more utilization of cloud services, allowing for things like remote software upgrades. In summary, the combination of 5G and O-RAN will not only encourage more suppliers into the market, it will make network operations cheaper and will open the door for communities and economies where scaling IT infrastructure is not as developed as in cities.
Communities hold a key card in the form of real estate and are the gatekeepers to users. Factor-in the monetary value of data and the business case for changing how Telecoms supply their services is complete.
MNO’s are facing a momentous shift – adapt or die. MNO’s will need to forge close relationships with local communities to preserve their revenue models. Local communities have a unique opportunity but lack the technical capability which could be provided by third-party players. As these communities discover that the financial barriers can be removed through the value of data farming, they are realizing the power that they hold.
Data farming, even before COVID-19, is a growing cash cow. Adding in the social benefits of monitoring and control and the model is further reinforced. The case for street level network deployment separate from MNO networks is now perfectly justifiable. 5G street smartpoles, controlled by communities, enable widespread local benefits with their dense sensor hubs and EV charging points and provide considerable additional revenues.
COVID-19 has accelerated social change and the challenges to monetizing the Telecoms opportunity will be grasped by a few key players. Project Management Optimization will be essential as the Telecom world shifts from MNO’s to local communities. Now, more than ever having well developed Management Operating Systems that establish the right structures and processes for a successful project will need to be implemented or enhanced.
Moreover, if you are evaluating a potential exploitation of the Telecoms industry opportunity by establishing a robust transformation plan or seek to future proof your business; ensure you partner with a company that has a strong track record in attaining budget and schedule of important CapEx and OpEx projects while engaging your employees in the transformation. Failure to attaining your project goals might mean you are either ahead the curve and can attract as much market share or might prove to drain lots of man-hours and money from your budget plans while leaving you behind the curve of this important infrastructure innovation.