The telecom industry has grown massively over the last few decades. Broadband is integral to the function of all major industries, and recently the pandemic furthered this by creating a remote and hybrid working lifestyle, thus spiking the demand for superfast broadband speeds.
Governments across the world are also stressing the importance of internet access due to its strong ties with digital equity and economic prosperity. The US government has introduced President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill, which aims to ensure that all American citizens have access to high-speed internet.
Similarly across the pond, the UK government, alongside the private sector, has pledged to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband, as well as 4G and 5G coverage.
Government initiatives have motivated change within the industry, with operators focused on meeting demands as quickly as possible, and ensuring that their fiber build efforts are streamlined and efficient.
However, operators are not just working to their own schedules.
Winning the fiber broadband race
There is a race across the telecom sector to capture market share, and the operators that achieve this quickly will reap significant financial rewards. Action can be taken by operators no matter where they are in their journeys to improve processes that meet growing customer needs.
Following are five straightforward ways this can be achieved.
1. Operators who have already invested in next-gen technologies can make their investments work ‘smarter’ with the right approach
As the fiber broadband race intensifies, telecom companies with a smarter approach to meeting challenging demands will come out on top.
Many organizations have already invested in innovative, next-generation technology. This is an approach that is supported by research firm McKinsey & Company, who found in their ‘Rethinking strategy for the post pandemic era’ study that “bolder, at-scale investments in technology are significantly more likely to support a successful transformation than those that are smaller in scope.”
However, this is only part of the picture. While investing in innovative, next-gen technology is a great idea, how it is implemented is also key to success.
Telecom operators that are investing in new technology need to create a long-term innovation strategy that is made up of smaller, short term successes, as opposed to focusing on a single ‘big-bang’ investment.
Growing the physical network is a huge task to undertake that should certainly not be underestimated. To put the challenge into context, it is not often in any industry that organizations need to change so much, so quickly, to meet rapidly evolving demands.
A good way for operators to tackle the change, and reduce time to revenue, is by creating a series of smaller goals that can quickly deliver impact for the business throughout their transformation journey.
2. Organizations can also benefit from creating a blueprint for ongoing innovation
For best success, operators that are further in their innovation journeys should view the implementation of innovative, next-generation technology as a rolling deployment. The best way to kick-start this strategy is by reviewing the business and identifying the area which is currently feeling the greatest pain.
For example, if the problem is inefficiencies with field crews and contractors, operators could start by deploying a new mobile solution for construction. And when this solution proves to be effective at solving the issue, the same infrastructure and lessons could then be applied to maintenance, followed by disaster response, then ticket management, and so on.
Telecom operators that start by identifying one pain point and develop a successful solution, create a virtuous ROI model that can be used to justify future expansion across the lifecycle. They benefit from the return delivered with each small step, as well as the exponential reward from the accumulation of all the smaller steps.
Following this strategy also provides these telecom businesses with the opportunity to perfect their solution with every new deployment. Operators can start with one issue, create and deploy a project, then refine the solution for the next pain point and create an “innovation blueprint” that can be applied across the entire organization.
Operators that choose to follow this strategy will quickly come to understand that the entire network lifecycle process is interconnected and that they need to ensure that a foundation is laid that can be used across all of the different operational areas of the business. Creating a flexible and agile strategy supports the different priorities of each individual business department and operational areas, while also drawing together the full network lifecycle.
An added benefit of this strategy is the lower risk profile when compared to a “big-bang” approach. There is never a guarantee that any new technology will be successful when deployed. Therefore, it is important to identify any projects that aren’t working early in the process.
Following an incremental approach allows operators the ability to assess the output and impact of a solution on an ongoing basis, meaning they can stop investing valuable funds into a project that isn’t effective far earlier than if they had followed a “big-bang” approach.
Waiting 12 to 18 months to evaluate the success and impact of a solution is extremely risky. If new technology proves to be ineffective for the problem and the output isn’t what had been anticipated, all the funds invested up until that point may prove to be a bad investment.
3. Take inspiration from others
A shining example of the positive impact of incremental innovation is the City of Westerville in Ohio. The city is the first municipality to own its own data center and fiber network. With this, they serve residential users, as well as businesses. They also attract large companies with affordable, high-performance broadband.
The City of Westerville has set highly ambitious growth expectations for itself and to meet those targets, they are constantly upgrading their technology to improve network reliability and support new services.
Examples of this include the deployment of network troubleshooting that quickly identifies the location of fiber faults, thus speeding up repair times with greater field crew efficiently. The city has rolled out planning and development tools to optimize the use of expensive fiber resources.
They also continually streamline their recordkeeping process, thus enabling field technicians to capture network status anywhere in the field on mobile phones.
By adopting a strategy of constant incremental innovation, the City of Westerville is able to deliver better services to their customers through consistent operational improvement, and impressive cost saving.
4. Those just starting on their journey can take steps to benefit from market opportunities
While many operators are already hitting the ground running when it comes to implementing next-generation technology, some are still debating how to get off the starting line.
The operators that are now slightly further along in their journeys started with one small step - eliminating paper maps. They instead chose to use digital solutions that can run online and offline, ensuring that a single shared geospatial network view is available to field teams at all times.
By creating a network digital twin, operators also enable the integration of the other important data sources, instead of splintering data into siloed applications. Doing so creates a holistic overview of the increasingly complex network assets. This means that any network changes can be visualized easily and managed effectively.
Over time, operators that favor a digital-first approach are able to incrementally digitalize across all areas of the business, therefore allowing them to consistently meet ever-changing customer and business demands.
To see the impact that digital maps can have on a business, we can look to TELUS as an example. The needs of TELUS’ customers were evolving and to meet these new demands, they incrementally integrated a range of data sources into one geospatial network view.
Doing so allowed them to monitor key information like weather, disaster information and intelligent sensor analytics. Integrating all data into one network view allowed TELUS to provide their team with a deep understanding of real time network status, which in turn increased efficiency within the organization, as well as allowed them to provide their customers with the best service possible.
Field-sourcing geospatial network data also provided TELUS, as well as other organizations that follow a similar route, with the added benefit of enabling themselves to significantly reduce the number of updates that require a GIS specialist.
Achieving this creates more accessibility within field and operational teams, therefore creating a more streamlined repairs process. The approach TELUS followed allows operators to scale up network data processes to match their growth ambitions.
5. Every operator should demonstrate value to customers and key stakeholders
The increased demand for superfast fiber broadband has opened up a gap in the market. Operators at all stages of their business journey now have a huge opportunity to attract new customers by quickly providing excellent service, thus drastically increasing their revenue.
To capitalize on this opportunity, operators cannot stand still. They should be demonstrating consistent value to current and potential customers, not to mention their own company.
Telecom operators that choose to follow a ‘constant innovation’ strategy will also enable themselves to consistently demonstrate value internally, thus showing that implemented solutions were a worthwhile investment for the business. It accelerates time to revenue and is a far less risky approach than expensive and resource hungry big bang projects.
Network operators need to be able to look back every few months to evaluate the progress the organization has made and the impact new solutions have had on customers and revenue.
The new demand for superfast high speed broadband has created a huge opportunity for telecom operators of all sizes to increase their market share and revenue over the next few years. Operators that can implement a strategy of consistent incremental innovation, in a similar fashion to how the City of Westerville and others have done, will be able to seize the opportunity present and consistently demonstrate value to customers.
Similarly, those that focus on the implementation of a fully digital strategy, like TELUS has done, will also see similar successes. Any level of progress is a positive step for individual operators and the industry.
CLARK STEVENSON is Director of Customer Success at IQGeo.