Past the horizon: A look into the CSP future

Past the horizon: A look into the CSP future
No one can fully predict the future, but there are techniques to read the signals that foresee where it might lead. Recent Nokia research has revealed three areas of opportunity for communications service providers (CSPs): new forms of broadband access, mixed reality applications and the (physically distanced) community economy.
Here’s why these matter, and how CSPs can position themselves to reap the benefits as they evolve.

New forms of broadband access

As governments continue to push for universal broadband as an enabler of health, educational and economic advantage, many are seeking fast, flexible alternatives to fiber rollouts. That’s driving interest in High Altitude Platforms (HAPs), which deliver connectivity from balloons and airships hovering above the earth but within the atmosphere.

One of the HAPs making a mark today is SpaceX-built Starlink Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite,[1] which received $856 million in rural digital opportunities funding from the Federal Communications Commission in December 2020 — a hint of the HAP market’s potential for CSPs.

While not every CSP is in the position to launch a HAP solution, those that are may want to focus on this growing opportunity — and those that aren’t could consider sourcing coverage from an existing provider.

New applications for mixed reality

Worldwide spending on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) could reach $72.8 billion by 2024, driven by 5G consumer use (thanks to companies like Apple building Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology into their devices) and by a growing array of enterprise applications as well.[2] This is an opportunity for CSPs, whose networks will provide the bandwidth and low latency to support the necessary processing of these applications in the cloud.

By partnering today with application developers to address the new resource requirements and start capitalizing on the emerging ecosystem of mixed reality content, CSPs can be well positioned to reap the benefits as the market builds.

Digital twins are a particularly promising class of mixed reality application, making it possible to simulate, explore and test upgrades or changes to physical environments without disrupting them. City officials in Helsinki, for example, recently invited companies to use digital twins to design new services based on public data about buildings’ energy consumption.

CSPs may want to think about these both as customer-facing applications to support and also as tools to use themselves — creating models of their own networks to simulate events, changes and upgrades without physically interfering with the live network.

Farther down the road, many observers expect AR/VR to lead to the creation of the “spatial web”, which will map the physical world onto virtual spaces and layer virtual elements onto physical ones — essentially breaking down the divide between physical and virtual in an experiential way.

In every case, mixed reality will depend on a robust ecosystem of device providers, platforms and content. CSPs can be the critical channel that connects all of these players.

New ways to connect

If ecosystems are the future of enterprise service creation and delivery, communities are much the same on the user end of things. The community-based economy will continue to change how businesses engage with customers — and how people engage with each other.

CSPs can support the community-building efforts of their enterprise customers and, at the same time, develop their own communities to provide answers and advice and showcase new products or services through virtual events, interactive content and videos. In the Netherlands, T-Mobile’s online community — the largest telco forum in the country — helps cut costs and boost customer loyalty by handling 40 percent of support requests.[3]

Beyond brand-specific communities, there will be the larger phenomenon of living and working online to support in the wake of COVID-19 as businesses and individuals continue with remote, physically distanced ways of getting things done.

CSPs have already played a critical role in the global pivot to this new reality. Going forward, there will be more opportunities to enrich that experience. Spanish CSP Telefonica, for example, has collaborated with startup iUrban to help Silken Hotel Group create an entirely digital and mobile experience to ensure all of its 25 hotels comply with local COVID-19 safety protocols.[4]

Moving early on opportunity

Getting an early read on these signals of future opportunity gives CSPs time to develop strategies and prepare to make the most of them — in ways that make sense for their markets and businesses. Nokia will continue to look beyond the horizon to decode the next set of signals from the future. Download our new report Know, now to learn more about them and the potential they hold for CSPs worldwide.

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Leslie Shannon is Nokia’s head of Ecosystem and Trend Scouting.She scouts for new developments in technologies outside the telecommunications industry to understand what the networks of five years from now will need to support, how these technologies will interact with each other, and where new business opportunities will be.

About Nokia

We create the critical networks and technologies to bring together the world’s intelligence, across businesses, cities, supply chains and societies.With our commitment to innovation and technology leadership, driven by the award-winning Nokia Bell Labs, we deliver networks at the limits of science across mobile, infrastructure, cloud, and enabling technologies.Adhering to the highest standards of integrity and security, we help build the capabilities we need for a more productive, sustainable and inclusive world.

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