BICS: Daniel Kurgan's 2017 Telecom Trends

2016 proved to be a remarkable year for the telecoms industry.

In its crudest form, mobile was previously synonymous with the core voice services provided by operators, and while voice remains one of the biggest revenue streams for MNOs, the digital revolution has sparked a new age for communication.

New, branded digital experiences – messaging apps, chat bots and even the Internet of Things – have pervaded mobile devices globally, as consumers expect instant connectivity and seamless services, wherever they are in the world.

As operators and internet service providers make great headway in giving subscribers the ultimate user experience with faster, more qualitative and cost-effective voice and data services, I believe that 2017 – despite its imminent challenges – could prove to be a turning point for the industry as a whole, with new revenue opportunities and partnerships to be reaped for those who have readied themselves to take advantage.

The abolition of EU roaming charges will force significant change in the industry

June 2017 will mark a huge juncture in mobile history as EU regulators abolish roaming charges, allowing subscribers to use their mobile phones abroad as they would at home.

The abolition of roaming charges in Europe for consumers will have a knock on effect for wholesalers, who will be under increasing pressure to reduce their own fees. However, roaming traffic is expected to grow significantly as more subscribers will be inclined to switch on data roaming as they travel. This surge in usage of mobile voice and data services abroad should offset the impact of the changes in legislation.

The wholesale telecoms sector will experience a period of upheaval as the new measures come into place. However, the blow could be softened by the decision made by EU ministers in December 2016 to cap wholesale rates. Essentially, this will give mobile operators and wholesale carriers time to adjust. Either way, mobile operators will need to adapt if they want to reap the rewards of the industry’s digital transformation. 

The Internet of Things will spark new services and revenue streams

In 2017, we will witness more convergence across the telecoms space as service providers develop cross-platform propositions to support content services, and also look to diversify in order to target vertical markets.

The IoT will be a key driver of this transformation, as an increasing number of industries become reliant on mobile to provide the connectivity and infrastructure needed to support IoT implementations. IoT has become integral to the growth of smart homes, smart factories, automated production lines and the emergence of driverless cars.

We have already seen several deployments of global IoT solutions, but in 2017 these are likely to gain traction as more and more equipment manufacturers and enterprises look to embed global connectivity into their devices. Wholesalers will play a key role in bringing disparate players from other markets together, helping to drive collaboration that will support innovation in telecoms.

Increased M&A activity will prompt collaboration to take advantage of industry opportunities

Wholesalers are set to play a crucial role in the development and transformation of the telecoms industry in 2017, acting as a facilitator of new partnerships across the sector.

In 2016, we saw a number of high-profile M&A as major operators looked to enhance their digital propositions to offer content and media services. This was evident in the U.S. with the Verizon- Yahoo M&A, and the recent move by AT&T to acquire Time Warner. On the consolidation front, the UK incumbent BT acquired EE, the country’s largest mobile operator.

In 2017, we’ll see similar activity again, but on a micro-level, as mobile operators and pure-play telecoms businesses look to partner with digital service providers, cloud communications companies and even fintech companies to embed mobile and rich communications services into their core proposition. In order for these players to capitalise on the opportunities before them, they will need to look at partnering with wholesalers, retail service providers and vendors to help make the connections, share assets and intelligence in order to develop and roll out new services and to new markets in order to differentiate.

Daniel Kurgan is the CEO of BICS.

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