Telecom operators in emerging markets have experienced major threats from OTTs to their traditional services such as voice, SMS and data for a few years now.
The trend shows that revenue is shrinking year-on-year despite heavy investments being made in the network infrastructure catering for fixed and mobile services. The revenue seems to be going more towards OTT and Content Service Providers.
On the regulatory side, growing competition among operators is increasing and this is putting more pressure on them to reduce prices on services and products. Most of the time, this is not compensated by a growing volume of traffic or customers. On the other hand, the cost of maintenance of traditional networks in emerging markets is increasing with aging of equipment and access networks (DSL), which is also resulting in a degraded quality of service at the customer end.
Bandwidth consumption is growing at a pace never before experienced, with the advent of bandwidth-hungry applications, IoT, multimedia, and cloud services which are making their way through the global market supported by big players. This will start to influence the telecom environment in emerging markets considerably in 2018.
Based on this, telecom operators should be re-inventing themselves by reviewing their infrastructure & business models and developing new revenue streams to be able to maintain sustainable growth. There is a need to review their product offerings, with the right pricing/packaging of products and services to suit the requirements of the different market segments. As an example, mobile data volume seems to be growing quite fast with the rapid growth of smartphones on the market, and this will be an opportunity for operators to come up with an innovative approach to packaging their services and developing apps (e.g. Mobile money) and roaming data plans (targeting 70% silent roamers as per Juniper research) to build up on this new revenue stream.
On the infrastructure side, a good strategy would be to deploy high-speed broadband access supported by an upgraded core network at national and international levels (in terms of Gbps) to be able to keep pace with the ever-growing bandwidth usage at the consumer end. Ultimately, operators can move to a ubiquitous all-IP network with the objective to reduce operational costs in managing different networks which would effectively help to increase the present tight margins. With such infrastructures, operators shall position themselves to offer converged network services (voice, internet, mobile data, entertainment, hosted cloud services, VPN solutions, IoT platforms, data centres with co-location services, etc.) helping them to diversify their business activities while generating new revenue streams. The security aspect - which has become a big concern in recent years - should not be overseen by operators, but they should ensure that a protection mechanism is in place at vulnerable points in their networks.
To have the competitive edge with all the panoply of new services to be developed, quality of service will be among the top priorities – there is a need to meet and even exceed customer expectations which are becoming more and more demanding. Operators should look at ways to offer managed services with stringent SLAs, thereby allowing their customers to monitor the QoS they are experiencing from the service providers. IT systems would need to be reviewed as well to integrate a CRM with online interaction between customers (from any device i.e. PC, mobile phone, tablet, TV set, etc.) and their service provider. This will be a very important aspect for achieving customer service excellence at different levels, e.g. pre-sales, sales and after-sales.
Partnership with OTT providers and other stakeholders in the content/IoT business is key for achieving sustainable growth in the long-term.
Ram Seenundun is the Head of Product Development - Wholesale Market at Mauritius Telecom.