New mobile technology has always brought about improvements in how people connect to each other and to online services. 

But 5G differs from its predecessors in one very significant way: it will let machines talk to each other on an unprecedented scale. 

Understanding why this ability is much more than just another technical milestone will be key to monetizing its opportunities.

5G is about innovative solutions – not data, speed, reliability or latency 

For telco businesses, the biggest change 5G represents is that revenue streams will no longer be solely reliant on providing connectivity. Instead, the revenue growth will be in supporting and enabling 5G-based services.

One example of this: smart cities, replete with sensors collecting information on traffic, weather and air quality. 

5G will be crucial in building smart cities. Source: Shutterstock

Vast amounts of data will be fed back to a centralized city-management system. This data may be used to make decisions on rerouting traffic in the event of congestion or roadworks. It could help alert citizens to higher-than-normal amounts of air pollution. In whichever manner the data is used, it will still need to be gathered, stored, accessed, processed and protected in close to real time to have a transformative impact on the quality of life of the citizens.

Telcos already have the network needed to underpin such activities. These networks offer resilience, as has been borne out by their ability to handle the quantum leap in demand during the pandemic. They can offer additional security, too.

The obvious next move is to combine the capabilities needed for future services like smart cities and connected healthcare with existing platforms and capabilities. But it needn’t stop there. Creating industry-specific services will enable telcos to reimagine their core strengths into new, monetized offerings. Here are three examples of how that could work:

  1. Real-time automation 

Building an elastic service delivery infrastructure, that copes seamlessly with fluctuations in demand, will enable telcos to unleash the value of data gathered by connected sensors and assets. This can make it possible for automated IoT devices to act where and when needed. 

  1. Risk management

Data gathered from smart devices and managed in the cloud makes it possible for analysis and computation at the edge of the network. Algorithms developed to assess crowd behaviour in public spaces could determine the situation in real time and take action if appropriate – whether that’s alerting first responders or closing busy thoroughfares.

  1. Immersive video

Smart cameras are being used to gather data on the condition of roads, buildings, bridges and other large or hazardous structures. Working with this enormous volume of data in real time will revolutionize the way it is put to use − and again, it plays directly to the strengths of high-availability, robust and secure networks.

5G could transform our roads. Source: Shutterstock

5G is about harnessing the power of ecosystems

Establishing partnerships and creating new value-driven ecosystems will be a major route to monetizing 5G for telcos. After all, 5G will be deployed in a wide variety of uses. A smart home system will have very different requirements when compared to a connected home care solution.

Catering to the differing needs of 5G-enabled customers will require telcos to band together with organizations and offer a portfolio of solutions and services. The network, with its resilience and flexibility, will form the core of such offerings.

For many operators, this will demand a fundamental transformation of the way they engage with partners and form go-to-market propositions. There are three key considerations for telcos looking to make that shift. They should:

  1. Reimagine organizational structures, processes and the skills of the workforce. To be successful as a technology platform provider, telcos will need to think and behave more like a vendor with a channel and go-to-market partners.
  2. Redefine the core value proposition. Robust, reliable networks should be regarded as the platform upon which partners will develop customer-facing, industry-relevant products. Make it possible to support solutions for different, distinct markets.
  3. Remove friction from customer experience. Starting with the onboarding process, every interaction with partners should be easy and make doing business with the telco a compelling prospect. This outlook should extend from product design, through to customer service, support and more.

The market for 5G will extend beyond basic, albeit vital, connectivity. Telcos must do the same to ensure they remain relevant to the needs of customers. In some cases, that will mean operating at one or two steps removed from the end-customer, effectively handing the customer relationship over to a partner. 

Yet this needn’t be a cause for anxiety. The right partners, those that understand the common interests of collaboration for the benefit of the customer, will help to enhance the overall value proposition and build financial rewards for all.