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Four ways to unlock more B2B opportunities and 5G value

As global service providers enter a new decade, a new network evolution (from 4G to 5G), and a new IT cycle (virtualization and the cloud), they have been forced to take a hard look at their business models and opportunities for growth.

With the recent evolutions in eSIM and digital identity, the B2C wireless market has become increasingly commoditized. Consumers have an abundance of choices and, more importantly, the ability to move seamlessly between providers and plans. While operators cannot and should not ignore the vast consumer segment, which represents at least 70% of their businesses, it's the business segment that will unlock the value of 5G.

The business market's growth strategies look starkly different from past consumer strategies that helped operators grow around social, mobile, analytics, the cloud and 4G. In the past, customer-centricity equated to customer ownership. But there are multiple paths to interact with and provide services to SMEs and enterprise customers, so collaboration and co-creation with other companies will be essential to driving customer success. Additionally, operators have focused on technology enablement investing in agile, scalable infrastructure that enables them to pivot quickly and rapidly roll out new capabilities as business challenges take shape.

Finally, the definition of ecosystems has evolved. A global service provider CTO recently told me, "Haifa, we've had to scrap everything we thought we knew about ecosystems and start over again." It's no longer about reselling solutions. Global service providers are taking a hard look at their tech infrastructures, processes and cultures. They're attempting to empower collaboration between partners, vendors, creators and even competitors.

To succeed in the B2B era means excelling in four key areas:

Business First: Tomorrow's growth will depend on an even more in-depth understanding of business imperatives, risks and desired outcomes. Omdia recently reported SMEs are being neglected despite being valued at $433 billion by 2025. Representing 99% of the world's businesses, 73% of global SMEs have said that they see 5G as important to their business. Operators will need to better understand their customers' verticals and business needs and challenges, which will require functionally rich capabilities to design solutions that can deliver on those imperatives. To do so, AI and intelligence management will play a key role in identifying value and creating actionable insights.

Ecosystems and Enablement: Dynamic ecosystems will be at the heart of every service provider 5G, B2B and enterprise strategy moving forward. Service providers need to collaborate to drive growth, and ecosystems play a crucial role in connecting businesses, customers and even competitors to create new value. CSPs will serve both domestic and multinational enterprises' needs, where orchestration and harmonization of internal and third-party capabilities and assets will become essential.

Scale, Standards and Agility: Multi-edge computing (MEC) has become critical as 5G mobile networks and cloud capabilities intersect, and success moves past aggregation to orchestration. Data will need to be processed on the edge of the network to deliver on the scale and super-low latencies required to power future autonomous use cases. Therefore, a cloud-first strategy supported by common standards and open APIs will be critical to every 5G strategy. This extends beyond the service providers to their business partners, vendors and ecosystem collaborators.

Trust and Transparency: As companies look to enable co-creation and empower open exchanges/ecosystems, security, trust and governance will drive success at both the business and technical layers. According to research by cybersecurity company BlueVoyant, more than 80% of organizations have experienced a data breach due to security vulnerabilities in their supply chains. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of smaller vendors' poor security as a means of gaining access to the networks of large organizations.

5G, B2B and dynamic ecosystems will underpin and shape the next decade in the telecommunications market, and the edge, cloud-first, scalable architectures will be the enablement tools. We call this B2B foundation for service operators "BEST" Business, Ecosystems, Scale and Trust.

Today's operators who invest in their networks and drive collaboration and innovation through dynamic ecosystems will be on a solid footing to win and take market share in a 5G world. Simultaneously, these operators will find themselves in the driver's seat for the next decade, as another network evolution and IT cycle are just around the corner.

— Haifa El Ashkar, Executive Director, Corporate Strategy, CSG

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