Every day, more and more communications service providers (CSPs) join the 5G race. Many already predict two thirds of all their "use cases" for 5G will be business- or industry-focused rather than aimed at consumers.
Against the backdrop of this race, organizations globally are currently exploring how to digitalize their operating models and transform their businesses using new technologies like IoT, cloud, AI -- and 5G.
The hope is that 5G creates opportunities for enterprises to come up with new business models, use cases and applications that take advantage of the network technology's high-speed, low-latency, always-on mobile connectivity.
Yet this poses a considerable challenge for CSPs. They need in-depth knowledge and understanding of enterprise customers and the specific sectors in which they operate.
There's a lot at stake. Consumer markets are increasingly saturated and commoditized and so enterprise represents one of the few remaining growth markets for CSPs. And if CSPs can't succeed in the enterprise space, their long-term commercial prospects are at risk.
The crucial gaps that CSPs must fill
According to a recent study by consulting group BearingPoint//Beyond -- which put questions to some 250 enterprise ICT buyers and 100 telecom executives in Europe, Asia and the US -- CSPs will have to make sweeping changes to their business and strategic priorities if they are to give enterprise customers exactly what they need.
There is a lucrative opportunity up for grabs if they do so. According to the study, 47% of enterprise customers said they would buy up to 16% more from CSPs if the right changes were made.
But the study also revealed the crucial "gaps" in CSPs' enterprise strategies that must be filled:
Gap #1: Disparity between investment priorities and revenue drivers
Some 47% of telecom executives expect the enterprise segment to be the organization's primary revenue source in two years, versus 28% who believe that will be consumer services.
But 41% of executives point to consumer as the focus of their investment activities. What's imperative is that CSPs bring their investment plans into line with the markets and sectors they expect will deliver most of their sales -- specifically, the enterprise space.
Gap #2: CSPs' outdated mindsets are stifling innovation and slowing time to market
In the study, just 26% of enterprises revealed that they currently see CSPs as a key partner. Most enterprises do not see CSPs as innovative, fast or relevant.
CSPs' current R&D and launch processes are intended to control cost and risk, but they actually inhibit experimentation. They add time and cost to the development process, thereby putting CSPs at a major disadvantage to over-the-top players (OTTs) and other digital providers with their "fail fast" attitudes.
The result? CSPs' outdated processes mean they lose valuable enterprise business to more agile digital players who can respond faster to customer needs.
Gap #3: Unable or unwilling to set up and manage a third-party partner ecosystem
When asked how CSPs can position themselves as preferred partners for new IT investments, the most popular response among enterprises was that CSPs should collaborate more closely with other vendors to provide complete, "joined up" solutions.
The majority of CSPs -- 86% -- recognize that third-party collaboration is important. But when asked how advanced they are in building out their business-to-business partner ecosystem, just 12% of CSPs said those were in place today and only 33% were "fully engaged" in development.
Some CSPs had not thought about it at all.
CSPs have work to do
CSPs have important work ahead of them. They must have in place a strong enterprise offering ready for 5G's arrival at scale next year. But to grasp this opportunity, they must reallocate important financial and technology resources -- even at the expense of their consumer businesses.
CSPs also need to abandon their traditional, restrictive product development processes, and replace them with leaner operations that prioritize experimentation, innovation and rapid time to market.
Furthermore, CSPs must adopt a more open and collaborative mindset -- this includes taking the lead in setting up and managing ecosystems with third-party partners. It will be these ecosystems that give rise to the fresh ideas, new products and solutions that enterprise customers need as they transform and modernize their businesses.
In this way, CSPs would become the "destination" for enterprises to access the wide range of new technologies and partners that can address their various needs.
However, if CSPs hold off making these necessary changes, they'll only repeat the same mistake with 5G that they made with 4G: They'll lose out to faster-moving digital players and miss out on new revenues as well. Once again, CSPs will be reduced to mere connectivity providers wondering what might have been.
For a full copy of the BearingPoint//Beyond study, click here.
— Angus Ward, CEO, BearingPoint//Beyond