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Prepping for 5G: Four Ways to Reduce Rollout Risk


While the “broadband everywhere” experience promises much benefit for consumers and industry alike, the 5G rollout poses much risk for both mobile and cable/telco operators. Here’s how to reduce the threats and reap the rewards.

5G is coming soon, and many observers expect the ultra-speedy, highly reliable fifth-generation mobile network technology to forever alter the telecommunications world. It seems clear that consumers and businesses will embrace 5G’s “broadband everywhere” experience. What is less clear: How communication service providers (CSPs) and mobile operators will recoup their investments in the near term and beyond the rollout. In the meantime, a measured approach to 5G will help to reduce risk.

Among the biggest risks is failing to answer the question of how and where 5G become a must-have for business and consumer users, many of whom are now unlikely to see the technological advance as anything more than a bigger pipe for data. It’s up to operators to make the case that 5G is much more than speed before gaming companies, over the top (OTT) players and other service providers do it for them.

5G portends much change for CSPs, which should expect disruption to their business models. The bulk of CSP revenue today comes from contracts, on-site equipment (also known as consumer-premise equipment, CPE) such as routers and set-top boxes and installation fees. But the advent of 5G suggests they will need to shift to value-added services and products tailored to specific use cases. The quickest way to get there is to partner with others in the ecosystem — something most CSPs find challenging. 

The opportunities are unquestionably huge, though just how big is anyone’s guess at this moment. IHS Markit put forth the exuberant estimate of $12.3 trillion of revenue for the scope of 5G revenue across a broad range of industries. Whatever the market size shakes out to, operators that reduce 5G rollout risks will enjoy their share of the spoils before the rest of the pack.

On the verge of 5G deployment, here are four actions that operators can take today to lay a foundation for 5G success:

Focus now on the most beneficial 5G business use cases — and the ones best visualized.

In advance of deployment, operators should think about how they can create services to wrap around the most pertinent use cases. How to do this? Start by looking at your customer base and then zeroing in on industries that stand to benefit the most from a super-fast pipe with low latency.

With its existing investment in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and exponentially rising data volumes, manufacturing/logistics is one such example (see Figure 1, below). Healthcare is another. If your teams can vet, create and enable a number of core services and capabilities for specific business challenges and use cases now, it will be better positioned when 5G gets under way.

Figure 1

For consumers, make the case around convenience.

Most consumers are uninterested in the exact technology that allows them to access mobile data quickly, accurately and reliably. As such, the 5G story of bigger, better and faster is not likely to resonate — unless your team can tie it to convenience. Create a consumer message that goes beyond “network for network’s sake” that will illustrate the art of the possible. Then, devise service offerings that heighten consumer convenience. The “Connected Home” has not reached its full potential, in part because CSPs have not yet created compelling messages regarding its convenience — easy home security offered as a managed service, for instance. So, that opportunity is there for the taking. Customers just want CSPs to manage it.

Another possibility: Offering to remove the burden, from consumer and business users’ shoulders, of keeping up to date with network technology. Most people do not want to geek out on technical details — they just want the comfort of knowing their service provider will take care of that for them. Show them you’ll manage their convenience by creating offerings that are complete and easy to understand, with a pledge to sweat the details so customers don’t have to.

Find novel ways to monetize customer data.

For both enterprise and consumers, capturing and making sense of their data will give rise to new opportunities. The trick is to learn from customers’ Code Halos — or “digital footprints” — that surround their every digital interaction and transaction, and seize opportunities to generate greater customer value. The continued introduction of new CPEs capable of leveraging the faster 5G network will create thousands of additional pieces of data that may just add to the current trillion pieces of data that provide limited value on ways to improve customer experience and enable up- and cross-selling opportunities.

Understand where — and how — you need to partner.

5G already has a vast ecosystem of organizations, including network operators, core technology and component suppliers, device OEMs, infrastructure providers, and content and application developers, each working to provide its own piece of the puzzle. They will all be part of bringing the 5G opportunity to fruition. As mentioned above, CSPs have traditionally not excelled at partnering in delivering services, preferring in the past to develop and bring to market their own capabilities. 

The coming of 5G is a time for CSPs to learn more about how to partner to create and enable services. We believe the speed and agility enabled by engaging the right partners will be a critical 5G success factor. Choosing partners that have the ability to scale rapidly will decrease risk. Make sure you know how you want to leverage partners and what capabilities you’re going to tap into. It’s not just a product component. Put it out, adapt it and then move on.

“If you build it, they will come” is not a winning 5G strategy. Engagement transcends a fast and effective network or conducting the occasional customer survey. Engagement means creating a two-way dialog, asking questions and then listening to what customers need and want, as well as what partners have to offer.

This article was written by Shameka Young, a Vice President in Cognizant Consulting’s Communications Practice.

To learn more, visit the Communications section of our website, or contact us.

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Prepping for 5G: Four Ways to Reduce Rollout Risk