Thursday, May 23, 2024
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In the cutthroat world of GCC telecom operators, fierce competition for market share has put a damper on revenue growth and inflated capital expenses. But there’s a way out of this stagnant slump. Operators must tap into their technology capabilities, and their ace in the hole is none other than their chief technology officers (CTOs).

The battleground of mobile broadband is fierce, causing prices to plummet and customers to ditch fixed broadband. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has seen a surge in the fixed wireless access market, gobbling up fibre connectivity, thanks to its alluring fair usage policies and unlimited social media and fixed-wireless data plans.

But it’s not just about the old guard. New technologies and players have stormed onto the scene, turning up the heat on telecom operators. The big boys, known as hyper scalers, are offering virtual network functions that threaten traditional telecom services. And let’s not forget the unconventional connectivity providers, like low earth-orbit satellite operators, shaking things up even more.

With the current stalemate, telecom operators are finding it hard to allocate the necessary resources to exploit the region’s promising growth prospects. Take Saudi Arabia, for example. The demand for digital services, gaming, media, and snazzy consumer devices, including 5G handsets, is expected to skyrocket over the next three years. There’s a potential to connect 3.5 million new households with shiny new fixed broadband infrastructure, adding a cool SAR 4 billion ($1 billion) to the coffers. And don’t even get me started on the business-to-business digital services sector, where we’re looking at a 15% annual growth rate, fueled by a whopping SAR 1 trillion ($266 billion) in new government spending planned for 2023.

So, what’s the game plan for telecom operators to turn this ship around and ride the wave of opportunity? They need to reshape their technology capabilities, and it’s the CTOs who hold the keys to success. Here are the six priorities they should focus on:

First, we’re talking about a technology landscape makeover. CTOs need to rev things up by embracing cloud-based applications that can be easily tailored and pieced together. This means quicker product launches, a leaner tech infrastructure, cost management on point, and a laser focus on service innovation rather than bogged-down infrastructure management. Just look at Zain’s recent tower sale, proving that trimming the fat can pay off for GCC telecom operators.

Second, it’s time to transform telecom assets into lucrative platforms and marketplaces. Operators have a goldmine of data and services that can dazzle business customers. They can follow in the footsteps of global players like AT&T, monetizing those untapped assets. And let’s not forget the power of open APIs. They can create marketplaces that lure in API suppliers and application creators, driving innovation and revenue.

Third, we need to step on the gas pedal and accelerate the migration to the cloud. Cloud network functions are no longer an option; they’re a necessity in the telecom game. Those operators that make the move early will gain a strategic advantage, forming partnerships with major cloud providers for edge computing and enterprise solutions. Think Verizon teaming up with Amazon Web Services to dominate the globe.

Fourth, innovation is the name of the game. Telecom CTOs need to shed their consumer mindset and become the driving force behind technology advancements. They have to be the ones calling the shots on investments in future technologies, setting the stage for innovation hubs and partnerships. Take a page out of Orange’s book with their Hello Future initiative, exploring mind-bending technologies like drones, the metaverse, and blockchain.

Fifth, it’s all about embracing new and agile delivery models. Telecom tech teams need to bring the goods when it comes to supporting internal and external customers. They should be actively involved in the sales process, snatching up a piece of the digital services pie from those mega projects. And let’s not forget the power of agility. By employing design thinking principles and embracing an agile mindset, they can slash delivery times to a mere eight weeks while doubling organizational agility.

Last but not least, operational excellence is the holy grail. CTOs should revamp their outsourcing strategies and supplier quality management to maximize efficiency with multiple vendors. And let’s not forget about streamlining field services and commercial operations for an enhanced customer experience and synergistic gains. Seamless end-to-end technology service management is key to unlocking telecom value creation and propelling growth.

In the midst of a highly competitive environment, GCC operators can’t afford to sit back and let the waves of change wash over them. The technology organizations within these telecom powerhouses hold the key to unlocking greater value and seizing untapped opportunities. It’s up to savvy CTOs to rise to the challenge and steer their companies towards a brighter future, one where core markets thrive, and noncore ventures flourish.


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