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Opportunities in the TMT market; a TMT operator’s 2019 to-do list (Reader Forum)

2018 was a year of progress, of consolidation, and of intense introspection as Technology, Media and Telecom (TMT) companies get themselves, their networks and their internal processes ready for the arrival of 5G. The industry has weathered large-scale mergers as media and telecoms converge, and even larger challenges as tech companies have been beset by hacks, regulatory upheavals and economic uncertainty. AI is beginning to deliver on its intelligent promise, and companies are leveraging it to extract value from their data and make smarter decisions.

TMT companies are currently facing the most important challenges as they compete in an increasingly digital and consumer-centric world. Keeping all of the developments over the last 12 months in mind, what does 2019 hold for TMT companies and their customers – and what should be on their operator’s to-do lists?

Shifting the digital mind-set

Digital-only FANGs have dramatically impacted what customers expect from their interactions, engagement and customer journeys with all businesses, regardless of whether they are digital, brick-and-mortar or a hybrid. As a result, in 2019 we will see companies emulating FANG’s digital-only/digital-first approach to customer experiences like never before. However, the trick for these companies wanting to replicate their success will be to have the tools to execute without tearing out their legacy systems and massively disrupting their current business. Achieving that balance will be the #1 imperative in the new year.

Leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence will at last become a greater priority in 2019, as companies seek, and find, new ways to understand the relevance and timeliness of their data to make the best business decisions faster. While spend for additional increased intelligence has typically been difficult to justify, in 2019 more and more companies will realize how valuable the ability to understand how to best serve their customers and improve their digital experience really is.

IoT: It’s all about smart cities

Smart cities are going to have a breakthrough in 2019. They will drive the IoT space, and bring with them a wave of services from the connected car to the smart building and more on the smart home. Right now, there is a massive missed opportunity for consumers because these smart applications are connected individually, and do not have interoperability, therefore are essentially disconnected from each other.

Although a single platform that would allow for the management of a single connected life experience is not a reality today and will not be for some time, the smart city will emerge as the umbrella with successful use cases – including smart buildings, connected cars, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to- infrastructure, and smart grids – that demonstrate problem solving and moving closer to a truly connected life. Operators will also move forward to find ways to set up and sell new services, and drive incremental revenue quickly to capitalize on this.

Cloud counters churn

With 5G we will see accelerated adoption and utilization of all things cloud in 2019, as lower latency and real time access will make it even easier to access content, increasing and expanding mobile cloud use. In 2019, more operators will also realize that they have the ability to transform the cloud business model from a freemium to a premium model that will provide them with a new revenue and growth engine.

Next year, operators will view the consumer cloud as a key customer experience and realize that they should be managing the experience, as this goes hand in hand with lower customer churn while preparing them for future growth areas in IoT (remember, a connected car is basically a cloud on wheels). This will change the whole ecosystem for consumers, providing them with more options.

Messaging: The operator revolution

2019 is going to bring major challenges with the continued threat of operator disintermediation as a result of OTT messaging apps. We’re already seeing it in markets like China – where 70% of the population is going into WeChat in the morning and not coming out.

When these apps become the overall customer experience, and possibly the new operating service that consumers use, all opportunities to sell additional services disappear, leaving operators to become a utility and disintermediating the customer from the operator. So, how will they invest in the network? In 2019 we’re going to see the operator revolution gain massive momentum in every country around the world, as operators find new ways to reclaim lost ground from OTTs by innovating through RCS and delivering advanced messaging. This will involve cross-operator interoperability and operators working together to bring a competitive product to the marketplace.

There are a number of shifts we’ll see in the TMT world in 2019, as consumers continue to demand ‘digital self-service everything.’ Customer experience has never been of more importance, and the way a company interacts with its customers and workers can be made or broken in a few clicks. Operators have a real opportunity to be an important part of the IoT value chain through leveraging what they do best: connecting people and things. My final message is one of positivity: while it may seem that the OTTs have consumer digital spend in a vice-grip, there is still a real opportunity for operators to gain enough ground to make a sizeable dent (and therefore profit) in the market. That comes with seizing the quick wins that make the most sense – like cloud – while leveraging new technologies like RCS to gear up for the fight against disintermediation.

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