On April 27, 2021 Scalefocus hosted the webinar, Telco in 2021: From Transformation to Triumph, focusing on how to gain an advantаge over the competition in data segmentation, efficiency and operational costs, and expanding R&D capabilities in the telecom industry.
In the panel discussion, Scalefocus teamed up to hear from the experts in the field. The panel included Spas Velinov, Chief Technology Officer at Telenor, Stanislav Georgiev, Chief Executive Offer at Bulsatcom, Vlad Patenko, Google Cloud Customer Engineer, and Rosen Tonchev, IT Director at Vivacom.
Covid’s Effects on Data Usage and Entertainment
We’re currently witnessing an increase in various tools and technologies being implemented, that are helping us adapt to the work from home environment. For mobile network providers, ensuring constant connectivity at high speeds, while tailoring their services to respond to the unique needs of customers is the strongest effort being made. Spas comments, on the rising data usage:
“Throughout the Covid pandemic, we have seen a big increase and change in the traffic demand, as well as a change in our customers’ behavior. We were joking before the start of the meeting, about the best tool to use for such an event. The webinar we’re in right now is being hosted on Zoom, but I can share, that for any Voice Over IP platforms, which we can support with our data network, we hit an increase, which was three times more, compared to the usual data traffic increase. And for Zoom and Teams, it was 15 times greater.”
In terms of entertainment, according to Stanislav, not much has changed since the pandemic. And it seems reasonably easy to agree, that people will always seek entertainment in its various forms. What has increased, is the amount of hours families typically sit in front of their TV sets. In Bulgaria, that figure jumped from three hours pre-Covid, to around six hours per day. Stanislav adds:
“We also did a little bit of surveys in summer, when we were building our new strategies as an entertainment company, and one of the very interesting findings was that households actually consider TV a crucial service and they have redundancies. So practically, more than 60% of the households that we interviewed said that they are either having or considering a redundant service.”
Meanwhile, Vlad comments that his team at Google was fully prepared for the rise in traffic brought by Covid. Much of Google’s staff have chosen to work from home using Google Workplace and Google Meet to communicate and collaborate. Vlad notices a trend of customers who are making the switch to use these same technologies, with an increase of 10 times the traffic compared to what the company has seen last year.
Challenges in Managing Data
Understanding which data can be used and in what ways, is one challenge which Rosen admits is still relevant for telecom companies. There are various regulations, such as GDPR, which ensure the privacy rights of users, and reminds us that the law must be respected and followed.
The next challenge comes in, when deciding on what to actually do with the data. How can data be transformed into something useful, to help make more informed decisions that eventually lead to greater monetization? At Vivacom, Rosen explains that for them, this means conducting deep and accurate analysis, data transformation and investing time and money in data processing. He comments:
“At the end of the day we’re a revenue focused company, so the way we manage data, should lead to increase in the revenue. The point here is to define, to find the appropriate data that is needed from the whole amount of data and let’s say, to focus only on it in order to make it revenue.”
Spas shares, that at Telecom, once the data passes the GDPR stage, they try to focus on creating an effective model that will unlock new opportunities that extend cash, whether alone or through partnerships.
Achieving Efficiency through Chatbots and AI
Are chatbots and AI tools effective in optimizing efficiency and decreasing costs, and do they give companies a competitive advantage? Well, there seems to be some divided opinion on that. Here’s what Vlad had to say:
“I don’t know any company that isn’t trying to invest and isn’t trying to build a solution like a payment chatbot or voice bot. What we see at Google, from different research, is that people like it. More than 60% of subscribers prefer to interact with self-management channels for communication and more than 70% like personalized communication.”
In contrast, many of Vivacom’s customers, as Rosen points out, actually prefer talking to and receiving assistance from real people. Logically, the company automates processes that target specifically a smaller group of customers who are more technologically keen and prefer being served automatically. Rosen adds:
“Replacing the personal communication with chatbots is a way to reduce the CapEx and OpEx, but at the end of the day, it turns out that for our customer, the personal communication is very important. And this is one of the reasons why we do not push in that direction that much.”
R&D and The Future of 5G
Although a complex and fast-developing network that has already gained a lot of buzz, 5G still remains a positive step for the future of telecom. All of our panelists agree on that, with Stanislav sharing a personal experience in which he was a part of the first live broadcast of 5G in Tokyo, describing it as amazing. The great thing about the new network as Stanislav points out, is that the broadcast of a live event through 5G will significantly bring down the costs of equipment and its transportation to the events – with everything necessary just fitting into a backpack.
Meanwhile, Spas is a bit skeptical on when exactly the major rollout of 5G services will arrive – “perhaps it will take some time”, as he shares, yet he is eager to see the benefits the network will bring to healthcare companies and the general improvement to society.
To gain further insight into the discussion and listen in on the Q&A session of the event, check out the recording of the live webinar here. If you feel like reading some more on the topic instead, glance over Top 5 Critical Pain Points for Telecom in 2021.
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