• The telecom wholesale segment is behind the AI implementation curve, and companies need to do more by embracing innovation – i.e., exploiting opportunities for generative AI.
• Success for telecom wholesalers will entail developing an underlying AI strategy across the portfolio and company in a connected manner.
Telecom Wholesale Trends in 2023
GlobalData’s discussions over the last year with global leading telecom wholesale providers highlights a commonality in strategy among telecom providers selling wholesale connectivity, both in terms of strategic vision and in the products and services they offer. Where companies differ is influenced by the nature of the core networks that support products and services, global geographical reach, and strength of product/service brand (e.g., antifraud solutions, mobile roaming), and lastly partnerships.
Innovation also is a real focus for wholesale providers as they move forward in 2023 as well as portfolio strategies in driving growth in regions like Africa and Asia for international voice and backhaul subsea connectivity, 5G connectivity, cloud-enabled wholesale, and security. One recent example includes BICs, a leading wholesale communications platform provider, offering intercontinental 5G standalone roaming connections between two live networks in Europe and the Middle East. Another example in the cloud space is Tata Communications marketing the ‘Izo’ offering, an umbrella brand for an extensive range of cloud infrastructure, multi-cloud connectivity, and managed SD-WAN and hybrid WAN services.
Digitization also remains a true focus as providers continue to offer highly touched digitized wholesale solutions in applications like IoT and M2M. Examples include companies like Telefónica Global Solutions (TGS) digitizing customer experience processes through tools such as the zero-touch customer control center, which offers access to information and visualization and service reports.
AI Should Not be Limited to the Portfolio but Should Embrace the Complete Business
The telecom wholesale segment is no different versus carriers B2C/B2B activity and faces similar challenges encompassing escalating operational costs, declining profit margins, and difficulty in commoditizing the sheer volumes of data that exist on telco networks. And although telecom wholesalers have started to utilize AI, overall they have yet to fully embrace the innovations around it. A key prerequisite to carrier efforts will be the implementation of a clear strategy that cuts across wholesaler products and services and the business as a whole.
Nevertheless, GlobalData’s discussions with telecom wholesale executives highlight ambition for companies to embrace new developments in generative AI tools like ChatGPT, with a view of creating seamless customer service experience and ‘touchless’ connectivity. Furthermore, there are wider AI-related wholesale product and service developments. Examples include Verizon Partner Solutions (VPS) utilizing robotic process automation (RPA), and AI/ML to streamline internal service fulfilment processes, removing complexity and reducing delivery time, allowing VPS to respond to customer requirements more quickly; TGS offering an AI-driven antifraud solution ‘Tuku Fraud Management System’ that offers extensive range of fraud type flexibility; and British Telecom adding application protocol interfaces (APIs) to its contact center solutions, allowing channel partners to develop and integrate their own AI bots.
Considerations for Success
While it is evident that global telecom wholesalers have started to implement AI, businesses have yet to fully embrace AI. Required is a clear strategy that not only cuts across wholesaler products and services but one that is aligned to the company’s overall top priorities – this will be a prerequisite for success moving forward. The following are a set of actions to consider further:
- Develop an underlying AI strategy that is interlinked across the different portfolio areas.
- The AI strategy should (where it makes sense) link to company’s top business priorities – e.g., unlocking value through end-to-end analytic transformation and addressing cost and efficiency through portfolio and simplified processes.
- Companies should develop an AI architecture strategy (with a strong structured framework) that can quickly exploit innovation in AI (e.g., generative AI, operational AI and data centricity).
- The implementation of AI within telecom wholesale should be considered in the context of ‘digital transformation’ – i.e., developing solutions in shorter product development and integration timeframes, backed up with fully supported business cases.