April 28, 2021

History, they say, has a habit of repeating itself. The 1918 Spanish flu which threw the world into panic and disarray, has some 100 years later come back perhaps greater and stronger in the form of COVID-19.

Touted as a black swan event, COVID-19 stayed true to character, disrupting life as we know it and leaving businesses gasping for breath.

Businesses across industries were forced to take mission-critical measures in record time to keep themselves afloat and running.

The most vital lifeline for businesses and consumers alike was connectivity, which while enabling businesses to work remotely, had not even been tested for efficacy across scenarios.

But if connectivity was indeed the lifeline, CSPs should have witnessed a sharp rise in revenue and profits, which unfortunately was not the case with many of them stagnating and some recording a slight dip at the start of FY '21.

While the narrative surrounding CSPs has been mostly negative, all is not yet lost. The black swan event that caused tumultuous disruption, has in fact given rise to a new world of immersive and remote experiences and kick started an avalanche of disruptive business models. The CSPs now find themselves at the cusp of a new digital world.

Based on the emerging patterns and trends, we have listed down some of the areas where CSPs will play a critical role.

Beyond connectivity

Telcos have not fared as badly as the travel and hospitality industries. However, changing consumer habits and continuous economic volatility have forced CSPs to tighten their purse strings and rethink spending priorities in 2021.

Through the next couple of years, we will see many telco providers focusing their investments on digital transformation initiatives that will create more value-added services for customers. The CSP digital transformation will mean going beyond connectivity and creating partner ecosystems that position telcos as infrastructure providers for a range of new services for the connected home, driverless cars and smart cities.

5G – a metaphor for enabling innovation

The year 2021 is all set to usher in the 5G revolution. This technology not only allows for faster streaming and better quality of video content, but is also the backbone for developments in AI, IoT, mixed reality, edge computing and much more. The interplay of these technologies will create a plethora of innovations that will transform the customer experience.

The B2C space will signal immersive experiences with 5G, combined with VR and AI. From trying on the latest fashion from the comfort of your home and checking out holiday destinations in virtual reality to training engineers remotely with augmented reality, the possibilities are endless.

In the B2B world, we will see in the immediate future, businesses across industries will invest in and test out the capabilities of 5G combined with existing technology infrastructure and design.

Consolidation of remote collaboration

While 2020 saw video conferencing tools skyrocket, 2021 will see a complete evolution in remote collaboration. Organizations around the world are aligned on one clear goal – to make remote working as secure, productive and comfortable as possible. Watch out for the launch of many new tools which aim to make remote collaboration more intuitive and seamless across channels.

2021 will be the year of personalization in well-being

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our physical and mental well-being. According to recent research, more than two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) have reported feeling worried about the effect COVID-19 is having on their life, with the most common issues affecting well-being being worry about the future (63%) and feeling stressed or anxious (56%). As the pandemic has begun taking its toll on our mental health, businesses and consumer brands will be increasingly focussed on well-being in 2021.

Acceleration of cognitive enterprise

With enterprises shifting their focus to digital and demanding customers, CSPs have been pushed to make intelligent decisions on not just what the customers want, but also on what the customers do not know that they would want. The focus on AI will be exponential in creating digital twins and AI constructs that will enable CSPs to address the need for cognitive decision driven through data.

Creating value-based partnerships

5G will mature as we progress through 2021 and this dynamic is already driving CSPs to start re-imagining themselves as a technology company that provides curated and contextual products to specific industries. Piggybacking on CSP's 5G connectivity will herald a wave of partnerships that will usher in the age of ecosystem-driven businesses.

To sum it up

CSPs might have their backs to the wall, but only temporarily. On the strength of newly arrived technologies such as 5G, VR, AI and edge computing, and so on, and their corresponding interplay, telcos must leverage this opportunity to emerge stronger and fiscally fitter, taking the fight to the born-digital companies.

Antony Kagoo, Head of Innovation, Communications, Media and Information Services, UK & EU, TCS

Antony has 14 years of experience in the CMI industry, leading customer relationships across multiple CxO domains with a strong focus on contact centre, networks, CFO functions and emerging technologies. He has led Innovation for TCS’ CMI customers in the UK and Europe regions for about two years, evangelizing the 'Art of Possible' for the industry. Antony works with CMI firms to create and implement innovation strategies that enable them to deploy the right investment models, understand market propensity, and meet end user needs. He also works with TCS’ research teams to build futuristic propositions to create blue ocean markets for global CMI companies.