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Networks lag in the digital world

March 22, 2013 • Opinion

It’s a digital world, with technology driving every aspect of our lives – from the way we communicate and work, to the way we make purchases. As technology evolves, so do our expectations of what it can do for us, how we can use it, and how our service providers should enable access to the benefits the technology brings.

Anton van Heerden, General Manager at Altech ISIS (image: file)

Anton van Heerden, General Manager at Altech ISIS, says that most companies are in a continuous scramble to leverage the benefits offered by 21st century technology, but that many fail to exploit the opportunities it brings – and this applies to businesses in all sectors and industries.

“With the speed that things change, it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to support and manage their technology more effectively. It’s all about the lifecycle, and fast-changing digital requirements and services are putting pressure on companies who want to stay ahead of the competition.”

This is especially true in the telecoms sector, where operators are expected by their customers to be at the bleeding edge of technology. Van Heerden points out that no-one expected digital services to be adopted by consumers as fast as they have been, and as a result, telcos drive less than 10 percent of digital services. The reason for this is that their infrastructure is lagging behind customer uptake, and they are therefore scrambling to catch up.

“The biggest challenge for telcos – and all other customer-facing businesses – today, is that the digital world needs infrastructure. However, most operators can’t afford to roll out the necessary technology, especially in Africa. At Altech ISIS we agree with analysts that the only way forward is in collaboration between the networks on infrastructure. There isn’t a sustainable business model for operators without collaboration,” he says.

Analysts are predicting that smart devices will be dominant by 2016, driven by consumer demand. As a result, everyone will be mobile, and infrastructure and processes have to be in place in order to enable this. The mass market will continue to drive the mobile momentum, and customer experience will become increasingly important as a result.

“The demand of the customer for good services is becoming the key to success,” says van Heerden. “The consumer’s right to quality and service will play a bigger role as the mass market drives these changes. 10 years ago, the networks told people what they could do with their devices. Today, it’s the other way around. A network without value-added services becomes nothing more than a dumb pipe.”

He adds that as multimedia and telecoms merge, the next step for operators is to evaluate how they can make use of the services offered by ‘over the top’ players to increase revenues. “Who will win the race to get the connected home?” he asks. “How will the networks use the technology that is available to take their businesses to the next level? We have an oversupply of bandwidth thanks to the submarine cables, but local infrastructure can’t support full use of it yet.”

In preparation for the demands of the digital world, and in response to increasing customer demand, the networks are focusing on customer experience. BSS systems are converging with OSS systems to drive a full end-to-end view of the customer, and van Heerden says that there is a large amount of investment going into CEM.

Staff writer

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