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Mobile digital transformation – from fast to deep

The first half of 2022 has been a busy time, with much happening in the mobile industry. We consider what the rest of year might hold

We have seen the huge impact of the pandemic on working practices and the way it has energised the move towards mobile and personal solutions. However, many of those quickly chosen and deployed solutions are now showing their limitations, so enterprises are re-evaluating their long-term plans. The digital transformation is itself transforming.

Some enterprises pivoted to digital transformation to deliver an emergency mobilisation of their services, such as by making them accessible remotely, most often via mobile. For a few, simply adding WhatsApp as a communication channel was sufficient to capture traffic. For most, however, a far more complex solution is, or will be, needed.

If you work in any business that delivers mobile-centric solutions for the logistics, communications or e-commerce sectors, rest assured that your calendar will remain well booked. The members of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) working in enterprise communications services reported a very high Business Confidence Index in 2021.

However, businesses are undergoing a profound review of what mobility and digital services mean. Enterprises are interested not just in improvements to the customer experience, but in how their business models should evolve. In other words, companies are ready to challenge themselves.

Retail businesses, in particular, are very aware that delivery is the first step, but they are now also looking at long-term advantage. Manufacturing companies are again questioning how they can support customisation from the customer side.

Digital transformation is turning to more high-value consulting services, supporting a re-evaluation of the entire business. This is both an opportunity and a threat.

The emerging threat now taking centre stage

The other side of digital transformation is fraud. By 2025, cyber fraud is expected to be worth $10.5tn globally. This threat has been largely underplayed by many in the industry.

Cyber security is difficult – it includes new internal processes, solutions and collaborations throughout the supply chain. Customers often request a “single solution” – enterprises want a single pill to take that will protect them from digital attacks.

Unfortunately, the reality is more complex. We suggest they think of their cyber security providers as coaches, rather than simply as software providers.

Data guardianship 

Some would expect data compliance to be well established – after all, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was officially launched in 2018.

Instead, there was a sevenfold increase in GDPR infractions in 2021, according to data protection supervisory authorities across Europe. They issued a total of nearly 1.1bn in fines between January 2021 and January 2022, according to international law firm DLA Piper. The analysis shows that more than 130,000 personal data breaches have been communicated to regulators – possibly even more as some will not have been communicated.

Enterprises need to be educated further on the importance of customer data – and the importance of investing in protecting that data. MEF regularly surveys 450 enterprises globally on key topics. In 2021, it asked how many customers they hold data for – the average is 4.6 million per company. Only 43% of these report having robust protection policies in place.

Little demand for 5G private networks – yet

The role of private networks on 5G is still very limited, if not marginal. The applications for low-latency, high-speed networks have not yet delivered high demand in enterprise networks based on this technology. The release of Wi-Fi 6 will also have an impact.

At the end of 2021, MEF surveyed 450 enterprises using internet of things (IoT) solutions across nine global markets. These companies share the excitement for the IoT, seeing it as a potential to gain business advantage, beyond simply driving efficiency, competition or cost savings.

However, the rate of adoption has not yet reached the high expectations of many in the industry. IoT applications are not accelerating, and most companies have just one application in development. There are fewer in development than are currently live, so continued roll-out of new applications will be slow – though plans will have been affected by external factors such as Covid.

Almost a third of all agriculture companies are planning no new IoT applications, and surprisingly around 30% of utilities similarly have none in development. The strongest sectors for new IoT use cases appear to be manufacturing and automotive. This suggests there is an opportunity for suppliers to engage with companies in all sectors to understand how best to leverage the drivers of IoT to get new applications into development.   

CPaaS – the comms winners

The success of communications platforms as a service (CPaaS) players has caught some telecoms groups by surprise. CPaaS includes companies such as Twilio, Infobip and Sinch. They specialise in interfacing with enterprises to support their communications demands, removing the need to manage sometimes complex relationships with multiple telecoms players.

Marketing automation, application programming interfaces (APIs) and a consulting approach have made these players stand out. Their focus on quick delivery and transparent pricing has turned them into multibillion-dollar companies. More operators are now entering the CPaaS market with gusto, even if with some delay. Offering a solution instead of connectivity is a big leap, though, and will require considerable investment and change.

The wholesale approach is now much more common for telecoms players – from network sharing to new edge solutions – and the latest evolutions in technology, such as open RAN, hyperscale cloud and edge, are well aligned to support new business models.

As the consumer markets mature, telecoms players are looking at business applications much more. However, many telcos are finding the competition robust, as they are lacking a strong integration or consulting arm. Overall, there are multiple opportunities for partnerships in the market.

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