Beyond connectivity: The telecom landscape in the age of 6G

16 May 2024 3 min. read
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While most companies are still getting to grips with 5G technology, Sapan Agarwal from Frost & Sullivan explains why forward-looking companies should already be strategically preparing for the next big leap – 6G.

With business as usual, it is likely that the future mobile operators may become a utility to support the world’s connectivity needs. This implies that the opportunity for them to charge for value adds is going to be marginal at best. The current growth in data consumption (spiked by video traffic) is not correlating directly to revenue growth.

Although beyond data growth, the future will require more computing capabilities – this space will likely be dominated by hyper-scalers.

Sapan Agarwal

5G and the monetization puzzle

In the Middle East, telecom companies actively prepare for the next big leap: 6G.

The GCC’s promise of 5G to revolutionize industries by enabling faster, more reliable connections has only been partially realized. To monetize 5G, telecom companies are looking beyond traditional connectivity – Singtel Paragon for 5G enterprise solutions; T Mobile and hyper-scalers coming together to offer 5G and 5G private network solutions ready to use out of the box for enterprises to adopt them – are good examples, nonetheless, they are only a handful.

Also, such ready-to-use, all-in-one solutions do not guarantee that the enterprise adoption will be quicker.

On the other hand, events such as Ericsson’s acquisition of Vonage and Microsoft’s acquisition of Metaswitch and AT&T network cloud validate that vendors are racing to acquire new digital capabilities and are encroaching into the network space.

Vision 2030 and the AI Strategy champion transformation initiatives across the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and UAE (United Arab Emirates) supporting extensive deployment of 5G.

Companies like Etisalat and STC in the region are exploring beyond traditional connectivity to offer integrated 5G solutions that cater specifically to enterprise needs. These include collaborations with global tech giants and local startups to foster innovations in IoT and smart city applications.

However, these solutions, while promising, are yet to guarantee faster enterprise adoption, indicating a need for more tailored, industry-specific offerings.

Preparing for the next wave

For the telecom sector in the Middle East, innovation is key. Operators are increasingly looking beyond connectivity, venturing into services that platform solutions tailored for sectors like healthcare and manufacturing, where real-time data processing and enhanced IoT applications are critical.

While 5G is still being deployed, companies need to think forward and prepare for 6G. Can proactive investment in 6G research & development give first-mover advantage to companies? Huawei and Samsung are already on this path – aiming to define future standards and explore applications such as immersive AR and high-fidelity mobile holograms.

Unlocking the potential

Three pathways to unlock the potential:

Developing New Business Models
Innovative business models are essential for the next generation of telecom. For example, Verizon is looking beyond selling connectivity by providing platform services and solutions tailored to industries such as healthcare & manufacturing, where 5G can enable real-time data processing and enhanced IoT applications.

Enhancing Customer-centric Solutions
Addressing specific customer challenges through technology can lead to better monetization. Example, AI driven logistics solutions for transportation and improving operational efficiencies of smart grids by deploying 5G.

Fostering Collaborative Ecosystems
Creating ecosystems that bring together different stakeholders can lead to innovative solutions and shared growth. Example, AT&T and Microsoft, Verizon and Amazon Web Services, T-Mobile and Cisco – collaborating to offer more robust and appealing solutions.

Telecom companies must redefine their role in the digital world beyond rolling out new technologies. Innovative business models, customer-centric solutions, and strategic partnerships can not only monetize their current technological investments in 5G but also pave the way for a successful transition to 6G.

About the author: Sapan Agarwal is Global Senior Vice President for Business Transformation at Frost & Sullivan, a growth-focused advisory firm.