While telcos have largely risen to the challenge of withstanding a surge in network demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, pressure to maintain infrastructure resilience and expand reach emerges as the most pressing sector challenge. This is according to EY report, Top 10 risks in telecommunications 2020, which combines EY industry insights and consumer survey data to shortlist the most urgent threats facing today’s telcos.
- Sustaining network quality and positive customer perception is mission critical
- 78% of telco respondents rethinking digital transformation plans amid pandemic
- Geopolitical disruption, changing imperatives in privacy and articulating the 5G vision also among top risks
With initial pandemic lockdowns across the globe triggering traffic spikes of up to 70% , telcos have successfully assumed an elevated societal role as connectivity providers. But with 42% of UK consumers stating that telcos should focus resources on maintaining broadband quality and 32% of US consumers citing concerns about home internet reliability, speed and connection since the pandemic began, telcos need to do more to sustain positive customer perception about the service they receive.
Realizing the transformation agenda amid geopolitical upheaval
The inability to scale digitization initiatives ranks second on the risk radar. The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating this drive, with 78% of telcos now either re-evaluating or adapting the speed of automation and digital transformation programs. Despite this reappraisal, historical barriers remain – including inadequate skills in analytics and AI.
Failure to mitigate escalating geopolitical and competitive disruption lists ninth in the ranking and is a theme that underpins all of the top 10 risks. With network equipment supply chains increasingly being disrupted by global trade forces, there are concerns that 5G rollouts could be delayed. Meanwhile, technology players are moving to exert more control over value chains and new mobile entrants continue to drive down pricing to gain market share.
Building trust and articulating the 5G vision are now mission critical
Ranked fifth are risks associated with changing imperatives in privacy, security and trust. Less than half (47%) of UK consumers feel they are in control of their online data, and reports of privacy issues relating to contact tracing apps and video call platforms have heightened concerns during the pandemic. The report highlights that the sector typically underestimates the link between trust and revenue growth, with nearly half (46%) of telcos perceiving cybersecurity as either compliance- or crisis-driven rather than as a proactive endeavor.
At seventh position in the top 10 is ineffective engagement with industry verticals and the public sector, often due to low awareness of the benefits of 5G. According to the report, while different industries are at varying stages of their 5G investment journey, they all need support to realize the opportunities on offer. Indeed, 80% of enterprises across verticals want 5G providers to articulate a more coherent 5G vision, underlining the need for clearer dialogue. The report also highlights the opportunity for the sector to strengthen its societal position more broadly.
Other risks listed among the top 10 include: failure to redesign workforce purpose and inclusion (third in the ranking); failure to improve capex efficiency and network returns (fourth); poor management of investor and stakeholder expectations (sixth); inability to adapt to a changing regulatory landscape (eighth); and failure to take advantage of changing market structures (tenth).
Commenting on the findings, Charalambos Constantinou, Partner and Head of Consulting of EY Cyprus, said: “Telecoms have successfully dealt with the challenges of the pandemic, with their networks withstanding a sharp increase in home working, schooling and entertainment. As a result of their pivotal role in pandemic response and recovery, they now command a more favourable customer opinion and have stronger ties with government. However, in the new, post-COVID-19 environment, geopolitical upheaval, and competition around 5G technology will continue, posing new challenges. Telecoms need to deliver on their customer promise, which is now focusing on reliability rather than speed.”
Access the full report here