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Top Five Telecom Trends for 2020

Telecoms Trends 2020

2020 promises to be an exciting year for the telecoms industry with new-age technologies, new ecosystems and advanced use cases coming to the fore. Rupali Srivastava examines the top five trends expected to propel the industry forward this year.

Last year we saw 5G finally moving from hype to reality with leading telcos rolling out the first commercial 5G networks. Now, 2020 is expected to see a further boost to the fifth generation of networks with companies across industries set to benefit from the higher speeds, lower latency and better connectivity on offer.

Convergence around the Internet of Things (IoT) will also be a common theme, as the earlier predictions of IoT powering more than 21 billion devices by 2020 come to fruition. IoT will also move beyond its typical use cases towards newer applications based around edge computing

Of course, with 5G and IoT coming to the fore, telecom operators should be well positioned to offer improved capabilities and create new business opportunities. However, in this blog, we look beyond the obvious growth of 5G and IoT and delve into five other trends we expect to make an impact this year. 

Get ready for OS Wars

The stand-off between the US and China and the ongoing trade war has meant that Chinese homegrown OS and navigation systems are now becoming increasingly common. Huawei, which has been deeply affected by the US sanctions, has launched its own open source operating system, HarmonyOS, which will be available in the market by mid-2020. The OS has been designed initially to be compatible with IoT-powered systems. Once it gains acceptance, Huawei plans to use HarmonyOS in other smart devices such as smart watches and sensors too.

China is not new to developing its own tech ecosystems. The country already has its own navigation and mapping system called Beidou, which is supported by the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS). With Google services blocked in China, the Beidou map app acts as an alternative for navigation in the country and works in a similar way to Google Maps. However, Beidou maps adds to the user experience by providing other relevant information such as commuting options, bus routes, and even cab tariffs.

Moreover, China is not the only country that is developing its own navigation system. The European Union (EU) is readying its own Global Navigation Satellite System called Galileo, and all the satellites under this program are expected to become fully functional in 2020. Once the system is completed, Galileo will have 30 satellites that will interoperate with both the Russian GLONASS and USA’s GPS platforms.

And perhaps the biggest news in the OS space is coming from none other than Facebook. Recent reports state that the tech giant is developing its own OS to reduce its dependence on Android. It is noteworthy that Facebook’s Oculus and Portal devices currently run on Android. However, Facebook seems to be going down the Apple route for more control over its own product line.

In view of these developments, the telecoms industry will be required to match up with technology and devices that are interoperable between these systems. Even the apps that will be introduced in the market, will need to be compatible with all these platforms along with the traditional iOS and Android. As these new operating systems begin to slowly nudge the traditional giants, the largely inert OS space is expected to witness some serious action this year.


Advanced AI and Automation for the telecoms industry

Innovation and development in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, which were cited as a huge opportunity in last year’s telecom trends, continue to excite us this year. The advancement of 5G and an increasing number of data points due to deeper penetration with IoT is expected to provide a huge amount of analytical data to enable much more effective Machine Learning (ML), which will feed into improved AI implementations.

AI automation use cases are expected to attract significant interest and implementation in 2020. Instead of working in silos or in individual capacity, AI will open a new world of devices that will talk intuitively with each other to perform specialised end-to-end functions. For example, fully automated manufacturing units or agricultural farms managed by robots and systems that can talk to each other.

Development of AI and automation is in the interest of CSPs as automation helps curb dependency on human resources and brings in new capabilities. CSPs can also use AI to provide better services and design better products.

Of course, with more organisations starting to rely upon AI to make their business decisions, the associated data models and use cases will need to become more transparent too.  According to Gartner, by 2025, 30% of government and large enterprise contracts for purchase of AI products and services will require the use of that AI to be explainable and ethical. Explainable AI in data science and ML platforms auto-generates an explanation of models in terms of accuracy, attributes, model statistics, and features in natural language. With legislation such as GDPR already in place, it’s becoming increasingly important for telecom companies to implement transparency and traceability within all their processes.   


The emergence of newer network infrastructure frameworks and services

To support the growing demand for bandwidth and efficiency and bring down latency, the telecom world is fast embracing newer infrastructure frameworks such as SD-WAN, OpenRAN and hybrid service architectures.

The Software-Defined Wide-Area Network (SD-WAN) is a specific application that connects enterprise networks, such as branch offices and data centres, over large geographic distances. Research firm IDC predicts that the SD-WAN infrastructure market will grow to $5.25 billion by 2023. In 2020, SD-WAN is expected to undergo significant improvements. Also, organisations will be evaluating and improving the SD-WAN connectivity with various SaaS applications by setting up security and compliance criteria. Security will remain a strong focus area for SD-WAN providers. Apart from the usual layer of encryption and firewalls, additional security features such as URL filtering, DDoS and malware protection are expected to make the network more dependable going forward.

OpenRan is expected to make more inroads and disrupt the traditional network vendor business model. Already being touted as the next big thing, CSPs are warming up to the idea with Vodafone UK having already taken the plunge. OpenRAN started as an initiative to define and build 2G, 3G and 4G RAN solutions based on a general-purpose vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology. In 2020, OpenRAN coupled with 5G is expected to provide ultra-low latency, much faster connectivity and a plethora of opportunities especially in the fields of immersive content, IoT, and retail.

There has been much hype around the growing use of microservices to provide greater flexibility in software development and deployment, but we believe that hybrid service architectures will prove a more pragmatic and productive approach for BSS/OSS platforms. A hybrid service architecture is a combination of microservices and macroservices to achieve increased agility, improved resilience and greater application scalability.

Fold, Charge and Snap – the new era of smartphones

While the infrastructure and support systems vendors will get a huge boost through the rollout of 5G, companies focused on the customer facing mobile devices won’t disappoint either. Consumers the world over have a voracious appetite for new smartphone designs that can enhance the user experience and capitalise on the latest available technologies. Be it edge-to-edge smartphones or foldable TVs, consumers will be spoilt for choice this year.

South Korean electronics giant, Samsung, has already showcased its foldable phone in 2019, and is all set for its clamshell-style phone to be launched in 2020. Meanwhile, Apple is not lagging behind having filed a patent for its own foldable device, rumoured to be called iPhone X Fold, and Motorola and LG are also in the market with their own versions of foldables. Hopefully, smartphones of the future will be able to morph into any shape and size according to the need.

Furthermore, the pain point around phone battery life is also expected to be eased with advanced wireless charging. Once this technology becomes widely available, you can expect to get your phone battery topped up in a coffee shop or gym without having to plug into a power outlet. Smartphones are increasingly doubling up as high-end cameras with notch camera designs possibly giving way to an increased number of rear cameras. Some manufacturers are already offering as many as five rear cameras!

Be it a 6,000 mAh battery capacity, 5K display or AI-enabled camera sensors, the smartphone market is all set for more innovation in 2020.


Delighting with Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual and Augmented Reality coupled with AI will open various avenues for telecoms service providers, as well as for consumers. According to IDC, worldwide spending on AR and VR is expected to reach $18.8 Billion in 2020. When coupled with AI, AR and VR are likely to touch areas of life that were unimaginable earlier. For instance, the medical industry is expected to benefit immensely from the rise of these technologies – Google’s ML-enabled microscope is already equipped to find cancer cells in tissues, for example. Even in the gaming industry, consumers are experiencing more challenging video games with AI-enabled virtual opponents.

In social interactions, VR and AR will provide more collaborative platforms especially with remote training and meetings. Also, the advancement of VR/AR in the travel and tourism sector will allow users to experience tourist destinations, be it a hotel room or an adventure sport, before stepping out of the comfort of their own homes. 

The first-generation of bulky and cumbersome VR headsets will be replaced with sleeker devices compatible with smartphones to provide on-the-go experiences to end users. Improved presentation of VR and AR in various industries will offer opportunities to craft new user experiences and unprecedented outreach. Sectors such as virtual traveling, shopping, entertainment, remote support, teaching and training will potentially witness a huge makeover with VR and AR.

See what we think 2021 has in store for the telecoms industry in our Top Five Telecom Trends for 2021.

Cerillion’s Enterprise BSS/OSS suite is already helping telcos capitalise on the latest technology trends playing out in the industry. Find out how our platform is helping Three capitalise on the 5G opportunity in the UK.

About the author

Rupali Srivastava

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