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Top Five Telecom Trends for 2023 – as voted for by you

Trends 2023

The results are in! The top telecoms industry trends for 2023 as voted for by Cerillion’s followers on social media. How will artificial intelligence, the cost-of-living crisis, smart city developments and Open APIs leave their indelible mark on the sector over the next 12 months?

Good news, readers – 2022 was reportedly a great year for the telecoms industry, despite the addition of a major land war in Europe and an impending economic crisis to the already heady cocktail of an enduring global pandemic and slow-rolling climate catastrophe.

Though trying to predict the next 12 months becomes a more and more foolish endeavour with every passing year, many people still barrel ahead with trying to guess the major trends that they think will dominate the industry, such as our predictions of superapps, Total Experience and Systems Integrators for 2022.

So for 2023, we polled our followers on LinkedIn and Twitter to see what they thought would be the top industry trends for this year. From a long list of 16 themes, our voters whittled down the list to four big topics, before voting on those to determine their importance.

Round 1 winner – the cost-of-living crisis


High on our voters’ minds was the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, which we’ve already covered at length on this blog, as it is expected to plunge much of the world into recession this year, leaving other concerns, such as efforts to make telecoms more sustainable and the much-hyped Metaverse, by the wayside.

2022 saw the number of UK customers struggling to pay their phone and broadband bills double, increasingly seeking cheaper phone and broadband deals as telecoms firms were falling over themselves to roll out new social tariffs for those on benefits or low incomes.

Meanwhile, Ofcom doubled down on an enforcement programme scrutinising in-contract price rises, and whether policies are clearly outlined by telcos before customers sign up – expect pricing of phone and broadband packages to be under considerable scrutiny in 2023.

But it isn’t just customers feeling the pinch, as telcos themselves must walk the fine line between slashing costs for users while balancing their own books in an increasingly fraught market.

Virgin Media O2 reported more customers but lower revenue in 2022, leading them to shelve plans to buy TalkTalk, while BT reported flat revenues in 2022, leading bosses to increase savings targets to the tune of £3 billion. Vodafone revealed billion-euro cost-cutting measures to help mitigate the impact of the worsening economic climate, whilst Telia announced job losses across its offices in Scandinavia.

The declining profits of legacy media saw BT divest its sports division, and France’s Orange sell its streaming platform, OCS, and internal content production company, Orange Studio, to Canal+, months after rumours of a takeover of its banking division.

But it was AT&T’s dumping of Time Warner, saddling the telco with an extra $40 billion in debt, that turned the most heads in 2022, resulting in a massacre of in-development productions and a questionable outlook for company performance going into 2023. Having now offloaded Time Warner and other loss-making media divisions, including DirecTV (in the process of laying off hundreds of employees), can the company turn its fortunes around having refocused on telecoms?

This ongoing crisis will no doubt impact far beyond the telecoms sector, and will likely prove the most consequential story of 2023, just as COVID did in 2020. If expectations of another 2008-esque financial crisis come true, expect to hear much much more.

Round 2 winner – Smart Cities


By 2050, it’s expected that over two-thirds of us will live in smart cities.

By infusing new and existing cities with integrated connective technology, smart cities will create more people-friendly neighbourhoods with better accessibility, strong local economies, and affordable digital-powered services – in theory, at least.

Central to these cities of the future are fibre and 5G, with edge computing to collect and analyse the data generated by the density of IoT devices and embedded sensors across the urban landscape.

Last year, Saudi Arabia broke ground with NEOM, its ambitious half-a-trillion-dollar smart city condensed into a single 170km-long line in the desert, employing AI and predictive modelling to manage its prospective 9 million residents, who will reportedly be compensated for submitting their data to the “Surveillance City.”

In other, less desolate corners of the world, more modest smart cities are already a reality – for example Songdo, dubbed “Korea’s Smartest City,” resting atop land reclaimed from the Yellow Sea, featuring smart home features as default and a network of pneumatic tubes running below the streets to dispose of waste.

However, if you’d like to see it for yourself, or even live it for yourself, you won’t have to put up a fight for accommodation – only a third of the city’s 300,000 residences are occupied so far, with commercial space even emptier.

This tech-infused ghost town points to the high degree of scepticism around smart cities, due in no small part to the sheer amount of data that needs to be collected and managed to render these projects effective; strange then that our voters didn’t consider this round’s fellow trends of cybersecurity or digital identity management to be as pressing issues – evidently the prospect of smart bins was a more enticing proposition!

Round 3 winner – Open APIs


As long-time followers of our blog will know, Open APIs are the keystone of connected services, acting as the connecting tissue between applications and enabling seamless interoperability across complex digital ecosystems, including B2B, IoT and Big Data.

Rapid’s 2022 State of APIs report found that almost 70% of developers expect to rely on APIs even more in 2023, up from 63% the previous year, and 58% of telecoms companies are monetising these APIs “at an above average rate.”

If 2023 will usher in a massive increase in artificial intelligence applications and connected devices in smart cities, CSPs will massively benefit from greater interoperability with other devices and applications via Open APIs, and the proliferation of low-code and no-code programming can streamline the development process to create the desired functionality at a reduced cost and reduced time-to-market.

Last year, Cerillion reached gold status in TM Forum’s Open API conformance, after undertaking an intensive certification regimen across the full product suite, and as we move into 2023, we expect even more organisations to commit to integrating and monetising their APIs. The recent launch of TM Forum’s “Real World Certifications” will also help prove the value of Open APIs in live CSP deployments, which will become a real differentiator for both vendor and CSP. Watch this space for more Cerillion certifications coming soon!

Round 4 and overall winner – Artificial Intelligence


Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic in recent years, with many people debating its potential impact on society. Some view AI as a revolutionary technology that has the potential to revolutionise various industries and improve our lives in countless ways. Others, however, are more sceptical and believe that AI is overhyped and not ready for prime time.

Despite the scepticism, it's time to start taking AI seriously. While it may still be in its early stages, AI is already being used in a variety of industries and has the potential to improve our lives in countless ways…

… Such as automating the process of writing articles on AI.

The previous two (admittedly dry) paragraphs of this article were indeed written by ChatGPT, which caused quite the storm when it launched to the public while our polls were running.

Fully capable of everything from penning both pithy limericks and entire articles, to coding virtual machines and correcting coding errors, ChatGPT is both a fun novelty, a time-saver, and paradigm shifter for commercial AI; OpenAI, the research lab behind the chatbot, is in talks to sell existing shares in a tender offer that would value the company at $29 billion already, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Its authoritative veneer can, however, quickly unravel with some probing, exposing its lack of nuance or critical-thinking abilities, and is more than capable of providing its unwitting users “incorrect information… harmful instructions or biased content.” Hardly the “end of high school English,” as some have warned. Stack Overflow has gone so far as banning ChatGPT-generated answers from its forums because many were incorrect, but “look like they might be good and the answers are very easy to produce.”

Beyond the simple task of generating text and conversing online, AI-based text-to-speech can generate vocal samples using just a three-second sample of a person’s voice, and AI art generators such as DALL-E, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion are capable of creating striking imagery in any art style based on a text prompt – just don’t expect much from the hands!

As with many tech-focused industries, AI has the potential to reshape telecommunications, eliminating overload and efficiently dealing with customer inquiries. Its ability to engage in conversations and recall previous details could revolutionise automated customer experience and AI-driven virtual assistants, significantly improving customer satisfaction through convenient and personalised engagement and troubleshooting, reducing churn and increasing ARPU. In the backend, AI-powered systems can autonomously monitor telecoms infrastructure, optimise networks, and detect critical threats.

SK Telecom is one telco with intentions to become an “AI Company”, incorporating artificial intelligence into its myriad services.

Debate over the job-stealing potential of sufficiently advanced AI and the artistic merits of AI-generated work erupted this year before even ChatGPT was unveiled, and are likely to continue into 2023 and beyond as the tech is refined.

Could we look back on this year as the beginning of the AI revolution, or the opening of a veritable Pandora’s Box, releasing terrible monsters lurking within?


Final Round Results


Bonus trend: eSIMs


As the most popular non-winning answer from our polls, eSIMs may not prove as headline-grabbing as the aforementioned subjects, but 2023 could prove to be a watershed year for SIM card digitalisation, as the market for eSIMs is expected to grow to $16.3 billion by 2027.

Apple’s eSIM-only iPhone 14, released in the US in September, is certain to drive the wider adoption of eSIM-capable and even eSIM-only handsets, with other manufacturers downstream inevitably following their lead.

Though Apple has boasted eSIM support since 2021’s iPhone 13, it was Google’s Pixel 2 from all the way back in 2017 that first implemented them through its MVNO, Google Fi (though if we’re splitting hairs, Samsung’s Gear S2 smartwatch was in fact the first eSIM-only device).

Digitalisation of the SIM makes it easy to manage multiple accounts from a single device, sample other networks and switch carriers on the fly, whether for travelling abroad or ditching one provider in favour of a cheaper competitor – though perhaps it’s this very fact that has held mobile operators back from supporting the functionality for fear of losing customers? Might this stymie wider adoption in the not-so-distant future?

According to industry analysts at GlobalData, eSIMs present telcos with “myriad challenges and opportunities for carrier differentiation in terms of digital customer experience, onboarding, roaming, privacy and security management and promotional switching.”

Whether they want to or not, MNOs must ready themselves for wider eSIM adoption before SIM cards themselves become a relic of telecoms history; time to focus on the trends of 2023 – and not 1993.

About the author

Adam Hughes


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