How will telcos be doing business in the future?

19 Oct 2022

David Smith, head of ecosystems at Huawei. Image: Huawei

Once known as ‘the best networked Irishman in Silicon Valley’, nowadays David Smith helps Huawei’s telco clients find digital partnerships.

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Like many spearheading digital transformation efforts in their industry, Huawei’s David Smith has a rather interesting job title.

He is head of ecosystems at the Chinese tech giant’s service providers operation (SPO) lab in Ireland.

His job involves researching how telecoms operators will be doing business in the future. Smith and the rest of the team at the SPO lab do this by looking at innovations in business models, processes and ecosystems.

According to Smith, who spent 11 years working in Silicon Valley, his career has always “been about building ecosystems, partnerships and connections”.

He was so good at what he did in the US that he became known among his colleagues as “the best networked Irishman in Silicon Valley”.

It’s perhaps fitting that Smith’s job nowadays sees him helping the networkers network with others in the tech space.

Creating working partnerships

Smith works to identify likely opportunities that may arise for telcos out of other industries digitising. He and his telco clients then work together to figure out how they can capture these opportunities and what type of external partners they should be engaging with.

“Based on these conversations, I lead the research and evaluation of potential partners. I talk to a lot of companies to see how they could work with the telecom carriers and if there is a mutual fit, I introduce them and facilitate a working partnership.”

Smith has to be on the ball when it comes to digital transformation trends, not just in the telecoms industry, but across the board. His clients trust him to research tech trends in businesses in all sectors.

“We work across many different industries including health, automotive, smart campus, smart cities, manufacturing, oil and gas, ports, shipping and many more,” he said.

The team at SPO labs works with everyone from business schools to global industry bodies like 5GAA, TM Forum, GSMA and GIO.

To help the team make sense of all the data and touch points it deals with in the labs, Smith and his team developed a tool called the Digital Services Innovation Framework model (DSIF).

“Within DSIF, we use a control point analysis that helps us to identify high value use cases that telcos could consider adopting.”

“Using the tools, use cases are catalogued and also potential partners are evaluated. DSIF guides us through a process of completing a structured and repeatable evaluation and prioritisation of potential use cases.”

Smith explained that the team has already applied the tool to many industries as part of its mission to find opportunities for telcos. “As you can imagine, it is an ongoing project to keep track of all the changes and impact for our customers,” he told SiliconRepublic.com.

Challenges and pitfalls

So, what are the challenges Smith has seen when it comes to implementing digital transformation strategies for Huawei’s clients?

Well, for starters, there’s implementation and cost. Then there’s application development.

“Introducing any new technology to an industrial or service scenarios is not easy. There aren’t enough ready-to-use solutions, and there is a lack of experienced digital talent. It typically requires a whole organisation transformation to be successful, this requires buy-in from all levels within the organisation.”

When you get beyond implementation, there’s also application development and the lack of digital infrastructure.

For Smith’s clients, connectivity and computing infrastructure – which he described as “two key pillars” for digital transformation – need major upgrades.

He said Huawei is working with its partners to “break through these bottlenecks” by boosting core digital infrastructures, making the most of cloud and building a stronger digital ecosystem overall.

According to Smith: “For connectivity, network technology needs to support billions of connections for industrial IoT networks. Networks also need to support 10 times the current bandwidth, microsecond-level latency and industrial-grade reliability.”

Company-wide, Huawei is working on 5.5G, the next evolution of 5G technology – both in fixed and wireless domains.

“Our goal is to greatly boost network capacity, ensure ubiquitous 10-gigabit speeds, and meet industrial demand for reliable, low-latency connections,” said Smith.

“We are also supporting cloud-native development services to shorten development cycles, and we provide more than 240 cloud services and over 50,000 APIs to help enterprises take full advantage of new technology.”

Cultivating new talent

But digital transformation is about talent, too. Smith and his team at Huawei are “working closely with the broader digital ecosystem to cultivate new talent”.

Just yesterday, Huawei announced it was planning to create 200 new jobs at a new €150m cloud hub tipped for Dublin. The hub will be the company’s first European cloud centre.

“In Europe, we have built a number of ICT academies that help local students and professionals build new digital skills. Working with local schools and governments, so far we’ve helped train more than 4,000 people in 12 countries,” said Smith.

“We are also supporting start-ups and, over the next three years, we will provide cost optimisation guidance, technical support, management training, and go-to-market resources for more than 10,000 global start-ups. We want to help make cloud adoption as easy as possible, so start-ups can focus on growing their core business.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com