Telecoms will play ‘a major role’ in digital transformation

22 Oct 2021

Image: © SasinParaksa/

Huawei’s David Mohally discusses the role of 5G in the future and how the telecoms industry can take inspiration from other sectors when it comes to digital transformation.

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The telecoms industry faces the challenge of keeping the world connected.

In the early weeks of the pandemic hitting Ireland, we spoke to several of the country’s telcos to find out how they were coping with the sudden surge in traffic at a time when lockdown meant the majority of people were asked to stay at home and communicate remotely.

But that was just the beginning. That initial surge may have levelled off, but now as we slowly turn our attention to a post-pandemic future, the acceleration of digital transformation that has occurred across all industries means the telecoms sector has to prepare for more permanent future trends.

“The telecoms industry will have a major role to play in supporting digital transformation across vertical industries,” said David Mohally, business innovation lab leader of Huawei’s Service Provider Operations (SPO) Lab in Ireland.

Mohally has more than 25 years’ experience in the telecoms sector, working with major brands such as IBM, Lucent and Ericsson. His current role with Huawei sees him leading the SPO Lab team, which is focused on the digital transformation of the telecoms industry and how the sector will evolve.

“As a part of our digital transformation research programme, we have developed methodologies to explore new digital service opportunities and their associated business models. As ecosystems are an essential part of telco digital transformation, we have also looked at ecosystem design to help understand the market opportunity and design the appropriate ecosystem.”

Mohally said digital transformation in the industry is leading to significant changes in the market that will affect every aspect of a telco business.

“Therefore, it’s important to build a digital transformation strategy that embraces all aspects of the telco business from the technology, digital services, business operations through to customer engagement.”

5G a major trend for telecoms

It’s hard to discuss key trends in the telecoms industry and not mention 5G, especially when it comes to digital transformation.

According to research and consulting outlet GlobalData, there will be 3.9bn mobile 5G subscriptions worldwide by 2026. The report, which was released in July, also said that revenue for operators from 5G will “greatly outpace that of earlier technology generations”.

Last December, Huawei Ireland claimed that 80pc of Irish consumers want widespread 5G coverage by 2025. But Mohally also pointed to the roll-out of 5G as a major element of the telecoms sector’s future, adding that it goes beyond consumer demand.

“While the consumer business will be a central part of any 5G investment, many telcos are looking at a variety of vertical markets with a view to open up new revenues,” he said.

“Much of this focus has been on the enormous opportunities presented by smart manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, ports, mining, smart cities, etc, and many telcos and suppliers have developed an impressive library of 5G use cases that have strong potential for the telco in each of these areas.”

The challenges of digital transformation

Digital transformation is not without its challenges of course. “The importance of ecosystems is mentioned in many digital transformation strategies, and there are examples of telcos investing in partner ecosystems, but it is an area that needs more focused attention in the telco industry,” said Mohally.

“There are examples from other industries that can provide inspiration. Engaging with existing ecosystems and creating new ecosystems is a very complex task, which requires the right planning, skills and funding. This will be critical for the longer-term success of the telco industry within vertical markets.”

On a broader scale, he added that the same challenges for other industries will also impact the telecoms sector when it comes digital transformation.

These include allowing the time needed to implement strategies, having a properly defined plan and getting buy-in from the executive team.

He also mentioned culture as a major challenge for digital transformation. “There have been many examples of how telcos are looking at this challenge, which by its nature is specific to the individual company,” he said.

“For example, projects that look at how to turn existing valuable employees into the skilled resources that the new company will require and projects that look at how to build new sub-companies with radically different cultures within the existing telco.”

Mohally also said that new entrants to the market have an advantage in that they don’t have the baggage of the established telcos, meaning they can put a cloud-native culture in place from the beginning.

“To understand how to get to the digital transformation destination, it’s key to understand the current maturity of the business. It’s critical to get a deep understanding of the current state on the telco business, across all disciplines,” he said.

“There are a number of digital maturity frameworks that can help with this process, providing a structure to assess the maturity of the business from a digital transformation perspective. One such framework is the TM Forum’s Digital Maturity Model. This is the result of many industry players providing their knowledge and real-world experiences to provide a practical and systematic approach.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic