5G

Exclusive: Google Cloud’s new telecom chief Ankur Jain dishes on future strategy

When you first meet him, Ankur Jain doesn’t seem like an imposing figure. Google Cloud’s new telecom chief is calm and somewhat quiet, taking a moment to compose his thoughts before answering questions. But the Google veteran is clearly thrilled with his new role and has big plans for the telecom business.

Last month, Jain stepped into shoes vacated by Amol Phadke, the exec who had overseen Google’s telecom business since its formation in 2020. But Jain isn’t new to Google. Jain told Fierce he’s been at the company for more than 18 years and has served in roles where he helped build out Google’s content delivery network for search and YouTube, teamed with CSPs on the now defunct Project Loon, and worked on the messaging experience for Android.

Around four years ago he joined Google Cloud, helping the unit lay out its strategy for tackling the telecom market and building up its product development team. He pointed to Google Distributed Cloud Edge – which debuted in preview in 2021 and launched with general availability in 2022 – as one of the projects he worked on. Telecom, of course, was one of the first verticals it targeted with Distributed Cloud Edge.

Three pillars

Looking ahead, Jain told Fierce Wireless that Google Cloud will be focusing its growth efforts in the telecom space around three key pillars: artificial intelligence (AI) transformation, monetization and network modernization.

On the AI front, Jain said its work spans two domains. First, it’s been helping operators with workforce productivity, using AI to help them simplify IT operations and customer care. For instance, AI is being used in the contact center to help workers deliver more personalized conversations for customers. He pointed to Verizon and Optus as two players leveraging its technology in this manner. Second, it’s been applying AI on the network side to help operators synthesize information from internal databases. This allows them to identify and follow up on network issues much more quickly, he said.

When it comes to monetization, Jain said Google Cloud is working to help operators target both consumer and enterprise customers. In February of this year, for example, it launched a product called Telecom Subscriber Insights to help operators capitalize on consumer customer acquisition, upselling and cross-selling opportunities.  

“We provide them the infrastructure so that they can pull in customer data analytics from various different sources, they can slice and dice the data, and they can come up with things like next best offer,” he explained. He added the tool also allows operators to push notifications to customer devices to help “close the loop” on those offers.

On the enterprise side, it’s working with operators to help them sell solutions “beyond just connectivity.” This includes bundles that come with Workspace apps, Pixel phones and Google Cloud Platform as part of a single package. Elsewhere, it’s working with Indosat Ooredoo to create a marketplace of tailored software-as-a-service offerings for small and medium business customers. There are also efforts to help CSPs grow their revenue streams in other ways, for instance via private 5G. But there’s still a lot of exploring to be done when it comes to new monetization use cases, he said.

Of course, Google Cloud is also working with operators to modernize their operations using cloud technology. This includes moving network workloads to the cloud – a trend Jain said he has seen gain steam recently.

“Typically, I’ve seen this to be around packet core,” Jain said. “5G packet core development started around the same time as when network operators wanted to start going cloud native. As the network providers also started building out their packet core workloads in a cloud native way, it was just a good time for the stars to get aligned.”

Google Cloud is also coming out with tailored offerings to help CSPs meet sovereignty, security, availability and boundary requirements for customer data, he added.

On the horizon

Asked what’s on the horizon, Jain said the next 12 to 24 months will be about “continuing to scale both within an operator and across operators.”

“There’s actually a lot of exciting things happening” in each of Google Cloud’s three strategic focus areas, he said.

“I’m actually quite excited about where things are headed,” Jain concluded. “I think we’re seeing a lot of traction.”