What does it take to become a digital telco?

Much of the discussion at this week's TM Forum Live event in Nice, France related to the progress that telecoms operators are making in their journey towards becoming fully fledged digital service providers, with technology companies jostling to help them achieve this goal more quickly.

It seems the industry has been talking about the need for a transformation into more agile providers for some time, and some progress is being made. Much still remains to be done, however, and operators face some difficult decisions ahead as they work out the best approach.

According to MYCOM OSI president and CTO Mounir Ladki, for example, many operators have completed the first phase in their transformation and are now at the beginning of a second and more complex phase that will prove critical to their future standing in the market.

Chris Newton-Smith, vice president of marketing at monetisation software specialist Redknee, identified three main approaches that operators are taking, with some attempting a major transformation, some preferring a slow migration over time and others adding on adjacent systems. Whether they are moving quickly enough depends very much on their starting point.

But what does being a digital telco mean? It means being able to launch and monetise services quickly and efficiently. It also means being able to describe products in a straightforward way, and bundling products and services together. Importantly, it means being able to offer a much better customer experience than is currently available through greater levels of automation and the use of analytics and real-time customer information to respond to customer needs.

It means moving to the cloud, committing to SLAs, enabling critical services and having the ability to connect billions of devices. "At the end of the day, the question is: what am I trying to do with my business?" said Newton-Smith. "There are different ways to get there."

The need for speed and agility becomes your make or break, noted Harmeen Mehta, global CIO at Bharti Airtel. "We are living in a world of endless possibilities. We just need to keep an open mind," she said.--Anne