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3 Telecommunications Trends Paving the Way for New Growth for Communications Service Providers

the sun at the horizon behind a telecommunications tower
It’s a new day for communications service providers. Track the telecommunications trends that matter to the industry most. [Antonio Luis Martinez / EyeEm / Getty Images]

What should communications service providers be planning now that businesses and consumers expect more than just phone service and streaming? 5G possibilities like omni-channel touchpoints, experiential perks and services, and an expansive partner ecosystem.

Communications service providers (CSPs) are accelerating 5G rollout and keeping close watch on telecommunications trends and emerging platforms. Amidst this investment, they’re also seeing existing revenue streams remain relatively flat, putting them at risk of commoditization. Customer expectations for connectivity have soared as nearly every aspect of life — from staying in touch with friends and family to work-from-anywhere and remote schooling – is dependent on the reliability and agility of communications service providers. Clearly new avenues for growth are a top priority for CSPs. The following three trends show how 5G is the way forward for this growth.

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Trend #1: B2B customers have B2C expectations for sales and service 

Communications service providers already digitized the business-to-consumer (B2C) space. This trend is expanding into business-to-business (B2B) as business buyers adopt B2C-style expectations. Everyone wants transactions to be faster, integrated, and holistic like they experience with sites like Amazon. They need quick answers, either through customer service or accessible content. That means direct and indirect sales, retail, and customer care  — even the field technician who hooks up that new high-speed internet — needs to be connected. 

Small and growing business customers want to self-serve through a portal or an app like a consumer. AI-powered (artificial intelligence) chatbots can further self-service with next-best actions and offers.

Another way we’ll see CSPs digitize is through omni-channel commerce. We expect impressive growth of digital transactions in this space.

Large enterprises also want to self-serve. IT departments at some of the biggest companies in the world don’t want calls from sales reps; they want to explore, configure, order, and track everything themselves. 

Another way we’ll see CSPs digitize is through omni-channel commerce. We expect impressive growth of digital transactions in this space. The customer is trained to go online. In fact, customers turn to an average of nine channels to research products and services, browse inventory, seek advice, and make purchases. 

For these reasons, communications service providers should explore technology platforms equipped with commerce capabilities. Look for a solution which provides the best experience for the customer: where they can access a single, universal cart through any channel. The best solution also simplifies the role of the product manager using a catalog-driven solution with versioning and templates which can then be leveraged by an easy-to-manage configure-price-quote (CPQ) tool — and which seamlessly flows into a powerful, dynamic commercial order management system. Customers can then see a common cart as they switch channels. Customer-facing personnel in retail stores and in the contact center can then see a complete view of abandoned carts, carts in progress, and recently completed carts. 

CSPs can better nurture the customer through a digital marketing journey. Product managers can avoid duplicate entries and respond quickly as new products and services enter the market – or competitors change the game. Customers can be retained — and upsold — with AI-powered personalized recommendations and promotions. 

Trend #2: Communications service providers compete with more perks and bundled services

The telecommunications industry is no stranger to bundling services, and this will continue. Maybe it’s cell service and fixed wireless usage access for broadband along with a cybersecurity package. 

Or, as we’re seeing in Asia and Latin America, operators are expanding bundles specifically for the financial services space. Singaporean CSPs Singtel Dash and Claro include an all-in-one wallet app with their mobile phone service. This provides new opportunities for carriers in other regions poised to follow suit.

Seventy-four percent of customers said they’re influenced by loyalty programs which may provide benefits like VIP customer service or early access to new devices.

Bundling is one aspect of retention, but an effective customer loyalty strategy is crucial to staying competitive. Seventy-four percent of customers said they’re influenced by loyalty programs which may provide benefits like VIP customer service or early access to new devices. Customers are used to getting a streaming service as a perk with their cell service or similar add-ons. But, customers expect more personalized and experiential incentives, like tickets to see their favorite band or exclusive invitations to events. CSPs have the customer data to personalize rewards, but may need tools, like a customer relationship management system (CRM), to pull the data together from multiple internal systems.

Trend #3: CSPs create dynamic app and developer platforms to monetize 5G

Communications service providers have spent billions rolling out 5G networks. To monetize 5G, they need to offer more than just connectivity — and they now have that platform with 5G, software-defined networks (SDN) and edge computing. By shifting their mindset to the new opportunities of becoming a platform that embraces a partner ecosystem, CSPs can extend beyond the Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) concept into an outcomes-based Communications-as-a-Service (CaaS) model. This will open up a host of new applications — some developed in-house, but the majority developed by third parties and distributed by the providers. Developers can build differentiated apps that can be monetized through a managed marketplace. The CSP can choose to tightly control the marketplace (and the customer relationship) or loosen the reins to attract more developers, and the inherent risks of that openness.  

CSPs need to open up to different developer communities. This requires opening up APIs into their network functions carefully, judiciously, and with governance and standardization.

CSPs need to open up to different developer communities. This requires opening up APIs into their network functions carefully, judiciously, and with governance and standardization.

Imagine offering additional authentication factors without any extra effort for the customer. If they’re ready to pay at their favorite coffee shop, the high precision of 5G geo-location capability tells their CSP they are within range of that point-of-sale terminal. The trusted provider takes care of payments with enhanced security. 

Going even further, 5G has incredible applications in smart cities. For years, cities have been optimizing vehicle traffic flow. Now we can also enhance the security of pedestrians: Controlling street lighting is a huge cost to a city. What if street lights could sense people’s mobile devices and light up as they walk? That’s cheaper and more effective than motion sensors. 

These are just some of the incredible ways we will see CSPs unlock the value of 5G and create new monetization opportunities with developer ecosystems and marketplaces. Extending beyond connectivity is essential for communications service providers. Those that simply offer wireless and wired connectivity will fall behind. It’s exciting to see how the future will unfold and what new telecommunications trends will emerge.

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Jonathan Phillips Senior director, communications industry marketing

Jonathan Phillips is the senior director of communications industry marketing at Salesforce. He brings over 25 years of experience in business and technical architecture, solution consulting, and enterprise applications of CRM, contact centers, and telecommunications networks. As a well-respected industry leader, he regularly engages with customers and speaks at conferences and training sessions around the world.

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