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Communications

How the Future of Telecommunications Will Make or Break Wholesale Carriers

Wholesale telecoms face a choice: Digitize to unlock new revenue streams, or risk commoditization. Our SVP for Communications explains.

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[@JELENA JOJIC TOMIC/Stocksy United]

Messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger now support more than double the international voice traffic. That’s more reach than all global communications service providers (CSPs) combined. As Senior Vice President of the Communications industry at Salesforce, I’ve had a front-row seat to the changing future of telecommunications. One area hit particularly hard is wholesale telecom. Increased demand for these free-to-use messaging services has taken away from wholesale telecoms core voice service business. Plus, data service has become increasingly commoditized.

I recently spoke about how wholesale telecom carriers can overcome market challenges. Here are a few highlights:

How can wholesalers address their telecom future?   

As bread-and-butter voice and data services dwindle, wholesalers are spending billions in new fiber infrastructure, subsea cable routes, and data centers to manage traffic volumes. At the same time, there is demand across customer segments — like resellers and systems integrators (SIs) that purchase these services and bundle them with their own offerings — to make it easier to do business. The ordering process and self-service experience is often siloed, and it can be difficult to understand. One wholesaler recently joked that when they tried viewing their existing self-service solution in a web browser, it was so full of acronyms and jargon that Google Translate offered to translate it into English.

One wholesaler recently joked that when they tried viewing their existing self-service solution in a web browser, it was so full of acronyms and jargon that Google Translate offered to translate it into English.

To address these challenges, some wholesalers are investing in cloud-based applications, including customer relationship management (CRM) tools, to provide customer-facing employees with a complete view of data. This will help them make it easier for customers to do business with them. We’re also seeing wholesalers launch self-service portals with built-in automation that simplify and guide customers as they generate their own quotes, orders, and service requests.

How can wholesalers meet the future of telecommunications? 

I suggest that wholesalers take a “crawl, walk, run” approach to digitization. This helps them deliver business value faster, and provides time to incorporate customer feedback, adapt to change, and dramatically reduce program risk. 

Salesforce recommends that wholesalers prioritize a 360 degree customer view first, and then create a quote-to-fulfillment capability for one set of products, like your Ethernet or software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN). 

Wholesalers should begin by reimagining their core processes to streamline the customer experience. They should also evaluate and simplify their product catalogs.

Salesforce recommends that wholesalers prioritize a 360 degree customer view first, and then create a quote-to-fulfillment capability for one set of products, like your Ethernet or software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN).

What does “good” look like in the future of wholesale telecommunications? 

My team and I are working with one of the world’s leading telecom wholesalers to make it easier for operators to do business with its thousands of resellers and SI customers.

We launched the self-service portal in just three months. Since then, we have continuously addressed customer feedback and added new features and support for a dozen additional products.

Before we started, customers had to navigate over a dozen product-specific quoting and ordering portals. We helped them launch a single, unified web portal that guides customers as they generate quotes, place orders, and track order status. Our findings show that they were able to reduce their number of IT systems by up to 68%, improve order accuracy by up to 60%, and decrease time to market by up to 80%. 

What are some recent developments in wholesale telecom?

A significant volume of wholesale orders originate with other operators on behalf of retail customers. For example, a U.S.-based carrier may serve a company locally and receive a request to connect a location in Romania. Historically, the process of determining service availability, generating quotes, and fulfilling orders required manual interactions between the U.S.-based carrier and local service providers. That can take weeks to complete.

Instead, that U.S. carrier in the example above could set up a local service in just days. A growing number of wholesalers are adopting cloud-native software from companies like Salesforce and adopting standards-based APIs from the TM Forum and MEF. These help wholesalers automate complex commercial processes between providers to improve sales efficiency, reduce time-to-market, and simplify service.

The pandemic proved to wholesale telecom carriers that the future of telecommunications requires flexibility and agility. Those that digitize with cloud-based applications and self-service solutions that simplify the quote-to-fulfillment process will make it easier for customers to do business with them. This sets the foundation for future innovation — no matter what challenge comes next.


Dan Ford is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Communications and Media industries at Salesforce, specializing in customer engagement, product marketing, and go-to-market strategy.

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