Takeaways from the Total Telecom Congress 2017

Last week, two of our Communications recruitment solution experts Saul Penhallow and Mark Payne attended the Total Telecom Congress in London’s Canary Wharf. At the event they heard from industry leaders about strategies for the digital future and opportunities for the telecoms players to evolve within the digital economy. With such an information-packed congress, Saul and Mark summarise the main insights from this year’s event.

5G readiness & demand for skills

5G readiness was at the heart of many discussions with endless opportunities and new revenue streams at the end of the rainbow for those that get it right. 5G standards, licencing and spectrum allocation need to happen first with 5G deployments expected in 2020 or earlier.

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) are key enablers for 5G and the digitisation of the network, so IT professionals who are trained and certified with programming skills and knowledge within SDN and NFV will be in high demand by telco’s deploying digital networks.

Bryn Jones, Chief Technology Officer of Three, the mobile network provider, showcased that 10 million customers ‘binge data’ and by 2025 there will be 30 times the current network traffic with customers anticipated to use 60GB of data per month (more than double the current average). With this huge increase in data usage more cell sites will be required with micro and macro cells being connected by fibre. Experts suggest 5G will bring significant network densification with around 500,000 small cells will be needed just for the city of London.

To set up 5G network infrastructure, a wide range of skills will be in high demand including network designers, architects, planners, testers, field services not to mention those with leadership skills to manage project teams.

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5G to become a General Purpose Technology (GPT)

According to IHS Markit, the world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions, 5G could contribute $12.3 trillion to the global economy by 2035. However, in order for 5G to become a GPT, there needs to be an architecture change to put the right network infrastructure in place. Therefore 5G is expected to require $275 billion of investment over the next seven years to update network infrastructure.

Massive IoT

Huge growth is also expected from the IoT device connections dubbed ‘massive IoT’. By the end of 2017, Gartner Inc predicts 8.4 billion connected things will be in use all over the world, and this number is steadily climbing, with a projected 21 billion by the year 2020. IoT within the home is a real growth opportunity, although there are still concerns around the security and privacy of the networks and the ownership of the data.

Mark Payne (Left) Cormac Whelen (Centre) Saul Penhallow (Right)

Cormac Whelan CEO UK & Ireland Nokia explained how the company has teamed up with the Bristol is Open (BIO) initiative using Nokia IoT platforms, Labs video and analytics applications to integrate technology solutions which can benefit citizens including self drive cars and improving traffic congestion and air pollution.



A case study shared by Nicholas Ott, Managing Director of telecoms & M2M at Arqiva shared a solution that it was able to offer a local council whereby vehicles collecting refuse took only the most efficient routes. Through these digitalised solutions there will be a need for full stack developers who have knowledge and skills to merge both hardware and software to create IoT products.

Collaboration over isolation

Collaboration and network sharing will be critical for the majority of mobile operators, and we expect to see more mergers and acquisitions to support it.

Telecommunications providers fight back

In response to the decline of the revenues from voice calls and the preference of millennials to communicate using WhatsApp or Snapchat some telecoms providers are brave and ambitious enough to take on the over-the-top (OTT) service providers at their own game.

Turkcell's CEO Kaan Terzioglu

We heard from Turkcell's CEO Kaan Terzioglu who explained how they have launched a search engine mobile app, a music platform that is bigger than Spotify and a messaging platform called BIP that has 16 million users. Not surprisingly Turkcell’s digital services represented 18% of their revenues in Q2 2017.

Call for greater innovation from telecoms providers

Telecoms providers need to be more innovative. To highlight this Ahmad Hanandeh CEO of Zain Jordan, the leading mobile and data services operator, set up the ‘Zain Innovation Campus’ in 2014. Since then the initiative has supported 40 start-ups, signed more than 70 strategic partnerships and created an entrepreneurial community and ecosystem.

Other innovations are being created by some telecoms providers in unfamiliar territories creating new revenue streams in sectors such as finance, insurance, health and TV.

The Total Telecom Congress highlighted that the telecoms sector is undergoing a monumental transformation. Since 2010, the majority of telecoms companies have experienced a drop in revenue of around 6 percent a year. Mobile data consumption has boomed with an enormous amount of new wireless customers using their handsets to spend ever-increasing amounts of time online. The major players have responded by investing into their wireless networks, even as subscriber growth has slowed. If telecoms operators are able to transform their networks and operations with these new technologies, then they can really improve their profitability over the next five years.  

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