5G industry news

5G B2B success means partnering

  • 5 minute read
  • Published by Dawn Bushaus on 27 May 2020
  • Last modified 27 May 2020
The consensus from TM Forum's recent Hard Talk live debate is that 5G represents a huge opportunity for communications service providers (CSPs) to deliver B2B and B2B2X services, but they must partner to succeed – and they need to act now.

“Many service providers are pinning their growth hopes on B2B and B2B2X ecosystems,” TM Forum CEO Nik Willetts explained in opening the panel discussion featuring Fotis Karonis, CTIO, BT Enterprise; Jan Karlsson, Head of Digital Services, Ericsson; and Camille Mendler, Chief Analyst for Enterprise Services, Omdia. “In order to get there, we have to question what it’s going to take to really succeed: What will the role of the CSP be in this value chain? What value can they deliver? How important will partnerships be to their success? … And crucially, how long do we have to deliver the change in order to seize this opportunity?”

Hard talk

Following are some of the insightful responses from the panelists. You can listen to the full webcast on demand.

On the potential of 5G

BT’s Karonis: “Game’s on. I think the opportunities are really strong because the customers increasingly understand 5G and how it can be a digital transformation… We see 5G as beyond connectivity.”

Omdia’s Mendler: “You don’t need to be on top to make money, and in the end, it’s about shareholder value and margin… Let’s be clear: In 5G there is a $13 trillion value added opportunity…and telcos are not the only ones to get that opportunity.”

Ericsson’s Karlsson: “With 5G I think there’s a wealth of opportunity to partner, be it with a hyperscaler, with application developers or with other CSPs.”

On whether CSPs should target horizontal or vertical opportunities

Karlsson: “I would definitely focus on the horizontal opportunity. The vertical opportunity is an additional opportunity on top, but the horizontal opportunity, I think, is open for most CSPs. The starting point defines very much where I want to go, where I could go as an operator. But connectivity is a is a must. We’ve built this massive infrastructure that is valuable today and will become even more valuable in a 5G context, and to me it’s almost compulsory.”

Mendler: I think it’s actually got to be a blend. I think there are certain cases that are very clear for telcos, and it’s not about dominating an entire industry, because it’s just not credible to do that… I’ll give the example of manufacturing – we think there’s $4 trillion of 5G added value there. Now, in fact, if you speak to manufacturing companies, the No. 1 most trusted partner that they state for 5G is the telco – but not alone. They expect to be working with a telco and an equipment vendor.”

Karonis: “It’s not about being alone and being a horizontal player or vertical player; it’s about changing the mindset and seeing our customers…as partners.”

On the importance of partnering and ecosystems

Karonis: “The ecosystem [includes] the application providers and potentially hyperscalers – it’s an ecosystem of new players. 5G is not about a radio access standard; it opens a massive opportunity for network-centric services… We are moving from enhanced broadband to ultra-reliable, low-latency communication, so as the standards and opportunities evolve, the ecosystems become larger, more complex and varied.”

Mendler: “It’s a checkered history of alliances and telcos… Alliances have got to be multidisciplinary and not just telcos speaking to each other. I think that’s very critical if we’re really serious about building ecosystems.”

Karlsson: “I couldn’t agree more that this will be solved by working together… [It’s important that CSPs] not try to do this inside out – I wouldn’t publish an API without knowing what the other side needs to consume. So, our biggest encouragement is: Work with others; work with hyperscalers; work with application vendor providers; work with other CSPs. And I think maybe more importantly before that…define the business model that you’re going to go for.”

On how long the window of opportunity will remain open for CSPs

Mendler: “I don’t think it’s too late at all, but I do think it’s some somewhere in the next 12 months that some very big decisions need to be made. I think there is absolutely untapped growth in enterprise. We see it, and we…also believe that telcos do have some trust to exploit, trust that is growing because of the current situation now.”

Karonis: “I think in the 12 month period…we’re going to see the markets changes. Are [enterprises] going to be moving back into big locations?… There’s a big change in the market and we have to be completely agile to continue to work like this, providing incredible collaborative solutions.”

Karlsson: “I think the opportunity is there for the taking, and it’s definitely not gone tomorrow. But I would emphasize with the greater sense of importance and urgency, please start now. Define the plan – it might not be perfect, but where do you want to play based on the capabilities you have? Start now is a call for action for us as an industry, and the key thing, of course, is to do it together.”

For much more from the panelists including advice on whether to target large or small enterprises and how to address the biggest barriers to success for CSPs, register to listen to Hard Talk on demand.


TM Forum is a global industry association for service providers and their suppliers in the telecommunications industry.