TM Forum Digital Transformation Asia 2018: No Longer Optional for Asian Carriers

A. Amir

Summary Bullets:

  • Digital transformation is no longer an option for emerging market carriers today.
  • It is not just about adopting new technologies. Carriers must also transform to drive sustainable change.

This year’s TM Forum Asia event took place in Malaysia on November 13-15 with ‘digital transformation’ as the main theme. While the topic is not new in the industry, it is actually the right time in Asia. For many years, carriers have been offering enterprise solutions such as cloud, mobility, UC&C, and IoT and positioning themselves as digital transformation enablers in the market. However, many carriers in the emerging Asia markets are still quite behind with their internal journeys. These carriers are still stuck with their legacy infrastructures, processes, and mindset.

Digital transformation is no longer an option for emerging market carriers today. The business from legacy telecommunications services such as voice and data services is flattening and beginning to decline as the markets are maturing. Emerging market carriers are finally experiencing margin pressure and hence the critical needs to look for new revenue streams and cost saving, just like what carriers in developed markets have been going through in the last few years. They need to transform their network infrastructures and processes to be more flexible and agile, in order to accelerate time-to-market for new services, optimize operational cost, keep up with the fast-changing market demand, and face the new digital players and competitors from adjacent verticals.

For example, as a leading mobile service provider in the biggest country in Southeast Asia, Telkomsel Indonesia takes a proactive approach with its transformation journey both internally and externally. It not only offers various value-added services (e.g., video, music, games and mobile money services), but also continues to enhance the services to improve customer experience. The carrier adopts technologies such as open API, microservices, and containers as the foundation of its service delivery architecture to support high-volume transactions (more than 30,000 transactions per second) to ensure a seamless experience for its 200 million subscribers. The carrier recorded seven million downloads from its 2.5 million active video service users. The carrier also offers online transactions through its self-service portal as well as AI-powered omnichannel customer support as part of its customer experience enhancement initiative.

Axiata, which has presence in eight emerging Asia countries, is one of the early adopters of open API. The carrier started its API journey in 2012. The first two years (2012 – 2014) focused on the long tail market, with the carrier opening three telco APIs; it worked with around 2,000 developers to develop 3,000 applications. Axiata then took its API initiative to the next level in the second wave (2014 – 2015) by focusing on the short tail. The carrier worked with enterprises to scale API demand and supply, opened about another 100 telcos APIs including payment and analytics, attracted more developers, and increased the total applications from 3,000 to 10,000. In the third wave, Axiata developed its internal market place and worked with partners to accelerate internal digital transformation. There were more than 2,500 APIs available to enable various internal applications including core network, BSS, enterprise IT, and digital services.

Telkomsel and Axiata are among the proactive carriers in emerging Asia markets. There are still many other carriers which are only starting their journey or still in the early stage. Digital transformation is not just about adopting new technologies. While the ecosystem is ready (there are various vendors with successful references), it is also important for carriers to transform internal people, such as changing the legacy mindset and processes, providing the necessary skillset, and gaining executive sponsors. Industry collaboration is also a key factor. Carriers should work hand-in-hand with the vendors to address the challenges and achieve the outcomes together instead of having the traditional customer-supplier relationships.

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