The telecom identity crisis

This article could be about two things. It could be about ID verification and how important that is in the digital world. Or it could be about the nature of telecoms operators themselves.

That’s the trouble these days. Concepts are stretched to mean many things to many people. Like Edge and 5G, for example.

In much of the world ‘telecoms’ means the industry that connects people and doesn’t necessarily infer a technology. In the US it means fixed line but not cable.

The business of telecoms was voice. Then it was texts and latterly it was data. Now no-one is really sure, because data is commoditised and while it’s still vital it isn’t where the mega bucks are.

One of the big challenges in the post-Covid world (otherwise known at 2022 and beyond) is how to talk about an industry that is increasingly dissimilar. If the value is built above the network, then the thing we have in common – the network – is no longer what defines us.

Added to that everything is blurring and merging. Traditional demarcations between B2B and B2C are disappearing because of Work from Anywhere and the fragmentation of large enterprises, with more flexible, distributed working. Expectations are likewise merging: business customers increasingly demand a similar experience to that received in their off-duty lives (so-called ‘consumerisation’) not least because the line between the two has disappeared.

Words matter. If we’re going to talk about the telecoms industry in a meaningful way then challenging the terminology we use and the concepts these embody is important. A bill is no longer a piece of paper, but a digital statement of charges and payments – possibly with a PDF to print off if you need to. Broadband no longer means fixed line, but is any technology that allows a household to connect to the internet. A customer no longer fits neatly into a segmentation that was decided decades ago, or a micro-segmentation that serves your needs not theirs. Advertising is no longer about selling what you want when you want, but about relevance to the customer’s here and now – delivered in their channels of choice at a time that makes sense to them.

More has to change in telecoms than technology or terminology. Thinking has to change too. And that always proven to be the hardest thing to shift.