The Telecoms Industry Is Facing a Data Crossroads

Data Crossroads

Telecoms companies guard their customer information very carefully, and quite rightly so. Strict data privacy rules, such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), have reinforced the requirement to have tight controls over how information is stored, governed and used.

Often, data is kept not just within the company but sometimes locked within individual departments. The telecom sector plays an important role as the central nervous system, connecting several industries together. Yet, without the ability to accurately manage, analyse and collect data centrally across the network, telecoms are sometimes unable to ‘connect the dots’, potentially losing out on opportunities to drive enhanced end-user experiences and increased revenues.

Telecom companies that seek to unlock, share and collaborate with their most unique asset — their data; will find that adopting a data-first approach will collaborate with their eco-systems more strategically and monetise new business streams, alongside the newly developed data & related applications. Tapping into the value of their data can also enable telecom companies to manage the huge network complexity they currently deal with, helping with everything from predictive and preventative maintenance and roll-out and cost optimisation

Harnessing Data Clean Rooms for Business Growth

Around the world, multiple industries rely on telecom companies as the backbone of their operations. In retail, point-of-sale machines run through a telecoms company network, and in transport, the scheduling of commuter buses and trains relies on the very same technology. In fact, in 2025, the number of mobile users worldwide is projected to reach 7.49 billion. Yet, despite the importance of telecom for society and in connecting industries, network operators are not yet fully embracing the value of the data they have at their fingertips.

Data privacy and increased regulations have prevented telecoms from connecting and sharing their data with other organisations due to fears around leaking PII. However, Data Clean Room technology is fast emerging to help companies effortlessly share data both internally and with third-parties in a secure and governed environment. Data Clean Rooms prevent specific identifiable information from showing to other companies when sharing data through a Clean Room. PII is protected, processed, and managed in a compliant way. This means that companies, or divisions of a single company, are empowered to bring data together for joint analysis under defined guidelines and restrictions.

In retail, for example, telecoms companies can collaborate with retailers confidently and safely through a Data Clean Room using governed analytics. This typically revolves on the user’s cellular number, which can help the telecom and the retailer access valuable data such as location details, shopping baskets and product purchases. By tapping into this data, retailers can focus on improving personalisation services for their customers and also in-store and virtual experiences.

Better Data = Better Connections

Being able to understand individual usage of a network can help networks improve their services more broadly, as seen in the success of increased next gen network roll-outs. These are the first of their kind to effectively ‘slice’ the network, providing different service level agreements to consumers. When you know who is accessing services and what they are doing on the network, you can prioritise value and experiences over utilisation to deliver the best service for them at that given moment.

Yet, the inability to tap into customer data is preventing many network providers from taking advantage of this. By better understanding network data, telecoms can decommission legacy   networks, which can be more expensive to maintain, with faster connection and download speeds of 5G networks.

The adoption of 5G technology in the UAE is already quite advanced, as 49% of smartphone users in the country plan to upgrade to a 5G subscription by October 2023. Additionally, the population coverage of 5G in the UAE is quite extensive, with 93% of the country’s population having access to the technology.

A Brighter Future with Digital Twins

Going forward, telecoms will want to capitalise on new and emerging technologies, such as digital twins. Building a digital twin through their network serves as a visualisation tool to replicate what is happening in the real world. This enables continuous prototyping, testing and self-optimisation of the network.

According to the “Telecom 2030” report by Appledore Research published in December 2020, digital twin technology is expected to play a crucial role in managing capital and operating expenses of telecom networks, leading to proactive network management. This advancement could generate more than $10 billion in revenue for innovative telecommunications companies in the next ten years.

Overlaying this digital twin with data such as customer experience and mobility data enables networks to be much more customer-centric going forward, ensuring network providers can personalise customer experiences to meet their precise demands. This will help increase customer satisfaction and improve loyalty, ultimately driving a significant increase in profitability.

Telecom companies that understand how the key to achieving this is mastering and unlocking data rapidly pivot their business to become more of a TechCo model.

In the long term, engaging with this data is no longer a ‘nice to have’. Those that do it should be able to transition becoming fully-fledged technology companies and expect the gulf between them and their competitors to grow.

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