With 2020 just around the corner, now's the time for telecom service providers to look ahead to the new year and the trends that will dominate the industry. The telecom sector is constantly evolving, and only those companies that keep up with the rapid rate of change and update their offerings, platforms and technology will be able to continue to flourish for years to come.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the top five telecom trends that will shape the industry in 2020 – and what you can do to make the most of those developments.

1. 5G finally delivers the goods

5G has been a major topic of discussion in telecom for a while now, with industry researchers and observers making bold claims about how it will fundamentally change the way network-based services are delivered.

While 5G development has been steadily ramping up in the telecom industry and is already available in certain areas, 2020 may be the year that the technology finally materializes in a large-scale, tangible form for consumers. Earlier this year, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson stated that the company is on pace to achieve nationwide 5G coverage sometime in the first half of 2020.

What does that mean for consumers? 5G networks could provide faster data transfer speeds and more reliable performance – both of which are necessary to keep up with the rising demand for media-rich streaming services and increasingly connected homes.

Communications service providers (CSPs) may not have AT&T's resources, but they should still begin to plan for 5G's inevitable arrival. Looking into opportunities to expand network capacity and upgrade performance capabilities will help regional players stay competitive with major telecom companies.

2. The Internet of Things continues to thrive

Like 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been on the telecom industry's radar for quite some time. IoT devices have been steadily rolled out in recent years, producing more connected machines and sensors that can communicate with each other over networks.

The IoT can go far beyond virtual assistants and internet-enabled refrigerators, supporting smart cities, self-driving cars and other innovative designs that rely on connected sensors and robust networks.

5G and the IoT will likely dovetail, given the latter's significant network demands, both in terms of data transfer speeds and reliability. With both technologies, CSPs need to address any deficiencies in their current networks and improve capacity wherever possible.

3. Automation alleviates growth barriers that stand in the way of expansion

CSPs looking to expand their footprint and reach new markets in 2020 may run into obstacles that prevent them from scaling up their operations.

Common growth barriers include:

  • Manual processes and workflows that require hands-on manipulation to execute.
  • Slow and inefficient inventory management tools that make routine network provisioning a time-consuming affair.
  • Increased headcount requirements that are financially impractical and would undercut any revenue boosts that market growth would offer.

Implementing automation wherever possible can help address some of the concerns that stand in the way of CSP expansion. Many internal processes, from provisioning to invoicing, can be reliably automated to reduce the amount of time and manpower needed to run them. Automated workflows also make it far easier to scale up CSP capabilities, especially when paired with cloud-based solutions.

The combination of streamlined workflows, automated tasks and scalable cloud-based platforms can help CSPs widen their operational footprints without necessarily increasing their headcount. In effect, they can do more with less.

4. Security concerns remain an ongoing problem

The telecom industry is no stranger to data breaches, data leaks and cybercriminal activity. In the past year alone, multiple carriers and CSPs, including Sprint and Canada's Freedom Mobile, were hit by data breaches that potentially exposed customer data.

Given the high costs of security incidents – companies stand to lose a lot of revenue after accounting for remediation, potential regulatory penalties and increased customer churn following a data breach – bolstering safeguards should be a major priority. Reducing your attack surface at every layer of your technology stack will reduce your risk of exposure.

That includes any third-party software or applications in place. CSPs should always thoroughly vet their vendors to ensure they abide by the latest security best practices and continually update their solutions to address the latest threats. Outdated platforms are some of the most common points of exposure for organizations in any industry, producing vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by cybercriminals.

5. Outdated billing systems hold CSPs back

Outdated systems aren't only a security risk, they can prevent CSPs from capitalizing on new business opportunities and expanding their reach into other markets. That's especially true when it comes to billing systems.

Older billing platforms were not originally designed with the kind of scalability and flexibility that today's CSPs require. While it feels like the cloud has been around forever, it's still a relatively new technology, and many organizations still rely on on-prem solutions that need to be manually maintained and managed in house.

Continuing with outdated legacy billing systems will prevent companies from taking advantage of the latest and most advanced solutions available, putting them behind the curve – not to mention the competition. Replacing legacy billing platforms with more dynamic and responsive billing systems will give CSPs the tools they need to consistently perform at a high level and deliver the best service quality possible.

Another concern with legacy billing systems is that the tribal knowledge that's been amassed around a particular solution can start to erode over time. The employees who originally implemented the platform may no longer be with the company, and CSPs may find themselves in a situation where no one fully understands how their billing system operates. Untangling custom integrations  at that point could be a long and expensive affair, so it's best to get ahead of the game and make the move to a more modern solution sooner rather than later.

Overcome obstacles that are holding you back and get ready for the trends that are shaping the telecom industry. IDI Billing Solutions has the cloud-based, end-to-end Billing and OSS solution and extensive industry experience to help any telecom organization position itself for success in 2020. IDI provides the flexibility, scalability and comprehensive capabilities needed to stay agile as your business evolves. Contact our team today to find out how we can help make next year a good one for your business.