Partnering: Key to Future Growth in Telecoms

Innovators across the telecommunications industry are increasingly recognising the need to adopt an end-to-end approach when it comes to process excellence and service quality. The potential rewards not only help companies, through cost savings and revenue growth, but also the customer who stands to benefit from an altogether improved service.

But in such a crowded marketplace, should firms be going it alone, or partnering with others to achieve these objectives?

In recent years, there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that relations between wholesalers and their customers – service providers, operators, systems integrators – have become somewhat frayed. The latest research by Ovum suggests there is a business opportunity for providers of wholesale services who are willing to be more flexible and accommodating of their customers' specialist requirements.

David James, author of the report and principal analyst at Ovum, said there was a general view that the performance of wholesale suppliers is slipping in a number of key areas. "Wholesale customers report that there are expanding gaps between what they expect from their suppliers, and what is being delivered to them. Wholesalers are also getting it wrong by offering too wide a range of products. A clear conclusion from our survey is that customers want specialist suppliers with in-depth offerings, not generalists with broad portfolios," he explained.

One emerging belief is that more effective use of business partnerships may be the vital ingredient to success for many telecoms operators. The recent launch event of Total Telecom's Global 100 report in London sent a clear message to the industry. Europe's telcos increasingly have little choice but to work together, as well as in partnership with other players in the value chain, if they are to adapt successfully to the evolving needs of their customer.

Speaking at the launch, Andrew Edison, regional vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa at AT&T, said telcos must all take steps to work effectively with one another, instead of always competing. If customer requirements are to be met, "we're going to have to work with different partners" he said. With annual revenues in excess of €92 billion (£80 billion), AT&T clinched the number one spot in this year's Global 100 ranking, a position it has held since 2007. But despite its enormous size and distinguished track record, Mr Edison believes even AT&T would be wrong to think it could survive without its partners.

As the company continues to expand its global network, partnering has proved essential to growth, particularly in emerging markets such as countries in Latin America. According to Mr Edison, telecoms operators now have a critical role to play in the business side of an organisation, not merely in ICT.

Dominic Jones, products and marketing director at Cable & Wireless Worldwide, agreed with what Mr Edison had to say. With comparatively minor revenues of €2.55 billion, Cable & Wireless was placed at number 77 in the 2011 ranking. But despite the companies' obvious size difference, Mr Jones said he was encouraged that a firm like AT&T is "worried about the same things" in terms of future success.

Recent market challenges, as well as the increasing focus on process excellence and service quality through end-to-end solutions, have given rise to what Mr Jones proclaimed "the birth of the service integrator" in telecoms. This progressive model sees operators bolting together a number of services as part of an end-to-end solution that suitably reflects changing customer needs. "Telecoms is making and leading this market," he concluded.