LIVE FROM 5G ASIA, SINGAPORE: Mobile operators need to focus on being the strong middleman in the value chain and prepare for vast new business opportunities created by emerging Internet of Things (IoT) applications, argued the CEO of Malaysia’s YTL Communications, Wing Lee.
Telcos’ role in the value chain has always been in the middle, he argued, which means they are an intermediary by definition. “The question is how do we position ourselves to be a very good intermediary and create monetisation opportunities as the middle guy?”
Speaking at the event about operators’ generally adversarial relationship with the internet players or so-called over-the-top (OTT) firms, he noted that OTT is a term really created by telcos. “Their viewpoint is ‘why should you ride on my network for free and create value?’”
He said he likes to look at things from an innovation point of view. “If you look at the services internet companies have created vs telco networks, I think the contrast is quite stark. We should work with the best players in the world to co-innovate and create new value that can drive business, with the pie getting larger as we work well with each other.”
5G use cases
The biggest opportunities in the 5G era are emerging in the IoT space, he said, adding that it’s important for mobile operators to develop a platform to serve completely new markets, beyond the consumer market of seven billion, which isn’t growing very fast.
“The market for connected cars, homes, factories and so on will be anywhere from 20 billion to 200 billion connection points, which is a quantum leap from the global population. That’s where we see excitement. Telcos finally have the opportunity to use all-IP technology to fuse with the internet seamlessly to create innovation not addressable by smartphones,” he said.
YTL, originally a WiMAX player that has connected all Malaysia’s primary and secondary schools, recently upgraded to LTE nationwide.
Lee noted that with 5G there is an opportunity for both incremental and disruptive innovation. “One is about doing things faster with more speed, more capacity, lower latency and the other is to go low, with lower power, low throughput, long battery life to help us realise new opportunities that aren’t served today by smartphones that only last a day.”
While the industry needs to continue with incremental improvements, especially with things like telemedicine, he sees big opportunities to create new markets by “doing less for less”. Those use cases require batteries to last five to ten years.