Intelligence Brief: What do operators need for enterprise success?

In May, I wrote a blog off the back of a research series we kicked off earlier in the year.

The question we set out to answer with the research was a fairly simple one: what service and technical capabilities do operators need to successfully sell into the enterprise sector? Okay, the question was a little more complex than that. While operators have consistently highlighted enterprise verticals as the biggest new 5G revenue opportunity, the reality is most mobile operators have been selling B2B services for years. So, what actually changes with 5G? And what will need to change in terms of how services are delivered for operators to execute on their enterprise aspirations?

To answer these questions, we contacted a set of operators which are deeply engaged in delivering connectivity and other services to the enterprise segment. In particular, we spent a lot of time trying to understand how service level agreements (SLAs) would need to evolve if 5G is tied to delivering specific service capabilities. Ultimately, we received a mixed view from operators on whether or not SLAs would actually need to be more granular or different from what’s offered today.

But, if 5G investments are being broadly justified by enterprise digital transformation opportunities, then we need to look beyond operators with a long track record of B2B sales and well-developed B2B strategies. We need to look the broader universe of mobile operators. And that’s just what we did when we surveyed 100 operators for their views on enterprise services earlier in the quarter. It’s almost like we had it all planned at the outset.

5G in enterprise, is it that important?
The narrative around 5G in the enterprise segment has been well-elaborated on many occasions. It brings new network and service capabilities, massive IoT support, low latencies, ultra-reliable connectivity, which will enable operators to drive enterprise digital transformation, fund their 5G builds, and grow their revenues. We see this reflected in technology pilots and service trials from 5G pioneers. But what about everyone else?

Short answer: 5G is a core part of enterprise service strategies for nearly all mobile operators.

Long answer: 47 per cent plan to sell 5G-based connectivity to businesses in 2020, with 90 per cent planning to do so by 2022. That’s impressive, sure. But it doesn’t say much about the importance of advanced 5G capabilities and how they will support enterprise digital transformation. To understand that, you’d need to ask operators about the importance of standalone (SA) 5G. And when we did just that? SA 5G came out on top in terms of technology capabilities required for enterprise success, besting things like in-building coverage and edge networking.

How about SLAs?
A major implication of our initial analysis was that operators were roughly split in terms of how they saw enterprise SLAs evolving in a 5G world: half thinking SLAs will need to be more granular if services are tied to new 5G capabilities, while the other half figured they would be fine just as they are. If you’d hoped that the leading lights of 5G and enterprise services would lend insights, you’d have been wrong.

Against that backdrop, it’s nice to see the rest of the operator universe sees SLAs as critical to enterprise success.

While SA 5G may be deemed the most important technology capability for operator success with enterprise sales, SLAs weren’t far behind. On a scale of one to five (where five was tops), SA came in at an average of 3.88. Security and performance SLAs averaged 3.82 each, tying in second place for the most important capability. And right behind them in the number three spot: network and service performance visibility (presumably to ensure that SLAs can be delivered).

So, what’s the answer?
Let’s to our original question, the one in the title: what do operators need for enterprise success, particularly as we move further into the 5G era?

Recognising the importance of SLAs and SA 5G is a good start. If the argument is that 5G plays to digital transformation based on new technical capabilities, SA will be needed to deliver those capabilities and SLAs will be needed to prove that they are actually being delivered. Actually rolling out SA and more granular SLA support, however, is more important. To that end, it’s encouraging to see new SA launches every month. Will operators move with equal ambitiousness on new SLA strategies and offers? It’s unlikely, but those who do will be in a much better position to execute on the enterprise 5G opportunity.

– Peter Jarich – head of GSMA Intelligence

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.