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Development of The ICT Environment Over the Last 30 Years

Over the last 30 years, the Information and Technology environment has gone from a total parastatal environment to an environment where there are at least 300 service providers out there providing voice and data services to the community, including business and residential services.

The net result of this expansion in the supply of services caused numerous effects on the ICT industry. The most obvious is that it has become a more competitive environment causing the price point to be more controlled and more dictated by end users than a parastatal environment would have been.

REDUCTION IN REVENUE:

This resulted in a reduction of the total revenue available to invest in companies as well as technology support in this environment. It also had a ripple effect in the sense that the available funding needed for training started to diminish.

The declining revenue has an effect on not only the business, but also the funding available to invest in new technology and the upgrading of technology.

As an example, if you look at the last year, prior to the Coronavirus which had a further effect, there had been a 100% increase in mobile data demand but only about a 4% change in additional revenue because of the pressure of the competition in this market.

The technology needed to support the increase in demand requires more resources to increase the capacity and availability of these services. 

Now if you consider that you are only getting a 4% increase in revenue and a 100% increase in demand, it has a huge impact on the ability to provide services from a technology point of view. This induces a rippling effect where small players struggle to compete in this environment and fall away leaving an additional pressure on networks to carry the demand of those users as well.

THE REDUCTION IN SKILLED EMPLOYEES:

If we take a step away from the growth in technology capacity and look at the human skill environment, there are only so many skilled people that can operate in this environment effectively. The move from a limited number of service providers to over 300, leaves a deficit in the number of skilled individuals able to operate efficiently in this environment. This is furthermore complicated further by the skilled individuals within the environment diminishes as they are at the point of retiring, which means those skills are leaving the industry, or with the greater demand for skilled and experienced individuals, the price tag goes up per individual, which presents a problem with the diminishing revenue of companies in this sector.

DEMAND ON INFRASTRUCTURE:

The world trend is to move services into an application-based environment where even the biggest technologies and machineries are controlled from software. These hardwares need to be accessible from remote locations for clients to gain access to these services. There is a greater demand for network infrastructures and support on the network. 

If you look at the software that has been written to support these environments, we find that there is a flow of information in two directions. One is that the applications are becoming bigger, therefore demanding more and more bandwidth to support them. The second is that these technologies are now generating terabytes of data to understand its efficiency, faults, and event logs. This creates massive amounts of data that need to be sent somewhere to be processed and understood further. This puts a great demand on data networks to be able to carry this traffic.

HOW SERVICE PROVIDERS ARE TRYING TO NEUTRALISE THIS EFFECT:

On the one side there is a race to zero rating. This refers to the cost of a call or a megabyte that is coming down as companies compete on pricing. This is not a sustainable solution. In an attempt to neutralise this, service providers are starting to play with tariff and package options to try to manipulate their customers. 

They have a good view of the behaviour profile and they use that to improve their packages to end up with as much unused committed services as possible. What further complicates this, is that the entire process between the consumer and service provider has been neglected over time. This makes it difficult for clients to understand, communicate and manage their own environments from a telco point of view.

Generally, the main focus of Telcos is getting technology in place to create the products and going to market with them. Often, other important components, such as the invoice to the end user for services that are rendered, are left out. Technologies that are deployed by service providers to do billing are robust and often don’t have the ability to change quickly. It takes a substantial amount of time to get new billing platforms in place. This results in incorrect billing, manually processed billing and limited information to do the billing as quickly as possible. Generally it takes about 6 – 18 months just to change one billing methodology in a large telco billing environment. The effect that this has on the speed of going to market is not sustainable.

The service providers need to have the following in place:

  1. The technology and products
  2. An efficient billing platform
  3. And (most importantly) the tools to understand and manage their environment efficiently, which is often last on the agenda

STAFF RESOURCES TRENDS:

There is a continual movement towards reducing the staff count to get the payroll down from both an industry and customer point of view, because of the fluctuating economy. Unfortunately due to the years of salary growth, it tends to be your staff that has been around the longest, who also end up being your experienced staff.

This results in customers now trying to put tools or staff in place to support them so that they can actually understand this environment.

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