Taking the temperature of the telco market with EY’s Adrian Baschnonga 


At Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last month, we caught up with Adrian Baschnonga, EY’s Global (Technology, Media and Telecom) TMT Lead Analyst, to get his insights into the top trends of this year’s event

Having covered the telco sector for a long time coming to his first MWC in 2001, Adrian highlights the importance of events like this to be able to “take the pulse” of the industry. 

One of Adrian’s key takeaways of the event this year is the importance of ecosystems and partnerships, “detecting in comparison to previous years, a lot more openness in terms of collaboration and companies willing to work with each other. 

But it never used to be like this. Why does he think this has changed?  

“Because these days, no single company has all the competencies that their customers need, so bringing someone else in is essential, particularly when it’s an enterprise customer and they are looking at buying different technologies,” he says. “For example, if you’re providing 5G or IoT to a business, customers might want AI or analytics as part of that, so partnering would mean providing multiple services more easily.”

Every year, EY conduct the “Reimagining Industry Futures Study”, which aims to find out what do businesses want from emerging technologies (such as IoT, 5G, AI, or edge computing etc), and importantly, what do they think of the providers of those technologies. 

It’s there to get an enterprise customer perspective. What they are finding, is that business are investing in these technologies, and how do they combine these technologies together to create value and provide an integrated service portfolio. 

 Last year, EY published a list of its top 10 predicted risks for 2024, and concerns around security and privacy came up top. The list was an amalgamation of all the research that Adrian does. What is coming out from this research, is that telcos are trusted when it comes to protecting data, but when it comes “newer” things such as AI, they are asking questions on issues like data ethics, and so the bar on telcos having to protect their network and cyber resilience is raised.  

“It’s a consequence of the fact there is lot of technology change, coupled with the fact that telcos have got a decent track record, but they are having to spend increasing amounts on research on dealing with potential cyber breaches, so data and security is top of the agenda at the moment. 

Regardless of whether or not AI can be regarded as “new”, it was one of the main hot topics at the event that everyone was talking about. Underneath the shiny PR, how can telcos utilise it to its full extent? 

Adrian spoke on how AI has been around for a while, but Generative AI is newer. What EY are finding, is that a lot of companies are trying to find a way to harness the latest version of AI (Gen AI) within their preexisting transformation frameworks, that already have a measure of AI in them already. “They want to take this baby step approach to adaption rather than radical adoption. This is the key thing in at the moment – how do they include these exciting new technologies into their business models in a phased and structured way?” 

“How do they bring AI into their network, to improve energy efficiency for example, or to automate customer interaction. And choosing which ones are easiest to adopt right now versus which require some more work?” he continued. 

Bringing the conversation closer to home, Adrian discussed the current economic climate in the UK, the cost-of-living crisis in the UK, and how this is impacting competitiveness amongst telcos. 

The current cost of living crisis in the UK asks questions about the pricing models that telcos have. Customers want to see more pricing predictability, (according to recent EY research, 80% of people). They want more fixed priced guarantees, in a market where prices typically increase year on year. 

So, there is scope for operators to be more flexible, and transparent in how they are communicating their price, in exact number and not percentages. It’s all about how they can align to changing customer expectations. 

Going forward, customers may look for flexibility, such as pay as you go models. But it will be up to service providers to bring simplicity to their customers – and get rid of the advertising asterisks!  

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