We’re at the Start of the Invisible Network Era, Says Optiva

Connectivity Is the Oxygen of the Digital World — in the Next 5 to 10 Years, the 'Invisible Network' Will Become More Integral to Our Lives Says Joy King

Optiva provides cloud-based charging systems for telecoms operators in partnership with Google, serving over 60 telecoms operators in more than 50 countries, processing over three billion transactions per hour. Its products are delivered globally on the private and public clouds, and for almost 25 years, the publicly listed telecoms business has been helping service providers maximise digital, 5G, IoT, and emerging market opportunities. 

Over the course of three decades, Joy King has followed a remarkable journey in the technology industry spanning direct sales, global account management, sales leadership, industry marketing, partner management, human resources, employee communications and engagement, product marketing and product management. Her ability to combine the creativity of marketing with the power of communication and her passion and depth of knowledge in the telecom industry and big data analytics have led her to her current role as VP of GTM Strategy at Optiva.

She shares her expert insight around invisible networks and the future of the mobile industry. 

Wireless connectivity is becoming increasingly pervasive and embedded in literally millions of devices. What does the future hold for mobile?

For the last decade, the entire telecom industry has focused on network bandwidth. Yet the immense potential of 5G, network slicing, and other new network capabilities has been met with a deafening silence – and a closed wallet – from both consumers and businesses. That’s because, in our wholly digital world, none of us care about the “back end”. What we care about is getting what we need, when we need it, in the form of a highly tailored and intuitive digital experience. In 2024, we predict the beginning of the “Invisible Network Era”. 

From AI-powered personal assistants like Humane’s recently announced “AI Pin” smart home devices, to metaverse gaming and other data-intensive applications, reliable internet connectivity and massive data capacity are becoming non-negotiable. Traditionally, this was the responsibility of the end user. A customer buys the device, learns how to set it up, and pairs it with their home Wi-Fi network. Depending on what they want to do with their device, they might struggle to determine the data capacity they’ll need in their mobile data plan. In the Invisible Network Era, these devices will include embedded connectivity and dramatically streamline the customer experience. 

Connectivity is, and will continue to be, a fundamental pillar in our society. But in the Invisible Network Era, it will be embedded everywhere without any need for us to really understand it. 

The phrase ‘the invisible network’ is rather apt to describe what could shape the future of this industry. How will these networks be deployed, and what are their benefits and capabilities for decision-makers in the mobile industry?

The key to customer success in the digital age is simplicity. As consumers and mobile device users, we want things to just work without needing to know how.  The same is true for next-generation device manufacturers. They don’t want to become telecom operators, nor do they have the expertise – or patience – to learn how to implement and manage mobile network connectivity. For Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), this represents an enormous opportunity. MNOs who eliminate the need to understand the complexity of “MVNO” and provide agile, integrated billing and charging solutions will become indispensable. In 2024 and beyond, gateways and taxation platforms will be natural partners for these innovators in the Era of the Invisible Network.

How can mobile executives prepare for this era of ‘invisible networks’?

First, they must eliminate the traditional telecom acronyms when engaging with new partners. “MVNO,” “OSS,” “BSS,” “ARPU,” and many others have no meaning to new market entrants. These innovative new companies do not want to be labelled “telcos.” Second, they need to focus on enabling a digital customer experience built on proactive AI-powered engagements rather than basic network operations. That means enabling functions such as adaptable tariffs, flexible contracts, personalised offers, digital product bundles and more. Finally, and most importantly, they need to recognize that their primary opportunities for new revenue streams will now come from outside the traditional telecom industry, and they need to focus on building new and contemporary brands that will attract ambitious “non-telco” market entrants. 

How would the ‘invisible network’ impact the average consumer’s daily life? I suppose it probably might not even impact them if the connectivity is inconspicuous and out of sight, right?

This is an interesting question to answer because it’s highly generational. Things will change a lot for those of us who are used to downloading apps, setting them up individually with different passwords, and managing daily operations and updates. Imagine a world where “there is an app for that,” but you don’t need to know what it is. Instead, you simply engage with your device to get what you want – order takeout food, check the weather, make a payment - but you don’t know, or need to care, what app is handling these needs because they are hosted and managed in the cloud by our device providers. But for the youngest generation, the concept of individual apps will be a relic of the past – something they hear their parents and grandparents talking about.

What challenges could mobile operators and enterprises face when deploying these networks?

There are a lot of challenges we need to tackle to fully implement the Invisible Network. First, both mobile operators and enterprises will need to ensure that security is the top priority, especially given the role that AI will play. Without direct responsibility for managing our mobile connectivity, security and privacy must be constantly demonstrated by these providers. For mobile operators, they will need to learn to speak a new language when engaging with these new market entrants, and focus on simplicity and time to market.  For the enterprises who choose to embed mobile connectivity, they will need to choose the right software platforms to enable their business without the complexity of traditional telecom networks. Speed, simplicity, and an intuitive digital customer experience all built with the highest level of security will be a baseline requirement for all.

How do you see the “invisible network” evolving over the next 5-10 years?

Connectivity is the oxygen of the digital world. Over the next 5-10 years, the 'invisible network' will evolve to become even more pervasive and integral to our daily lives. Everything will be connected to everything, including healthcare devices, smart home devices, personal assistant devices, and so much more. All of them will include embedded connectivity and will not require pairing to home Wi-Fi or our personal internet plans.

As we move forward, we'll see an exponential increase in the number of connected devices, each seamlessly communicating with one another to create a truly intelligent and responsive environment. This will be facilitated by advancements in IoT (Internet of Things) technology, where devices will receive and execute commands, anticipate needs, and adapt in real-time. In the healthcare sector, for instance, wearable devices will continuously monitor and analyse our health data, providing proactive recommendations and alerting healthcare providers to potential issues before they become serious. In our homes, smart devices will predict our preferences and adjust the environment to suit our needs, whether lighting, temperature, or entertainment.

However, with great connectivity comes great responsibility. Security and privacy will be at the forefront of the invisible network's evolution. Advanced encryption methods and robust cybersecurity measures will be standard to protect users' data and ensure their trust in the system. In essence, the invisible network of the next decade will be characterised by its ubiquity, intelligence, security, and sustainability. It will be a world where technology serves us silently and efficiently, making our lives easier, safer, and more connected than ever before.

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