Recently, I was invited as one of TM Forum Live! Asia speakers held in Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore (7-8 December, 2016). For the past two years, I am more involved in the IOT world that seemed to be more biased to IT as compared to the Telecommunications industry. I found that there are four main topics that seems to get more serious attention than others:

  1. Digital Services as new revenue streams
  2. Partnerships are key to provide non-traditional telco services
  3. Getting to know customers better by personalisation of services
  4. Monetizing APIs


What’s interesting is that the exhibition booths are filled with companies introducing their Open API Frameworks. The question is why only now the telcos are excited in APIs when this topic has been widely discussed and developed in the IT/IoT world?

The only answer I could find is – to ensure survivability and still remained relevant in the future. Companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype have been slowly eating their “lunch” by offering voice and video services. Personally, I no longer use traditional voice call and SMS during overseas trips. With data roaming that only costs Rm 38 per day, not only I can constantly reached over WhatsApp/Facebook/Skype messages but also I can make video calls with either Facetime and WhatsApp video.

These companies have further encroached into the telcos business by developing new broadband infrastructure especially over the air targeted for rural areas.

Telcos realized about this several years ago when their data ARPU superseded voice. Not because their data services are getting any better but the OTT players have been getting a “free” ride on their connectivity pipes. They can no longer be just another connectivity player – they MUST win this battle or risk being overtaken by the non-telco players.

Telcos know that they are no longer the monopoly. But they also realize that they can’t change overnight. Big companies that have 1000’s of employees need more than just reorganisation of their business units – they need to have a new mindset, agile and innovative culture and new competencies. How can they beat smaller startups that are more agile and have entrepreneurial spirit?

Here’re my observations for the last two years:

  1. Formation of Digital Services Division to understand the impact and finding new revenue streams
  2. Be agile or invest on startups
  3. Opening up their telco infrastructure and back-end systems with Open APIs. Try to find ways how to further monetise the APIs.
  4. Developing partner ecosystems – vendor and application developers. App developer can use the Open APIs.
  5. Leveraging partner in Smart City projects
  6. Bundling OTT services into their current offerings
  7. Using Big Data Analytics to get better insights and impact between network, marketing campaign on their customer behavior.
  8. Planning to invest on NB-IOT to compete with LoRa and SigFox.
  9. Eyeing on IoT
  10. Going global – telcos are expanding beyond their shores

About the Author

Dr. Mazlan Abbas is an IOT Evangelist, Thought Leader and CEO of REDtone IOT. You can reach him on LinkedIn at or Twitter at . For further details, check out

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