Telecom network growth in North America is prime for breakout levels, encouraged by trends like the race to 5G. Verizon’s recent network expansion throughout the US last year is a well-known example; the carrier aimed to build 1,000 route miles of fiber every month throughout 60 cities. Likewise, T-Mobile and Sprint announced plans to reach 97% of the country with 5G network build over 3 years. When it comes to monetizing those network builds, Gartner predicts that 5G wireless network infrastructure earnings will jump to $4.2 billion globally this year, an 89% increase over 2019.
In addition to 5G, network operators have the opportunity to capitalize on the connectivity-dependent technological advancements that have become commonplace in consumers’ lives (mobile phones, streaming video, and more), as well as the realities of business in 2020: SaaS apps, remote workforces, and the like.
As connectivity becomes more varied and distributed, and enterprises turn to hybrid cloud environments and emerging technologies, leveraging the right network has never been more important. So, it’s critical for network operators to not only strategically build for consumers, but also ensure their networks are being found and utilized by the right enterprise buyers.
However, ROI on fiber builds for network providers can be difficult with new entrants in the space, CapEx high, markets saturated, and new investments often producing disappointing returns. For example, the industry suffered negative top- and bottom-line performance in the most recent major 4G upgrade cycle. In 2019 and 2017, half of all telcos surveyed by EY reported “lack of return on investment” among the top 3 challenges facing the industry. It’s never been more important for operators to optimize win rates and profit margins in order to recoup spend on network expansion.
All in all, many next-gen technologies are transforming global telecom networks, but basic yet integral challenges still pervade the industry. What’s the best way for network providers to make decisions about where to invest in build-out, and how can they monetize that expansion to not only capture market share and profits now but as 5G and other trends really take off?
The answer lies in an artifact that’s at the heart of our industry: location. Location intelligence provides network operators with the context needed to determine build-out revenue potential and critical business insight into commercial locations that they can service so they can most effectively drive revenue from those buildings that they’ve built to already.
In a broader context, location intelligence is an increasingly critical investment that’s being made across industries. Think about ride-sharing apps, targeted digital ads, precision agriculture, autonomous vehicles, and retail chains that use customer location to determine where their next brick-and-mortar should go.
Now, it’s the connectivity space’s turn to fully embrace location-based insights; the people building the infrastructure that supports location intelligence for the business and consumer need to leverage this powerful tool for themselves. Forrester analysts James McCormick and Emily Miller wrote, “True scale and market differentiation only comes when you integrate systems of insight into systems of automation and engagement.”
Of course, many telcos have been relying on location insights for years, from their network planning to their go-to-market operations. But let’s look at an example to illustrate the opportunity. When sales leadership needs to determine how to identify, prioritize, and price opportunities, they are often forced to pull insight from a variety of systems with questionable data quality — whether it be GIS mapping tools, network discovery applications, CRMs, tenant databases, billing systems, etc.
In essence, these commercial teams have been stuck “swivel chairing” between several questionable platforms and databases to manually create a patchwork view of their market, leading to sub-optimal decisions and a lot of wasted time.
Now, location intelligence has come so far as to automatically curate data from hundreds or even thousands of public and proprietary data sources — including tax records, permits, parcels vendor information, social media, and firmographic and funding data — to paint a more robust, reliable picture of a network operator’s addressable market, as well as combine it with proprietary network data held in secure, but integrated trust.
Instead of wasting cycles gathering and piecing together information, what if a location intelligence platform could automatically identify ideal customers for you to target, prioritize them based off of your ability to win and enable location-specific pricing? That’s the foundation of a solid go-to-market strategy.
4 Ways Location Intelligence Platforms Can Help
Location intelligence platforms can help network operators digitize their total addressable market, and drive intelligence and automation around their ability to execute on selling opportunities.
Location intelligence can help an operator identify new locations to build to and plan out routes, empowering the company to strategically grow and reach its total addressable market. While this is fantastic from an engineering point of view, the advantages don’t stop there.
Through location intelligence, network operators can automate several processes that ensure they’re identifying and communicating their current total addressable market to partners, which includes communicating dimensions of serviceability (location of services, access medium, delivery time), product availability (product and speeds) and pricing (monthly, special construction, non-recurring charges). The ability to push this information using an automated flow, directly load rate cards and lists, load KMZ files and add in APIs to keep data actionable and updated, takes the carrier sales team out of spreadsheets.
Network operators can also automate their build and account prioritization efforts to optimize planning, investment, marketing and sales activities, leveraging network and tenant intelligence alongside competitive intensity ratings. Location intelligence tools can help them to quickly determine which routes, locations, tenants and RFPs to target based on which opportunities would have the highest potential win rate.
Location intelligence platforms also produce a full product catalog to house all network and suppliers’ capabilities. They allow operators to leverage a templated product catalog in a single user interface to create transparent, customizable pricing logic. These tools can also include the ability to connect to APIs. From there, pricing is consumed by quoting engines that are more scalable than traditional CPQ products.
Building a Foundation for the Future: 5G and SD-WAN
For telcos, location intelligence is the foundation for digital transformation. In our industry, maintaining a “location first” mindset is the only way to achieve digitally-driven growth, and it will be increasingly relevant when trends such as 5G and SD-WAN become even more mainstream.
To demonstrate this, let’s consider how network operators will know when new 5G infrastructure rolls out into their addressable market in order to capitalize on the revenue opportunities.
• In this situation, “location” must be central to the equation, and details go beyond addresses to include right-of-way points, towers, and more.
• Network operators need to dig into the details of location: geocode, location ID, networks servicing, and in proximity, tenants, and category of site.
Only a robust location intelligence platform would be able to handle these important go-to-market functions, and bring not just software, but the trusted data to action the workflows needed.
Similarly, SD-WAN is a growing requirement for enterprises, since it promises cost-effective flexibility as well as advancements in performance and control. IDC’s SD-WAN Infrastructure Forecast predicts that the SD-WAN infrastructure market will expand at a 30.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) into 2023, ultimately reaching $5.25 billion.
To keep pace, network operators will need a location intelligence platform that displays a full view of diverse networks that can serve enterprises; plus, they need to know how to expand and improve their own networks, determine Last Mile connections, and meet their SD-WAN conversion targets.
The Time Is Now
Injecting more automated location intelligence into decision-making is a key driver of ROI. Connected2Fiber has built a location engagement platform, currently tracking more than 350 million locations, for network providers. The platform details and displays deep, trusted location-based insight, and empowers users to leverage that insight to automate go-to-market processes around deal identification, account prioritization, and product pricing.
The bottom line is, for organizations to most effectively sell, buy, or use, connectivity, there needs to be an easily accessible, location-based source of truth. This creates the foundation for users to automate their go-to-market processes and grow organically at an exciting time for our industry.
As telco decision-makers are exploring ways to be more data-driven and efficient in the way they go to market and capture revenue, the importance of location intelligence in transforming networks, and how to monetize them, simply can’t be overstated.