ABI Research: Role of Carriers

For more than a decade, carriers and mobile operators have actively been exploring opportunities offered by the smart cities and the wider Internet of Things (IoT) markets. This coincides with a double transformation in terms of their role extending beyond providing (mere) connectivity services to capabilities and services higher up the value chain (applications, analytics, security, professional services, etc.), while at the same time moving from basic connectivity-centric consumer/enterprise offers to complex solutions for verticals and industries. All of this is driven by declining growth in connectivity services against a background of decreasing margins, urging the telco industry to adopt the “untelco” paradigm.

New capabilities expected to become available with the transition toward 5G, such as mission-critical, low-latency, and massive IoT connectivity, will naturally drive carriers toward these new markets. However, one big question remains: will operators be able to develop the necessary expertise (both technical knowledge and market savviness), capabilities, and operational flexibility in-house (whether organically or through acquisitions) or will they cooperate with a wider IoT and smart cities ecosystem in a more collaborative, ad-hoc way with no single company maintaining end-to-end control or customer ownership? The answer to this “make or buy” decision very much depends on the type of mobile operator, local circumstances, and a host of other influencing factors the discussion of which is at the heart of this white paper.

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