The telecommunication industry has provided the network and data infrastructure that enabled the Internet to become smart and mobile. As smartphones have reached almost every region on a global level, traditional voice and data carrying businesses are close to saturation. By 2019, the worldwide revenue for global communication options is projected to reach €2.1 trillion. Therefore, the telecommunication industry is facing major challenges to reinvent their existing business models.
To give a comprehensive overview of emerging technologies and rising innovation areas, our Innovation Analysts at StartUs Insights have researched more than 850 startups in the industry. To tap into new business models and explore some of the most promising technologies in the sector, take a look at our Telecommunication Innovation Map:
Internet of Things (IoT) & Machine2Machine (M2M)
IoT & M2M communication demands constant mobile communication to function. As such, they represent a new challenge and opportunity for the Telecom industry. Since IoT’s data volume will overtake current user-generated mobile data volume, the global adoption of the 5G network is crucial for IoT solutions. However, before the global large-scale deployment of 5G becomes a reality, telecom companies have to adopt Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) as a complementary technology.
As the Internet of Things is becoming a more essential topic and telecommunication companies go digital, measures to tackle the increased risk of cybersecurity to data, applications, and networks have to be taken. Adopting blockchain, Artificial Intelligence/Big Data Analytics, and Distributed Cloud Architecture help telecom companies to enhance their cybersecurity capabilities. However, the commercialization of Quantum Computing, Quantum Cryptography, and Quantum Random Number generation will be the holy grail of keeping data and communication safe and secure.
As 5G Network requires more flexible networks, telecoms need to engage in cloudification to optimize for lower costs, more elasticity, and increased speed. Cloud Computing gives the telecom industry the opportunity to move up the information and communications technology (ICT) value chain through the allocation of cloud server resources on-demand. It enables companies to transform their existing business models towards new ones, such as Software-as-a-service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Telecommunications providers already show a massive interest in the potential of Artificial Intelligence to improve both their customer service and service delivery via better network performance and reliability. In this regard, self-optimizing networks (SON), deep neural networks, software-defined networks (SDN), and network function virtualization (NFV) all bring great value to telecom companies. In addition, Virtual AI Assistants have shown great promise to improve both B2B and B2C service quality while reducing the cost of operations.
Big Data & Analytics
Big Data provides telecom companies with more insights into operations and customers and helps to promote growth while also increasing efficiency & profitability. For example, through analyzing temporal and geographical distributions of past mobile usage by users and IoT devices, companies are able to predict the peak usage period and locations in order to optimize their network services/usage, enhance customer experience, and improve security.
Next Generation Mobile Networks / 5G
The “next big thing” after 4G/LTE, the 5G Network, supports device-to-device, ultra reliable, and massive machine communications which lay the networking foundation for the future development of IoT and M2M. For example, both Self-Driving-Vehicles and Smart City technologies can greatly benefit from the 5G Network.
Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)
NFV represents a “once-in-a-generation” shift: by adopting virtualization technologies, providers can virtualize different hardware functionalities on a standardized system to fulfill various demands instead of purchasing specific single-use equipment, thus saving costs. Through visualization technologies, companies are able to shift their business models from network/hardware-centric to software/service-driven.
Disruptive Startups In The Telecom Industry Include:
- Thinxtra builds a full ecosystem of IoT solutions & services to enable non-connected people to connect from anywhere at any time. The startup operates IoT devices using Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology.
- Swiss startup ID Quantique proclaims itself the “world leader in quantum cryptography and quantum random number generation”. Designed to protect data long-term, the company provides network encryption, quantum key generation, and key distribution solutions.
- Startup Twilio allows to programmatically make and receive phone calls as well as to send and receive text messages using its web service APIs. The cloud communications platform as a service (PaaS) company’s services are accessed over HTTP and include communication building blocks such as messaging, voice & video as well as authentication.
- Finish Valossa is one example for a startup leveraging the power of computer vision and AI. Their platform Val.ai is capable of analyzing movies, streaming videos in real-time and identifying thousands of concepts, like places, objects, and unique topics, from any video stream to meet and optimize services for user demand.
- Having secured 12€ million in their first round of funding, Real Impact Analytics “capture(s) the value of telecom data”. The Belgium-based startup aids telecoms to manage their marketing, sales and distribution networks more efficiently by changing the traditional big data approach by delivering simple and easy-to-use applications.
- Italian startup ATHONET provides a 100% software-based mobile core for voice and data networks that runs in the virtualized cloud data center environments using standard off-the-shelf hardware. Their mobile packet core solution includes a Home Subscriber Server (HSS), Home Location Register (HLR), Voice-over-LTE (IMS for VoLTE), Voice-over-WiFi (WiFi calling) and LTE Broadcast (eMBMS) – built with the aim to facilitate 5G.
- Startup Affirmed builds a fully virtualized IoT platform that supports narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and is interoperable with third-party platforms. Their platform uses a cloud-native architecture that supports advanced capabilities like network slicing, helping with low latency and high-bandwidth applications.
Companies in the telecommunication industry are currently facing multiple challenges: a stagnant number of new users due to market saturation, declining profit due to competitions from both within and outside of the industry, and increasingly sophisticated cybercrime. At the same time, the next wave of innovations, such as the 5G Network, IoT, and AI offers great business opportunities waiting to be seized.
Companies that act now will be able to utilize the power of these technologies to overcome current challenges and emerge as tomorrow’s industry leaders. Here at StartUs Insights, we believe that collaborating with the most promising startups in the industry is the key to unlock the power of innovation and apply disruptive technologies. Therefore, we are dedicated to providing actionable intelligence on startup-driven innovation and technology in the telecommunications industry.