5G will give operators the opportunity to evolve their role in the value chain. Operators have the chance to increase value from 5G infrastructure, providing tailored connectivity solutions and new digital services to collaborate beyond just communications. How are operators preparing for the opportunities and challenges of 5G? How will the future business model shift? We talk about the future role of operators with Joost Wijermars, Director of B2B Products at VodafoneZiggo. Joost is talking us through his role, how he thinks the business will change, and the role of VodafoneZiggo in all this.
Not only has Joost had various roles within the telecom industry, but he was also been nominated for the Young Captain Award 2020 and is a board member of Jong Management Noord-Oost Brabant. As one of the youngest directors within VodafoneZiggo, he loves the role of being between, on the one hand, the commercial organization, and on the other hand, the technology organization. “It is about making sure that what the technology can bring us, we also deliver towards the customers.” With his energy, sensitivity, and optimism, he loves to connect people and take them along in changes. Technology can go fast, and this could result in a technology being brought to the market, of which the consumer does not yet know what to do with it. At the same time, the customers really like new stuff, and they can adopt the technology very fast. As Joost mentions, “The goal is to offer unified communications, if this communication is either individual to individual, group to group, person to group or maybe even machine to machine. It is not only about building networks, but making sure that people can use the voice, data or video.” And even though the specific building blocks in the products will maybe not change it all, he believes that it will be about how we bring these building blocks to the customers and how these building blocks (products) connect to each other. This could change quite rapidly and fast.
When asking Joost about his view of the future, he responds: “The very simple answer will be that everything goes faster and must be there immediately.” An answer that is maybe typically Joost, he loves to make things simple and use that to make smart decisions. And how about the difficult answer? “Well, it will all be about how the companies will change. Between now and five years, we will not be the ones that just deliver products to consumers. We are trying to become the company that will help customers on both the consumers’ side as well as on the business side to change along with the digital transformation. What happens is that the way that people are interacting with each other is changing.” The variety and complexity of new service offerings could require new models for sales and marketing, requiring people that understand and can communicate the business case to the customers.
How does that work at VodafoneZiggo? Well, VodafoneZiggo is also trying to bring a sort of collectivity by bringing not only entertainment but also the things that you need before you can enjoy the entertainment. The focus is on delivering an integrated server and with all different building blocks and letting the customer just apply whatever they need. Joost adds: “We need to ask ourselves ‘How are our customers and their desires going to change?’” What can be seen is that the focus is more and more doing the right thing for society. VodafoneZiggo is one of the corporate companies and feels that the role for VodafoneZiggo is changing in the future: “We want to use technology for good. By using a modular approach, giving you the tools that you want. People will wonder: ‘Why do a need a television subscription at all?’” This means that the business model would also change because currently we bring a subscription towards your home and deliver a service over that subscription.”
What will the role of 5G be in all of this? Joost explains: “Well, think of an entrepreneur that wants to use 5G in the company he is building. We want to do more than just provide him with connectivity, we want to help him with digital support. I believe that there is a growing understanding, something you also see in the 5G Hub, that we cannot do it alone. We need our ecosystem and have parties that bring their knowledge, which is critical for the success.” Joost mentions that he believes in the ecosystem approach very much: “Every company in the value chain adds value to it, whether it’s VodafoneZiggo, or Ericsson, or another company. We, as VodafoneZiggo need to work on the business model: the question is ‘where should we invest?’. I believe that is in co-creation, it’s about creating value for the customers and it’s the future ‘go-to market’. But we are quite traditional, and we need to get used to inviting all kinds of people and making sure that our innovation model is open, and that we trust that the business models will follow. It is all new stuff now, but I believe it will be the norm in ten years.”
Logically, this results in a lot of challenges for such a large corporate as VodafoneZiggo. Being a corporate company means that you must consider your shareholders, but at the same time focus on your stakeholders. Joost believes that “we all need to change our perspective: we need to believe in something and convince others to invest in it, more like a start-up situation.” Instead of being more financial-driven, this would mean that it would be more about bringing stories and convincing others. “We want to do great things for our customers every day; even though it can be a bumpy ride, we want to create value and bring that to our customers,” Joost mentions. According to him, for VodafoneZiggo it is important to continuously look at their position as an operator and they can use the 5G Hub as a perfect way to learn everything about the future: “With the right story and the right people, you are able to deliver.”
Joost adds: “To me, co-creation is really about mutual investments. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It can be very difficult, but it can grow, and you need to decide if you want to participate. You need to have faith in each other and that takes time. When technology is really adopted, we can bring it the way we want.” As he mentions, the 5G Hub is the perfect place to co-create, inspire, and create things that we never thought of. It is also very interesting to see what happens after the co-creation: can you pick and choose? Do companies work together? Do you fund them together? It is about getting the right people at the right tables. It is all about growing, about anticipating the next steps, and making sure it pays itself.
Operators have a pivotal role in the innovation ecosystem, as they can be very valuable as partners and they see opportunities for monetization. Operators need to focus on understanding industry needs and trial new use cases. Right now, technology teams are taken closer to the customer. In the future, we might see platforms of plug-and-play templates for different services. Innovation will be brought into the systems and processes for creating what the customers want. 5G might require both technical and organizational change. At the 5G Hub, we are standing at the edge of this innovation, learning, developing, and contributing to the 5G ecosystem.