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Ken Kennedy: The Telco Industry’s Identity Crisis and Why It is a Good Thing

In 2022, telecom service provides are primed to deliver services to any number of end users through ‘B2B2X’.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Ken Kennedy, head of revenue management at CSG

As communications service providers continue to move beyond connectivity, we will see larger cultural shifts this year as they re-think their identity and how they do business. The most successful CSPs will begin to act like the technology companies they traditionally supported, adopting innovative business models, expanding offerings like network-as-a-service, zero-touch partnering, and Internet of Things.

CSPs that embrace the journey from telco to techco will thrive and become true innovation partners for their customers

This year and in the years to come we will see CSPs build tech hubs to help them deliver innovative ecosystems that support a wide range of verticals, from healthcare to banking to gaming to agriculture.

Complex partner ecosystems will also emerge, and CSPs will need an end-to-end solution to drive marketplaces and create dynamic, interoperable ecosystems that deliver industry-specific solutions.

In parallel, CSPs will need to manage the partner settlement lifecycle and withstand the high volumes that digital services create. However, to get there requires a genuine cultural shift. To be nimble, CSPs will have to find partners who can help them think bigger, invent new revenue models, minimize go-to-market costs, and maximize profits.

This tech-forward transformation goes hand-in-hand with the emergence of innovative new business models

While the B2B2X business model (an extension of the business-to-business market in which a telecom service provider is primed to deliver services to any number of end users) is not a new concept, it is evolving as CSPs start to recognize the revenue growth potential of offering their network-as-a-service. Coupled with continuous growth in 5G and IoT, the rise in NaaS will impact the CSP and partner positions in the B2B2X model. As a result, a new dynamic will become prominent – one we like to call the reverse B2B2X model.

In this model, the CSP plays the role of the first “B” in B2B2X and provides connectivity services in the background, whilst the partner represents the second “B” and gains a direct relationship with the end-user, or the X.

In 2022, the reverse B2B2X model will become a natural part of the ecosystem and require CSPs to adapt their role accordingly. They must be open to new partnerships, whether they will have a direct relationship with the end-user, to expand their 5G revenue potential.

As 5G revenue opportunities continue to emerge in the enterprise sector, it will be crucial for CSPs to package their expertise, technology, and 5G capabilities in ways that effectively help enterprises realize their digital transformation strategies. This business model will help them take the extra step toward a techco mindset.

Overall, this cultural shift in the industry will impact how CSPs bundle their offerings, approach their customers, and lay the foundations for vertical and ecosystem services that include core software-as-a-service solutions in new innovative ways for billing, settlements, and connectivity.

As the market rapidly evolves, The Reverse B2B2X Model, combined with a corporate techco culture and agile approach to services, will help CSPs dynamically mature into tech hubs, seize 5G market opportunities, and secure greater market share.

Ken Kennedy is the COO and head of revenue management and digital monetization at CSG, a revenue management and customer experience software provider for the telecom industry. Kennedy has more than 20 years of experience working in the communications sector with telecom, cable and broadband providers. This Expert Opinion is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

Education

Education Executives Tout Artificial Intelligence Benefits for Classroom Learning

Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited, an event heard.

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Screenshot of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2022 – Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited and provide extra help for students who need individualized teaching, experts said at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Tuesday.

As policy makers weigh the options for a structure for AI in the classroom, panelists agreed on its benefits for both teachers and students. Michelle Zhou, CEO of AI company Juji Inc., said AI technology in the classroom can be tools and applications like chatbots for real-time questions during class, and post-class questions at home for when the teacher is not available.

Lynda Martin, director of learning strategy for strategic solutions at learning company McGraw Hill, said AI provides the extra help students need, but sometimes are too shy to ask.

When a teacher has a high volume of students, it is difficult to effectively help and connect with each student individually, Martin said. AI gives the teacher crucial information to get to know the student on a more personal level as it transmits the student’s misconceptions and detects areas of need. AI can bring student concerns to the teacher and foster “individualized attention” she added.

Privacy and security concerns

Jeremy Roschelle from Digital Promise, an education non-profit, raise the privacy and security concerns in his cautious support of the idea. He noted that there needs to be more information about who has access to the data and what kinds of data should be used.

Beside bias and ethical issues that AI could pose, Roschelle cautioned about the potential harms AI could present, including misdetecting a child’s behavior, resulting in potential educational setbacks.

To utilize the technology and ensure education outcomes, Sharad Sundararajan, co-founder of learning company Merlyn Minds, touched on the need for AI training. As Merlyn Minds provides digital assistant technology to educators, he noted the company’s focus on training teachers and students on various forms of AI tech to enhance user experience.

There is an “appetite” from schools that are calling for this, said Sundararajan. As policy makers contemplate a strategic vision for AI in the classroom, he added that AI adoption in the classroom around the country will require algorithmic work, company partnerships, and government efforts for the best AI success.

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Education

Closing Digital Divide for Students Requires Community Involvement, Workforce Training, Event Hears

Barriers to closing the divide including awareness of programs, resources and increasing digital literacy.

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Screenshot of Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 – Experts in education technology said Monday that to close the digital divide for students, the nation must eliminate barriers at the community level, including raising awareness of programs and resources and increasing digital literacy.

“We are hearing from schools and district leaders that it’s not enough to make just broadband available and affordable, although those are critical steps,” said Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education, said at an event hosted by trade group the Self-Insurance Institute of America. “We also have to make sure that we’re solving for the human barriers that often inhibit adoption.”

Song highlighted four “initial barriers” that students are facing. First, a lack of awareness and understanding of programs and resources. Second, signing up for programs is often confusing regarding eligibility requirements, application status, and installment. Third, there may be a lack of trust between communities and services. Fourth, a lack of digital literacy among students can prevent them from succeeding.

Song said he believes that with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states have an “incredible opportunity to address adoption barriers.”

Workforce shortages still a problem, but funding may help

Rosemary Lahasky, senior director for government affairs at Cengage, a maker of educational content, added that current data suggests that 16 million students lack access to a broadband connection. While this disparity in American homes remained, tech job posts nearly doubled in 2021, but the average number of applicants shrunk by 25 percent.

But panelists said they are hopeful that funding will address these shortages. “Almost every single agency that received funding…received either direct funding for workforce training or were given the flexibility to spend some of their money on workforce training,” said Lahasky of the IIJA, which carves out funding for workforce training.

This money is also, according to Lahasky, funding apprenticeship programs, which have been recommended by many as a solution to workforce shortages.

Student connectivity has been a long-held concern following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students themselves are stepping up to fight against the digital inequity in their schools as technology becomes increasingly essential for success. Texas students organized a panel to discuss internet access in education just last year.

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Education

FTC Approves Policy Statement on Guiding Review of Children’s Online Protection

The policy statement provides the guiding principles for which the FTC will review the collection and use of children’s data online.

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FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2022 – The Federal Trade Commission last week unanimously approved a policy statement guiding how it will enforce the collection and use of children’s online data gathered by education technology companies.

The policy statement outlines four provisions in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, including ones related to limiting the amount of data collected for children’s access to educational tools; restricting types of data collected and requiring reasons for why they are being collected; prohibiting ed tech companies from holding on to data for speculative purposes; and prohibiting the use of the data for targeted advertising purposes.

“Today’s statement underscores how the protections of the COPPA rule ensure children can do their schoolwork without having to surrender to commercial surveillance practices,” said FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan at an open meeting on Thursday.

Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter added Thursday that although COPPA provides the strongest data minimization rule in US law, it’s enforcement may not be as strong, saying that “this policy statement is timely and necessary.”

Slaughter, who was the acting FTC chairwoman before Khan was approved to lead the agency, said last year that the commission was taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling privacy and data collection practices of ed tech companies, which has seen a boom in interest since the start of the pandemic.

Thursday’s statement comes after lawmakers have clamored for big technology companies to do more to prevent the unnecessary collection of children’s data online. It also comes after President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address earlier this year that companies must be held accountable for the “national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”

Lawmakers have already pushed legislation that would reform COPPA – originally published in 1998 to limit the amount of information that operators could collect from children without parental consent – to raise the age for online protections for children.

Thursday’s FTC statement also seeks to scrutinize unwarranted surveillance practices in education technology, such as geographic locating or data profiling. Khan added that though endless tracking and expansive use of data have become increasingly common practices, companies cannot extend these practices into schools.

Review is nothing new

“Today’s policy statement is nothing particularly new,” said Commissioner Noah Phillips, saying that the review started in July 2019.

Commissioner Christine Wilson, while supporting the statement, was also more withdrawn about its impact. “I am concerned that issuing policy statements gives the illusion of taking action, especially when these policy statements break no new ground.”

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