5G is opening up new possibilities, but perhaps the biggest standout is the role of the ecosystem in enabling innovation. This is changing the conversation for telecoms companies, along with their offering. Now, it’s about co-creating with partners and offering relevant outcomes rather than specific products. I recently had the pleasure to catch up with Vodafone UK's Danny Kelly to explore some of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

Innovation is flourishing thanks to the ever-faster pace of technological development. And it's not just impacting on telecoms customers, but also telecoms companies themselves. They stand on the verge of a huge evolution, moving from telecoms providers to tech comms focused on utilizing ecosystems to better support their clients. As Vodafone UK Business’s Head of Innovation, Danny Kelly, explained it, “as marvelous as the technology is around Edge and 5G, the real interest – is the applications through those third parties that we can hang on to it.”

“...as marvelous as the technology is around Edge and 5G, the real interest – is the applications through those third parties that we can hang on to it.”

Danny Kelly, Head of Innovation, Vodafone UK Business

This reflects the massive shift in what Telecom companies are now able to offer their customers, it’s less about products, and more about value and outcomes. In turn, this is changing the conversations Vodafone is now having with their customers. With this in mind, the idea of traditional vendors is being replaced with that of co-creators, centered around rewarding, collaborative partnerships.

Telecoms companies have always operated within an ecosystem, sometimes buying up third-party products and services to enhance their offering, however to be successful in 5G, they need to take new approach to the ecosystem, instead of vendor-supplier relationship, a relationship of equals-co-innovating and co-creating solutions. As an example, Vodafone Business UK has brought in a number of third parties to enhance their technological capabilities, and part of Danny’s role is to ‘stitch together’ this innovation portfolio. This co-creation is critical to Vodafone’s ability to respond to whatever their clients need in a fast and agile manner.

Among the things that are driving this in 5G, unexpectedly  ,is the  a hunger coming from SMEs and local communities. As Danny puts it, “We largely expected to see most of the early adoption happen in major MNCs, in that multinational corporate space. And really what we've seen is that the SMEs and the top end of SMEs are super keen to adopt 5G, innovate, try new ways of doing things’’.

While many are focused on buzzwords and phrases like ‘smart cities,’ it can be argued that this overlooks the need for smart towns and villages. These smaller projects demand innovation and transformation that’s just as exciting as any national or international deployment.

Meanwhile, SMEs and start-ups in all verticals, from automotive to healthcare, now have access to technology that was once the preserve of multinational companies. They’re searching for outcomes that will give them early market advantage, by improving their services, processes or using insights to gain an edge over their competitors. The world has changed, and you don’t have to be a large tech conglomerate to benefit from the latest technology anymore. With more and more customers focused on local pain points, further innovation is just around the corner.

To hear more of Danny’s thoughts on 5G, and how it can help organizations of all sizes and ambitions, stream our latest podcast now

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