Imagine a world designed to work best on mobile. That is what has just been happening at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where the next generation of mobile technologies were being shown to the world.
Through the excitement of new handsets, connected devices and confirmation of previously undreamt of network speeds, the idea that stands out for me is what is really mobile here are not the devices, but the people using them. The devices are just the way people connect with the people and things they love, through the network.
So when customers are mobile first (and often exclusively so) how do you keep them at the centre of your business, where they belong? Here are some thoughts:
Mobile matters – because it matters to customers
Some estimates have it that by the year 2020 5.5 billion people, about 70% of the global population, will have a mobile device in their pocket and there will be more than 50 billion connected things. By 2019 global mobile data traffic will have increased tenfold and a million minutes of video will be crossing the network every second.
This explosion in connected mobility is driving the free flow of ideas and opportunities across borders, markets, cultures, and time zones. It is democratising innovation.
What is interesting about mobility is how effortlessly people are able to move between and within the various parts of their lives. At work and at home, people are always connected, always expecting a seamless experience; they want access to information and be able to share data anywhere and anytime with anybody and anything.
One of the great comments I heard at MWC was that in today’s world you are either connected or asleep. In fact I think that with the explosion in sleep apps and fitness wearables more and more people are often connected and asleep! The point is the same person can be deeply engaged with the same device in every part of their lives.
For businesses, mobile is important because quite literally it is challenging companies to re-imagine everything and re-define how they can serve customers who are now constantly connected. That is why many technology companies (including Telstra) are focused on providing the best technology available today and bringing it to life through the best networks. And that is why mobile matters – because it matters to customers – so it has to be at the centre of our thinking.
What is next?
The huge demand for connectivity under-scores the importance of networks that are not just reliable but fast and able to provide high quality and capacity. 4G continues to evolve rapidly and now 5G (a huge focus at MWC) is also emerging as the newest generation of wireless broadband technology.
There is still huge scope for innovation and development in 4G before 5G gets here and ongoing development is making possible things like Voice over LTE (VoLTE) calls (superfast call set up times, HD voice calling to other fixed and mobile devices and low dropout rates meant 9 million VoLTE calls were made by our customers in January this year alone), LTE-Broadcast and higher performance 4GX (which we put into another 1200 sites in the last six months).
The fundamental aim of the network is to provide users with the performance, speed, reliability and latency for what they are doing, rather than just one peak speed. Latency is important because the amount of time between a data request being sent and the first data arriving defines the experience for the customer. It is a world where every millisecond counts. Mobile users do not want to wait for a page to load. Nobody does.
As we announced at MWC, Telstra has already delivered 11 Gbps speeds in lab trials using 5G – that is the equivalent of being able to download 80 hours of HD video content in a single minute. We are at the forefront of testing many of these new technologies through our partnership with Ericsson, and Australians, renowned as early technology adopters, will be among the first to experience it including during our planned live trial at the Commonwealth Games in Queensland in 2018.
5G is also opening the door to the Internet of Things which is evolving rapidly as processors improve, fed ever-more data from cheaper, more effective and more numerous sensors. We are fast approaching a time when most physical objects will be connected to the internet and be able to talk to each other.
What does that mean? On the one hand it means things like the air conditioners and lighting in your home being able to sense and react to your approach, and respond to your preferences. Perhaps more profoundly it also means a quantum leap in the level of sophistication in areas like manufacturing and supply chain management, where every step in a complex system will be connected, capable of learning in real time and effectively self-aware. In the long term that will deliver incredible gains in efficiency and productivity as global supply chains become more effective, cutting costs and re-defining markets.
Where is the opportunity?
All of this is creating tremendous opportunity for businesses willing and able to embrace the changes technology is creating. The technology is amazing but always, right at the epicentre of this change, has to be the customer. For businesses like Telstra that means not only has the technology got to be world leading but we need to obsess about how it works in the hands of a customer, what the experience is. That obsession has to take in each and every touch point and take inspiration from how real people navigate through and experience the exchange. It requires skill, diligence and a determination to see beyond how customers are using the technology today and instead look at what are they using it for.
For business that throws up all sorts of questions: How do we move faster? How do we become more agile? How do we execute more quickly on decisions that will improve the customer experience? How do we think and respond to a mobile first world? How do we do all of these things with the customer experience right at the heart of our thinking?
Building around the (mobile) customer
For many companies (again including Telstra) looking to lift their level of aspiration in a rapidly changing marketplace, and like many things in life, this is not an either/or conversation – it is about also. What more can we do to bring new ways of doing things that respect and leverage what we already have as an organisation to shape our business to delight increasingly mobile customers? Mobile customers want services and products that are intuitive, easy to use, and offer the option of online self-serve if they want it. If a process takes 30 minutes in a store can you build something that takes two minutes online and really transform the experience? It is an important question in more ways than one because that is where the threat will come from, not from traditional competitors with their own legacy systems and issues, but from new organisations dialled in on the mobile-first customer experience.
Remarkable as they are, most mobile technologies are really just ways for people to connect to the people and things they love and want and need, via the network. It is not the devices that are mobile but the people that are using them. And that is the point: in the future the customers that must be at the centre of everything you do will be mobile-first and, increasingly, mobile-only.
This post originally appeared on Linkedin.