The (relay) race is on for the CSPs

Communications service providers can learn from the best practices of successful relay race teams to capture a significant piece of the 5G.

VoicenData Bureau
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Communications service providers can learn from the best practices of successful relay race teams to capture a significant piece of the 5G market opportunity.

Chandan Govindarajulu

By Chandan Govindarajulu

The most successful relay race teams don’t just have exceptional individual talents, they also bring out the best in one another, offer complementary skills, and execute as a cohesive group. With 5G, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) need to take a similar “relay race” approach to select the right partners to develop and drive new services leveraging the larger ecosystem. The adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts rings true in 5G.


5G opens a world of new possibilities for businesses, whether for replacing current IT, transforming their operating models, or creating new and innovative products and services for their customers. But developing these solutions and being first to market requires a new mindset for CSPs and new ways of fostering collaboration across the ecosystem. According to recent reports, 5G could be a reality in India by this September. CyberMedia Research expects 11 million 5G smartphones to be shipped to India in 2021, and it is estimated to touch Rs 19,053 billion by 2025.

Survey findings from BearingPoint Beyond indicate that 60% of CSPs believe collaboration helps drive cost-effective, innovative solutions and that businesses need an average of nine partners to support their 5G use cases. Nine partners – that’s taking the relay team analogy to another new level of coordination and requires new approaches to how CSPs and partners work together.

To capture a significant piece of the 5G market opportunity, CSPs can apply five best practices from successful relay race teams.


Smooth hand-offs make the difference

Dropping the baton in a relay race usually means the last-place finish. It’s no different for CSPs as they need to create a frictionless model for co-creating, testing, and rolling out new services. Ensuring smooth hand-offs and collaboration requires having a forum for CSPs and partners to experiment and innovate with speed and efficiency. Every millisecond counts in a relay race, and the 5G opportunity is no different.

Trust your team or find new teammates


Each member of the relay team plays a vital role in the overall success of the group. Successful teams have complete trust in one another to do their part in the race – with passion and consistency. By aligning with the right ecosystem partners, including those they have existing relationships with CSPs can effectively bring the right products and services to market. Part of the equation for 5G is leveraging existing solutions, building blocks, and APIs and adding new capabilities or different combinations to quickly introduce relevant services.

Stay focused on the future

The outgoing runner can’t look backward when receiving the baton, which adds a challenging aspect to the race. An effective non-visual hand-off can mean the difference between winning, losing, or disqualification. The same goes for CSPs when looking for inspiration and insights to drive the next generation of 5G services. The best place to capture those insights early on will come from direct interaction with businesses and consumers. If you’re not working on something they will soon need, move on. There’s so much room for future innovation that winning CSPs will have a strong instinct for identifying those future opportunities, along with the determination to deliver new services just as clients realize they need them.


Timing is everything

Some CSPs are more agile than others when identifying a market need and executing on it. Depending on the customer or opportunity, CSPs need to determine what it takes to get to the market early or first. In those situations, CSPs want to team with those quick and nimble partners. In some cases, it’ll be more important to develop an end-to-end solution versus being first. Understand the customer and market demands, set realistic milestones, and meet those timelines.

To quickly shift from being a product-centric organization to a customer-centric one, CSPs must be willing to change their strategic priorities and their internal processes to collaborate with both business customers and third-party partners properly.


Have a great coach

Effective coaching runs deeper than wins and losses. It also includes reaching athletes on an individual level. Having a strategic coach (leader) is critical in tapping into the right areas of expertise – and understanding the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Team roles, including the coach, need to be clearly defined from the start. While every team member needs to believe in one another and have an agreed-upon set of goals, the coach needs to ensure everyone brings their best to the table. From setting goals to motivating the team, a great coach will look at the big picture, allowing the team to focus on execution. The ideal coach brings out each team member’s best and requires a unique set of skills and experiences.

While these best practices in one form or another are widely acknowledged by leading CSPs, one big challenge remains: How to enable a level of collaboration that doesn’t exist in the market today? An ecosystem-led strategy in 2021 and beyond will allow CSPs to solve genuine problems for customers and open up fresh opportunities for co-created solutions supported by ground-breaking business models and attractive revenue share arrangements.

Govindarajulu is Senior Vice President, Virtusa