It never is completely clear why telco executives really mean in touting the transformation from telco to “techco.”
Many telcos--or those who advise and sell to them--say telcos need to become techcos. So what does that mean?
At least as outlined by Mark Newman, Technotree chief analyst and Dean Ramsay, principal analyst, there are two key implications: a culture shift and a business model.
The former is more subjective: telco organizations need to operate “digitally.” The latter is harder: can telcos really change their business models; the ways they earn revenue; their customers and value propositions?
It might be easier to describe the desired cultural or technology changes. Digital touchpoints; higher research and development spending; use of native cloud computing; a developer mindset and data-driven product development or use of use artificial intelligence all might be said to be part of becoming a “techco.”
Changing the business model is the more-problematic objective.
As helpful as it should be to adapt to native cloud, developer-friendly applications and networks, use data effectively or boost research or development, none of those attributes or activities necessarily changes the business model.
If “becoming a techco” means lower operating costs; lower capital investment; faster product development or happier customers, that is a good thing, to be sure. Such changes can help ensure that a business or industry is sustainable.
The change to “techco” does not necessarily boost the equity valuation of a “telco,” however. To accomplish that, a “telco” would have to structurally boost its revenue growth rates to gain a higher valuation; become a supplier of products with a higher price-to-earnings profile, higher profit margins or business moats.
What would be more relevant, then, is the ability of the “change from telco to techco” to serve new types of customers; create new and different revenue models; develop higher-value roles and products or add new roles “telcos” can perform in the value chain or ecosystem.
To be sure, if “becoming a techco” has other intermediate value, such as boosting revenues and profits while reducing costs and speeding new product creation, the process would still have value.
It would perhaps be the business model equivalent of the transition from analog to digital processes overall. That is important, but does not transform a telco into something else, which is what all the verbiage about “techco” implies.
It is too early to assess whether “techco” is simply a change in marketing hype or something more profound.