Revenue from 5G in Asia Pacific is expected to reach US$13.90 billion in 2025, with a CAGR of 45.5% from 2020 to 2025, according to a report by Research and Markets. However, it will take more than simply offering 5G networks for telecommunications operators (telcos) in the region to capture a piece of that pie.
“5G has opened up a whole new world of connectivity solutions [including] Internet of Things, industrial automation, and connected cars. But those connectivity solutions are only part of the picture. What enterprises need to do is to reduce the cost of ownership and increase revenue yield for their assets, which is not going to be possible with just connectivity solutions,” says Nikhil Eapen, chief executive officer of telco StarHub.
He continues: “[Enterprises today] need low latency, secure cloud connectivity, and the security from core to the edge in the data centre and on the network. [This is why StarHub] is focused on bringing together connectivity with cloud and cybersecurity for our enterprise customers.”
Daring to go higher with cloud
Last November, StarHub launched the second phase of its digital transformation journey, called DARE+, to achieve its goal of going beyond telco to become a full-on digital life and digital services provider. DARE+ will enable StarHub’s “Infinity Play” model, wherein it offers an infinite continuum of connectivity, over-the-top streaming entertainment, cloud gaming and digital solutions (for both consumers and enterprises) seamlessly.
Eapen shares at the AWS Summit Asean 2022 that the cloud is one of the core enablers of DARE+. “We were already using the cloud — mostly software-as-a-service tools — for several years. But to achieve the full benefits of DARE+, we decided to fundamentally change our approach and move to an agile cloud-based IT stack versus a legacy telco-centric stack. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a big part of our journey [to the cloud], enabling us to unlock benefits such as faster go-to-market, rapid development, and multiple change cycles,” he explains.
In an interview with DigitalEdge Singapore, he highlights that the cloud will empower StarHub to drive deep into the Infinity Play model by enabling it to innovate rapidly and deliver infinite products. Additionally, the cloud will allow customers to engage with the telco digitally so they can get the right product easily, from anywhere and at any time.
We want to digitise and cloudify our front and back-end systems for significant cost savings and, more importantly, realise business benefits such as streamlining and improving efficiencies of our business processes. Cloud will also enable us to scale our systems on-demand, which is important during major product launches and promotions.
Nikhil Eapen, chief executive officer, StarHub
In the same interview, Conor McNamara, AWS’s managing director for Asean, adds: “Telcos today have the opportunity to become [more efficient and deliver] digital lifestyle and enterprise services, and the cloud can be a strong enabler for that. Modernising their core (or to put it simply, moving their core workloads to the cloud) delivers cost savings. It’s cheaper to run a virtual machine in the cloud than on-premises. And there are immediate savings based on the economies of scale.
Cloud can also help telcos build a more agile operating model – not just in a technical sense, but also in an operational sense so they can run a leaner organisation. Additionally, telcos can provide secure cloud access [or offer cloud-related solutions] to enterprise customers, [like what StarHub is doing]
Conor McNamara, managing director for Asean, AWS
With the StarHub AWS Direct Connect, for instance, enterprises can bypass the Internet and enable seamless provisioning to AWS from their office, data centre or remote environment via a private dedicated connection. The secure service ensures low latency, high availability and high throughput with scalable bandwidth options, making it suitable to even support mission-critical workloads, real-time applications or confidential information.
Building a cloud-skilled workforce
Harnessing the power of the cloud requires having people with the right skills too, but this can be challenging for telcos with the current workforce.
According to the Unlocking APAC’s Digital Potential: Changing Digital Skill Needs and Policy Approaches report commissioned by AWS, the average worker in Asia Pacific will need to gain seven new digital skills by 2025. Advanced cloud computing and data skills — such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and machine learning — will become increasingly important, with the number of workers needing these skills expected to triple over the next four years.
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“We can’t close the skills gap by just doing what we’ve always been doing. Diversifying the hiring pool can help [address the talent crunch], but you must also have the right mechanisms, such as the AWS re/Start programme, in place. Through AWS re/Start, organisations, including telcos, can go after talents who typically wouldn’t find their way to the cloud world. [Additionally, AWS is also] embedding cloud curriculums and self-paced learning resources into some institutes of higher learning in Singapore,” says McNamara.
StarHub is among the Singaporean companies that recently joined the AWS re/Start cloud skills development and job training programme. The programme will deliver fundamental AWS Cloud skills through real-world, scenario-based exercises, labs, and coursework. This will enable students without prior experience in cloud computing to learn to build Linux, Python, networking, security, and relational database skills.
“[The AWS re/Start programme empowers us] to upskill our employees with cloud skills and build a pipeline of cloud talents from unconventional candidates. [This supports our effort] of broadening our hiring funnel by not only considering the educational backgrounds of candidates but also their career histories, adaptability, and more. We also provide employees with relevant horizontal work opportunities, which could, in turn, help us drive new products,” says Eapen.
Fostering a culture of innovation, notes Eapen, is also important in enabling telcos to fully benefit from the cloud. StarHub is doing so by eliminating organisational silos — such as putting people from different job functions together for projects — and empowering employees to experiment, which includes allowing them to make mistakes.
“Since last September, we’ve been working with AWS in different ways to empower and encourage our employees to experiment with new ideas. This includes sharing sessions between the AWS and StarHub leadership teams around culture, process, and people,” says Eapen.
To further accelerate its digital transformation and value creation, StarHub intends to build a data lake with AWS’s help to gain a 360° view of its customers. “That data will be for our own purposes, such as for upselling recommendations. But we will also make this data available to our business clients to use through our SmartHub Analytics Service for businesses,” concludes Eapen.