The rising potential for collaboration springs from the fast-evolving operating environment for both industries. Foremost among the drivers is the rapid advance of technology – primarily the universal deployment of wireless communications, quickly followed by the “sensorization” of equipment. Utilities have been leaders in sensor deployment within their own operations. And telcos have been pushing out mobile sensors across virtually every other industry – logistics, transportation, manufacturing and more – generating a mass of data.
Rising penetration of the Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing has enabled both telcos and utilities to harness this data to drive automation into their field forces – leveraging technologies like analytics and augmented reality to predict, triage and remediate issues faster and more effectively. We’re already seeing utilities fly drones to inspect lines and equipment, and telcos using edge computing to maintain real-time communication with autonomous vehicles in a limited way.
But technology is just one change driver. With both energy costs and the urgency of climate change rising, telcos and utilities are providing tools to manage energy usage. As smart homes and smart factories become a reality, the two sectors are fostering both digitalization and environmental stewardship. Meanwhile, scrutiny of capital projects is intensifying, reflecting telcos’ huge spending on networks and utilities’ investments in electrification and renewables. But governments are helping by sharing some of the burden: take the US, where the Build Back Better Framework is offering financial backing for electric infrastructure and rural internet links. Or the UK, where the government-led Shared Rural Network (SRN) is channelling a mix of public and private investment into levelling up mobile connectivity across the country.