ROI or die: The 5G imperative for telecoms

After building out next-generation infrastructure, the industry needs new revenue streams to recoup its investment.

The Leadership Agenda

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One of the most striking data points in PwC’s 2023 Global CEO Survey is that 39% of CEOs across all industries think their company will no longer be economically viable in 10 years on its current path. That’s a startling statistic, yet the number for telecom CEOs is even higher: 46% think their companies won’t make it another decade. A big reason is that telecoms don’t have the strongest track record in terms of monetising new technology. They invest heavily in each new generation of mobile infrastructure, and customers—especially retail customers—expect to pay less and get more.

The shift to 5G makes solving that paradox existential. Telecom companies around the world have collectively spent hundreds of billions of dollars to build out 5G technology, and they now must recoup those investments. Yet they can’t do it alone. Instead, they need a B2B2X approach—partnering with other companies to identify and develop new 5G-related services for end customers. A three-part approach can help: 

  1. Identify which data streams may have value—and for whom.
  2. Test and learn with small bets across multiple potential revenue streams or managed-service partnering opportunities.
  3. Don’t go it alone. Innovate, test and learn within an ecosystem of alliances—both within TMT and with adjacent industries.

It's a big challenge, but telecoms control the infrastructure, and they have access to the data that makes these new applications work. A decade from now, it will be clear which telecoms capitalised on those advantages—and which fell short.

Explore the findings of PwC's 27th Annual Global CEO Survey.

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Wilson Chow

Wilson Chow

Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Industry Leader, PwC China

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