Exclusives : Guest Post: Accelerating Customer Migration to Advanced Networks

Guest Post: Accelerating Customer Migration to Advanced Networks

In the evolving telecoms landscape, traditional 2G and 3G network mobile infrastructure is becoming increasingly obsolete. Yet while customers have migrated to 4G and 5G networks in many developed regions, countries in Africa and the Middle East still have considerable ground to cover in the journey to sunset outdated technology. At the same time, 2G and 3G networks remain part of the mobile network mix, even in regions such as Europe (where they make up 21% of total mobile connections), with network switch-off dates stretching into the late 2020s.


The difficulties in network migration

This extended timeline reflects the complexity of shutting down mobile networks and transitioning to advanced infrastructures. While the benefits are clear — enhanced network performance, cost reductions, improved customer experience, and the potential for new services and revenue streams — the process itself is multifaceted and challenging. Operators must manage multiple interdependent factors, including technical, regulatory, and customer-related elements. Technical considerations encompass the need to ensure network stability and the quality of service during the transition, while simultaneously deploying and scaling up newer technologies. Operators also need to comply with regulatory requirements regarding service continuity and customer communications, which often requires negotiation with authorities to align on shutdown timelines.

Given these factors, especially the need for telcos to optimise network operations and drive cost efficiencies, how can progress be accelerated? And what lessons can be learnt for future migrations, such as from 5G to 6G?


The benefits of a customer-focused approach

To drive successful migrations, operators need to manage the impact of the new technology on their customers. This involves communicating the changes to them clearly and proactively, offering support as they shift to new services, and addressing any service disruptions or customer concerns that arise during the process. This customer-centric approach is vital in maintaining customer trust and satisfaction and in seizing the opportunity to upgrade customers to higher-value plans and services.

By hastening the process of closing old networks to make room for newer technologies, operators can reduce the burdensome maintenance costs that accompany outdated systems. The resulting financial efficiency allows for the reallocation of resources toward innovative, advanced infrastructure, thereby enhancing network performance and opening doors for cutting-edge services.

Furthermore, advanced networks offer a superior user experience: improved connectivity speed, lower latency, and increased reliability, which strengthens customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Finally, incorporating energy efficiency into new networks as part of the transition process highlights the operator’s commitment to sustainability, reinforcing its position as a responsible steward in a world increasingly conscious of environmental impacts.


The value equation

The key metric for moving from old networks to advanced infrastructure in the telecom industry is understanding the net present value (NPV) of the programme. This is determined by the current technological cost, the potential for customer loss, the opportunity cost, and additional factors.

Importantly, the time variable increases the complexity of the value equation, and substantially impacts it. Optimising NPV relies on deciding when to start and finish the transition. For example, if an operator begins a year earlier and compresses the rest of the process by several months, NPV could potentially increase significantly. However, determining the optimal timing is a complex puzzle involving several factors:

  • Supplier and customer obligations. Telecom operators often have existing contracts with equipment suppliers and service agreements with customers that need to be honoured. Violating these obligations could lead to financial penalties and reputational damage.
  • Economic impacts. The broader economic environment influences the timing decision. For instance, operators might defer the transition during a downturn due to budget constraints or uncertain ROI.
  • Regulatory considerations. The telecom industry is heavily regulated; any significant infrastructure change often requires regulatory approval, which can complicate timing.
  • Transition process constraints. Revamping projects can be time-consuming, requiring substantial planning, implementation, and testing. Accelerating this process too rapidly could risk the quality of the transition and jeopardise network reliability and customer satisfaction.

Given these complexities, a well-devised holistic customer migration acceleration programme becomes pivotal to optimising the NPV of the process. This could include strategic negotiation with suppliers for flexible contracts, robust communications strategies to minimise customer churn, phased transition plans to maintain service quality, and active engagement with regulators to expedite approvals.


Putting customers at the heart of the migration

As telecommunication technology evolves from traditional to cutting-edge, crafting a thorough customer migration strategy and steering it successfully is key. Ideally, the shift to advanced systems should be as intuitive and frictionless as possible for customers.

Knowledge of the customer base forms the bedrock of a successful migration strategy; each customer is unique and thus demands a different approach. Organising the customer base into manageable groups based on demographics, usage behaviours, and preferences offers key insights that can shape a more targeted migration plan.

But segmentation is just the first step. Detailed characterisation helps to truly understand each customer group. This involves delving deep into their specific needs, how they perceive the transition, and most importantly, how ready they are to embrace advances in telecommunications.

A clear picture of the customer base can facilitate scheduling and prioritising the migration, with factors such as readiness for change, network load impact, and business considerations driving the decisions. The segmentation and characterisation exercise should culminate in the creation of unique offers for each customer group. Crafting personalised incentives to motivate early transition, bundling new features with packages, and/or designing loyalty programmes for longtime customers all potentially add value.

The migration strategy requires clear forecasts of the customer base post-migration. These predictions feed into planning network capacity, allocating resources, and financial forecasting. This brings us to a critical part of the strategy: understanding the financial impacts. This relies on having a clear-eyed view of the direct costs, the effect of customer churn, and the potential revenue uplift from the new services now possible thanks to the advanced systems.


The importance of communication

While the migration strategy forms the blueprint for change, the execution phase brings it to life. The cornerstone is setting up effective tools and channels to facilitate migration, including customer self-service portals that provide access to dedicated support teams.

Effective communication and monitoring is also essential to the migration plan. Customers need to be aware of every aspect of the migration — what it entails, how it will benefit them, and most importantly, the potential for service interruptions. This communication plan should evolve based on customer feedback and changing behaviours.

Operators need to closely monitor progress, using metrics such as the number of successfully migrated customers, the rate of customer churn, and customer satisfaction scores. Studying these metrics can help measure success against planned milestones and identify any potential issues; the strategy can be tweaked as needed.


Creating a playbook for now and the future

Migration is an ongoing process in the mobile telecoms industry – while it is currently 2G and 3G networks being closed down, 4G and 5G will follow over time as 6G rollouts occur and mature. To minimise churn and maximise migration success operators need to standardise their approaches to make them repeatable and effective, enabling them to continue to cost-effectively deliver the connectivity, capacity and services required by customers well into the future.

By Gonzalo Garcia, Marc Palacios, Guillem Casahuga, Gregory Pankert, Sean McDevitt, Vincenzo Basile, Arthur D. Little.

Image by Brian Gunning from Pixabay.




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