How the GAFA are invited to the telecoms field

For those who doubt the will of the high-tech giants to now play a role in the field of telecommunications, the example of the laboratory opened by Orange in Châtillon (Hauts-de-Seine) is enlightening.

Here, the French incumbent operator allows companies to test new applications, whether for piloting drones, analyzing videos to detect fires, measuring quality in real time in factories, setting up a telemedicine service. … So many new uses made possible by the 5G network andedge computing, this technology which makes it possible to connect smartphones and objects in real time. Except that to offer these solutions, Orange had to rely on the solution of a partner, and not just any one: Google.

This partnership illustrates a fundamental trend: the major digital players are gradually entering the telecoms field. “So far, the operators have not been ‘eaten up’ and defended their precinct. But they have also failed to establish themselves in the field of content and applications, and have been outmoded ”, analyzes Nicolas Colin, co-founder of The Family, a “Start-up support”.

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Above all, the arrival of 5G,edge computing and the Internet of Things could redistribute the cards even more. “Operators will join forces with tech players, but where will the value be? Will they be confined to the role of simple pipes? “, summarizes a connoisseur of the sector. In fact, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple (GAFA) and Microsoft are taking positions in new markets coveted by telecom players, and sometimes even in their core business.

  • Messaging, calls and video … operators rushed

The breakthrough of instant messengers like iMessage (a subsidiary of Apple), WhatsApp and Messenger (Facebook) or WeChat has come at the expense of telecom operators. Blame it on a sin of gluttony: for years, text messages were billed around ten euro cents per unit, a price well above their cost. “It was a bit like telecom cocaine”, taunts an analyst.

Where SMS has not been incorporated into unlimited affordable offers, the drop has been dramatic. In Spain, the number of text messages exchanged was divided by ten between 2008 and 2019, according to the local regulator. In France, it has fallen by a third since 2016, according to the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications, Posts and Press Distribution (Arcep).

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