Winning together in the fourth industrial revolution

By Mark Louis F. FerrolinoSpecial Features Writer

The telecommunications industry has been at the forefront of massive changes worldwide. It has become part of the daily lexicon, playing a central role in reshaping the society and culture, as well as various sectors in the economy. Over the past years, telecommunications has become the lifeblood of digital revolution, and it is believed to continue to play this role in the forthcoming years, especially when the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0 or IR 4.0, unfolds.

At the recently concluded BusinessWorld Industry 4.0 Summit, held at Shangri-La at The Fort in Taguig City, a panel composed of John R. Gonzales, vice-president and head of Enterprise Digital Solutions of PLDT, Inc.; Emmanuel Estrada, head of Network Strategy of Globe Telecom, Inc.; and Edgardo V. Cabarios, deputy commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission conversed on the role the telecommunications sector will play in Industry 4.0.

“The role of telco cannot be undermined in IR 4.0,” Mr. Estrada said in his opening statement during the first panel discussion of the summit. Citing a practical example on its significance to the society today, he asked, “How can you imagine a Grab without the capabilities of telco underlying it?”

“By providing capability to do things and providing the connectivity, then telco becomes the primary enabler and a partner in making sure that Industry 4.0 is there,” he said.

Among the technologies that will fuel the impending revolution, according to Mr. Cabarios, include big data and analytics, cloud computing, and artificial or augmented Intelligence. “These technologies require reliable connectivity,” he said, emphasizing on the importance of telecommunications sector in Industry 4.0.

With regard to connectivity, the deployment of fifth generation (5G) technology is extremely important. As Mr. Gonzales noted, 5G is the real change agent for Industry 4.0.

Among the business models the telco industry expects to see from 5G, as identified by Mr. Gonzales, include enhanced mobile broadband services, massive machine-to-machine communication, and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications.

The adoption of 5G will also help advance the concept of Internet of Things (IoT), which expected to drive changes and efficiencies in doing things.

Mr. Gonzales shared that International Data Corporation forecasted that IoT global spending will reach $1.2 trillion in 2022. In the Philippines, the local spending would be around $6 billion, he added.

“We already talked to a lot of our customers, and 56% of our respondents actually shared with us that their plans for IoT are on their way or now being implemented,” Mr. Gonzales said.

Citing a recent KPMG survey of 750 tech leaders, Mr. Gonzales said that IoT will drive the greatest business transformation in the coming years.

Despite the evident role of telecommunications sector in Industry 4.0, Mr. Estrada noted that the interests of telco players are not aligned with the local government’s plans and agenda. “There are regulations that are no longer applicable or relevant to the current mode of technology,” he said.

“We need to be able to work together, we need to plan together,” Mr. Estrada said, citing the need for telcos and the government to form a new National Telecommunications Development Plan.

To further improve the local telco industry, Mr. Estrada made several appeals to the government, including the implementation and enforcement of the Ease of Doing Business Act, giving telco players incentives to go to far-flung areas, and allowing them to invest without any red tape.

“Everything has to fall in place. It’s a master plan in able to get there. This master plan is actually a combination of the government, the people, the users, and the people itself,” Mr. Estrada said.