WHEN YOU'RE the head of the technology group and suddenly everyone is talking about digital transformation, of course it can sound a bit silly. We've been digital for over 10 years!
But digitalisation, to me, refers to how dramatically the customer's digital journey has changed in recent years. And how quickly it will continue to change. We are facing critical issues on privacy and data security, massive growth in data consumption, the need for connections that are not only fast but also uninterrupted and gearing up for the Internet of Things (IoT). All that stuff is new.
The Internet of things
Just take the IoT [Internet of Things] to see how transformative these changes can be. How many SIMs are in your household? Just you? Or maybe you have kids? A tablet? That's six SIMs max. Now put a SIM in your TV, your refrigerator, your air-con, your washing machine, and so on. A single person might have more SIMs tomorrow than a family of four has today.
Data privacy and |Data security
The incredible domination of the Internet also opens up an unprecedented number of risks. In the past couple of weeks there have been very real and very serious cases. Data got stolen in Malaysia from telco operators. In Thailand, one of our competitors was hit, too. These risks have completely reshaped how we work: who has access to what, what is password protected, what our retailers or vendors can access. And because we're part of the Telenor Group, we follow European regulations, which are getting increasingly strict to better protect consumers. All this has a deep impact on how we design and upgrade our systems. It's really tangible to my team, even though it's invisible to those on the outside.
Better digital services |for customers
Some change is more readily visible for our customers and employees, such as the shift from prepaid to postpaid or from physical to online. Before we had OK'ish applications. We had them so we could say we have them. But we never focused on them. What mattered was having a point of sale within 2km of just about anyone in the country.
That focus is fading and shifting to online by improving the website and making applications for customers, retailers or even ourselves. Most of the development is done by the technology group, working with the digital group if it's customer facing, or with sales if it's for retailers. Working in a silo is becoming rarer. And our customers get way better digital services as a result.
Virtual core networks
It's not just within DTAC that we have had to learn to better cooperate with others. Our relationship with the group, Telenor, is deeper and has dramatically transformed how we work in the last 3-4 years. We're becoming more global. Stuff that we do has a very direct link to other businesses in the groups - there are projects being done across the borders and there are decisions being made globally that affect everyone.
This is in part linked to an exciting, but difficult-to-explain development in how we run our network. I'll give you an example. In the past, we'd buy a box with a bunch of hardware inside, and we'd plug it into our system somewhere. Maybe that box is full of switches or maybe it's a media gateway - either way, the box does one thing.
Today, these boxes can do anything - it's called virtualising the core network. There's a layer of hardware, then the virtualisation features, then the software. The potential is huge if it weren't for regulatory limitations. Hypothetically, we could be hosting Telenor's Myanmar operations right here in Thailand. Thailand could be a hub for Southeast Asia.
Prathet Tankuranun is chief technology officer at DTAC.