Gen Z and the future of telecoms. I had dinner with Jeff Pulver last week. Jeff as you probably know was one of the early pioneers of VoIP and founder of Service Provider Vonage. We discussed a wide range of subjects but the one that stuck in my mind most related to Gen Z.
The telecommunications industry is run by very old people who have been around since the dawn of telco time. I’ve probably known Jeff for twenty five years. There ya go. Proves what I’m saying.
In the years post covid the industry is going through a level of change that I don’t think I’ve seen in all my time in the game. Work patterns have changed and the landscape of brands involved is changing. The challengers to the old order are companies like Microsoft, Zoom and Cisco (even). In fact these are only the challengers that we know about today. Reality is that the names in the frame will be different over the coming years. They might not even exist today, probably not.
The point is that people influencing which names are the new technology household brands are not the people that work in telecoms. Not old geezers like me. They are people who are either still at school or have just entered the workforce for the first time. People who instinctively know how tech works, how to use it, and how to take advantage of it.
My son Tom is Content Strategy Director for a global Digital Marketing Agency. He reports that in his industry the most sought after creatives are under the age of 25.
Telecoms should be no different. The word telecommunications is totally outdated. It was invented when to communicate with someone you had to pick up a handset and dial a number. ‘Telecoms’ sounded right at the time.
Last year the UK Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association (ITSPA) rebranded as the Comms Council UK. Their wise council of elders considered the use of the word ‘telephony’, and by association ‘telecommunications’ to not be relevant or representative of the types of services that their members would be providing in years to come.
At the time I thought it was daft to change a brand that had existed for almost twenty years and was the only person on the council not to wholeheartedly support the move. Somewhat ironic that for most of that twenty years I have chaired the Promotions Working Group. The sagacious elders were right.
It used to be that businesses benefited from technology before it reached the consumer. Feels very different now. Business is a follower not a leader. As Gen Z start to populate the workplace and grow into positions of influence then we will be seeing further sea changes in how technology is used in the workplace. Gen Z will have ideas that will continue to radically change the way we do things.
I don’t know what’s coming down the pike but coming it certainly is. As telcos wrestle with what their future looks like they could do worse than sounding out the new generation. In the 1990s Terry Matthews, one of the founders of Mitel, started a new business called Newbridge Networks. I’m told one of his first acts was to hire fifty college grads and give them all positions of responsibility in the business. Newbridge was acquired by Alcatel for $7 Bn in the year 2000.
Feels as if now is the time to start hiring Gen Z.