New operator alliance aims to accelerate telco innovation, nurture 5G startups

  • Six operators, including Telefónica, have formed the Alaian alliance
  • They are aiming to stimulate innovation in the telecoms sector
  • Its efforts include a ‘global call’ for startups with 5G use cases 

In an effort to collaborate on emerging communications network technologies and services, and discover technology startups with innovative use cases, six communications service providers have formed a new industry alliance called Alaian.

Describing themselves as ‘disruptive telcos for disruptive startups,’ the six are (in alphabetical order): Bouygues Telecom; Cellnex; KPN; MTN; Telefónica; and Wind Tre. Together they operate in 50 countries, collectively have 700 million customers, and aim to “share best practices on innovation and generate different use cases on the latest market developments and technologies they are implementing.”

That reach is important because the operators are hoping this will attract the involvement of startups that have innovative ideas they can put to good use. To that end, Alaian has issued a global call for startups with “5G-based use cases in Communications & infrastructure, Industry, manufacturing & logistics, Mobility, Utilities & Energy, Metaverse & Web3, Media, Entertainment & Gaming, and Retail” to apply to be part of the alliance’s tech innovation programme: Companies have until 31 May to apply and will pitch to the alliance members on 7 June. 

Interested in service innovation? Then check out the agenda for the upcoming DSP Leaders World Forum 2022 (24-25 May), during which ‘Blueprints for Service Innovation’ is just one of the session topics to be discussed by industry leaders. 

The startups that are selected for the next stage will then get the chance to work with the alliance operator members by gaining access to their 5G R&D labs, get involved in pilot schemes, “sit down with our network specialists and teams to exchange knowledge, co-develop, and solve problems together... [and] tap into the technical, commercial & product support from our network of experts, mentors, and coaches,” and, possibly, attract some “capital investment” from the “investment vehicles” of the member operators and their venture capital connections. Telefónica Ventures, for example, already has a number of companies in its investment portfolio and just this week confirmed its involvement in a new tech fund called Leadwind.

The idea is laudable as it provides a clear path for the startups to pitch to telcos they might otherwise struggle to engage with: What would be better, of course, is if there were more telcos involved and the Alaian alliance members have a combined pot of dedicated investment money with which to fund the most promising startups.

But this is a start, and anything that gets operators talking to each other new developments and uncovers innovative R&D that might otherwise go undiscovered is only a good thing. Let’s hope this comes to something.

Oh, and in case you're wondering... it's pronounced ‘ah-lie-arn’.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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