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With more than 20 years of experience in business development in telecommunications, Florence Sebastien, CEO, FSE Consulting spoke to Telecom Review about her journey and the role that FSE Consulting is playing today in the industry.

First off, can you tell us more about yourself and FSE Consulting?

I’m an experienced new business development professional and relationship broker based in Paris, France, with deep expertise in the telecommunication industry. After receiving my Master degree in International Trade (Paris II), I joined Telecom Italia for 10 years. I founded FSE Consulting 10 years ago to help companies build market positions by locating, developing, defining, negotiating, and closing impactful business relationships.

After 20 years in the telecom industry, I have moderated panels and been panelist in various conferences. I was also able to conduct interviews with prominent leaders in the industry.

FSE Consulting allows businesses to:

  • Reduce time to market
  • Analyze strategic positioning in the main segments
  • Identify the potential big evolutions of the market regarding the company offer
  • Find the best way to the company’s expansion
  • Identify complementarities or synergies in the business
  • Be in touch with reliable and proven business partners
  • Build bridges with the main players of the market

And all of this, in the strictest of confidentialities.

FSE Consulting analyses your needs, evaluates market opportunities and identifies the best solutions for your development.

In your opinion, how did COVID-19 affect the telecommunications sector?

The global economy has been dramatically impacted. Most companies needed to elaborate business continuity plans.

During this crisis, the main actors of the telecom industry had to face the pressing challenge of meeting the needs of individuals and businesses in terms of infrastructure and services. They have responded to the compelling needs of businesses and citizens in this terrible time.

While countries have closed their borders and schoolchildren, students and employees had to stay at home, the networks that provide access to information and communicate remotely were proven more important than ever. Telcos have a strategical role and must respond to high level quality requirements.

Due to movement and travel restrictions, data usage exploded during this pandemic period for entertainment and professional purposes. That is why due to COVID-19, the telecommunications sector had to face huge requirements of reliability, capacity and security. One of the key requirements was as well to improve 5G deployment.

Once the coronavirus pandemic subsides, what would be your advice to telecom and ICT companies?

We must create the conditions that will allow a rapid economic and social recovery once we have passed the peak of the pandemic. Two elements are more than essential here: Connectivity and digitalization.

Indeed, as children stay at home, they must be able to continue their education by using digital solutions. As office employees are told to work from home, they must be able to log in and access their office and work tools remotely and interact with their coworkers through video conferencing and other remote-meeting solutions. And when people are confined at home, they must be able to access digital services, entertainment and information as well as stay in touch with friends and family.

Keeping the networks operational is of the utmost importance, as many important services depend on the network. The mission of telecom operators in the future is to allow companies to continue their activity even if their employees have to stay at home. It is also about allowing friends and family to stay in touch and take care of each other, while respecting the directives given by the authorities. Last but not least, they are responsible for supporting the whole of society.

Once the crisis is over, a deeper understanding of digitization will appear. If this long-term understanding leads to improved, more efficient and sustainable ways of working and doing business, then telecom operators will have lived up to the demands of people, governments and businesses.

As a woman working in the telecommunications industry, did you face any particular challenges during career?

Despite progress in employment gender equality, men continue to substantially outnumber women in terms of employment in the tech industry.

During my experience in Telecom Italia, for sure my salary was lower than my male colleagues. Indeed, women in male-dominated fields such as telecommunications often lack self-confidence and suffer from feelings of inferiority. In a workplace where the vast majority of employees are men, women often feel that they are not integrated.

When I started my company, the international DNA of my position implicated to travel alone and attend conferences on my own all over the world. In some countries and during some events, I was often treated with aggressiveness and I even suffered from harassment.

Furthermore, spending time abroad because of conferences can be better accepted at home when you are a man than a woman.

But as I moved forward in my career, I was better accepted in the telecommunications industry. Today, I have a telecom family that accepts the fact that I’m a woman working in the telecommunications field.

Finally, how do you see the telecommunications industry in the post-COVID-19 period?

COVID-19 is generating deep changes in the telecom industry. Indeed, the industry is heading towards the dawn of a new era.

The capacity increases planned for a whole year have been reached during the lockdown, therefore, it is imperative to face these new needs. The telecom sector will benefit from a strong need for capacity, particularly caused by increased data usage that results from remote working, school closures and travel restrictions and by the acceleration of digital transformations.

The key words are bandwidth, digital and cloud computing.

On the other hand, as normal voice will be cannibalized, new opportunities may arise from partnerships with established and new OTT players.

Mobile operators will suffer from drastic drop in roaming which revenues won’t be compensated by international calls.

Businesses will be more dependent on technology. In addition, digital offers will increase in order to respond to changes in the market and in the customer behaviors. Finally, unified communications solutions, including the complete migration to VoIP, will multiply within companies.

Home office expenses should be taken care of by companies, so an increase in mobile B2B requests should be registered. This could offset part of the drop in roaming due to the decrease in travel.

Hosting companies will see their sales increase as the capacity demands grow.

As e-sports, gaming and TV see huge growth in their usage, content providers will find good opportunities to thrive.

Last but not the least, as far as I am personally highly concerned, many trade shows were canceled rather than rescheduled. We are headed to virtual experiences, but at the end of the day, we need personal contacts and these video conferencing applications cannot replace the human contact.

Finally, I must admit that my role will be undermined if I can no longer participate in conferences all around the world.

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