Telecoms in the Next 12 Months: What Will 2018 Bring?

Created: Monday, January 8, 2018, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 10:00 am



 

By Dave Millett, Equinox

2017 gave some exciting new telecoms products including the iPhone 10 and for example, people from the UK were allowed free roaming in Europe.

Looking at the big picture for 2018 clearly the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence will place increasing pressure on our technology infrastructure wherever in the world we are.  Though some countries are better placed than others!

SIP and VOIP – Landline Battles

SIP and VoIP will continue their relentless advance to replace ISDN. Taking the UK as an example, more businesses are now connected by IP rather than analog. Despite the claims of pushy providers – analog will be here until 2025 so those businesses still to switch over have plenty of time. But, watch out for signing new long-term deals.

Batteries That Last

Improved battery life is one of the factors that will be needed for the success of the Internet of Things (IOT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as we become an always-connected society. So, Samsung’s research into graphene batteries is an exciting development. There is potential for a battery that can fully charge in just 12 minutes with up to 45 percent more capacity.

Smartphones

AI is set to become a regularly heard phrase in 2018. In Autumn 2017, Google introduced AlphaGo, a program which can learn and master the mind-boggling Chinese game of Go in just three days. Google has a plan to put itself on an “AI first” footing and embed AI capability in all Google products and services. Others will surely follow, and the competing manufacturers will be aiming to place AI chips in their smartphones as soon as possible.

Handsets That Flex

Apple is now developing a bendy iPhone. The company has filed a US patent application for a phone with “a flexible portion that allows the device to be folded.” Microsoft was recently granted a patent for a tablet device that folded up to become a phone. And it is strongly rumored that Samsung is developing a folding phone to be called the Galaxy X.

The UK’s Telecoms Infrastructure

This all sounds very exciting, particularly if you are in a country with impressive infrastructure investment. The reality of the UK’s old-fashioned and creaking infrastructure is less exciting. In 2017, we achieved rankings of 54th in the world for 4G coverage, 31st in the world for average broadband speeds, and bottom of Europe for the rollout of Fibre to the Premise (FTTP).

If the UK is to reap the benefits of the new technologies then this has to be addressed. As Government’s current plans are wholly uninspiring it can only be hoped that the Government and regulators will take a tougher more interventionist approach in 2018; letting the operators solve the problem clearly has not worked.

The operators seem to have little desire to solve the problem themselves.  In terms of broadband, the UK is poor man of Europe.  British Telecom (BT) claims to have 345,000 premises connected to FTTP, but almost 30% of them are in Cornwall as part of an EU funded project.

BT’s published plans show they will barely have achieved 10% by the end of 2020. On average, the rest of Europe achieved that in 2016!

The official targets are outdated and, even if achieved, will still leave us bumbling along in the slow lane.   The UK Government wants everyone to have access to a minimum of 10 Mbps broadband by 2020.  10 Mbps may have been reasonable when the target was set several years ago it is now no longer fit for purpose. It is not suitable for the growth of the IOT and the steadily increasing range of streaming services.  By 2020 The EU Digital Agenda goals intend to deliver at least 30Mbps for all.   It will be no surprise that South Korea and Japan expect to have 5G working by 2020, whereas we hope for some coverage by 2025.

21st Century Technology Isn’t Optional

The UK Government is investing heavily in high-speed train projects (the HS2 and HS3 schemes) to connect cities. However, this is putting the money into railways, which was the Victorian’s nineteenth-century communications breakthrough! Our politicians should be prioritizing 21st century communications, reducing the need for travel and reducing the need to concentrate businesses in towns. Let’s get the infrastructure that will allow businesses to be distributed more widely around the UK.  The same message holds for Governments around the world.

The Investment Challenge

Given some of the financial challenges the UK networks and operators are having, it is important that the Government and regulators intervene. A recent report by the Economist said it expected average revenue per user (ARPU) to suffer as result of increased competition. In 2018 they expect ARPU across our 60 markets to fall by 2.3% for mobile operators, and by 11.5% for fixed line.   The competition in the consumer markets is coming from providers such as WhatsApp and Viber.  A survey recently showed that almost a third of people do not use their mobiles for Voice and the levels of Texts is down by almost 40% since 2012. The growth of VOIP and SIP is eating into the profits historically generated by ISDN.

This is the conundrum; huge capital investment is required to create new infrastructures to generate new revenues.  But often the new revenues are lower than the revenue from the old technologies they replace.  A survey of operators, conducted by Ericsson, found that 86% were viewing IOT as key for monetarizing revenues from 5G.

Adding in the extra costs of improving security as cyber threats grow and regulations, such as GDPR, then there is the potential that the situation in countries such as the UK will get worse, not better.

In Summary

We can certainly look forward to exciting developments in technology in 2018.  Many countries will continue their significant investment in infrastructure and those of us in the UK must hope that we’ll achieve the investment we need.


Dave MillettDave Millett has over 35 years’ experience in the Telecoms Industry. He has worked in European Director roles for several global companies. He now runs Equinox, a leading independent brokerage, and consultancy firm. He works with many companies, charities and other organizations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80%. He also regularly advises telecom suppliers on improving their products and propositions.

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