Global markets may still be trying to get to grips with the ongoing economic uncertainty but the economic and financial upheavals haven’t stopped the telecoms industry from moving ahead at a steady pace. The ongoing turmoil has not only failed to have a detrimental impact on the sector, in many ways it could prove to be a key catalyst for its transformation.
Consumers are still enamoured by mobile technology - and smart phones and improved infrastructure have only fuelled the continuing uptake of mobility around the world. The number of internet users continues to increase as the penetration of both fixed and mobile broadband becomes more accessible around the globe and here are some of the key trends that will make their mark in 2012.
The Internet of Things
The development of high-speed broadband infrastructure is now well and truly underway in many countries and one of the real value propositions of this new infrastructure will be the further development of the ‘Internet of Things’(IoT) which is going to be a real game-changer. It will transform every single sector of society and the economy and it will be out of this environment that new businesses – and indeed new industries – will be born. For the telecom this trend will be driven not so much by the carriers as by internet-based services (databases), and it looks as though these developments will come from the bottom up. Exciting new internet applications and mobile apps will see people installing sensors to link to the internet, and data-gathering and real-time analytics will be valuable services that people will want to use. Companies will follow later –either by building their own IoT infrastructure and/or by buying up some of the IoT start-ups;
It hard to look past the social media phenomenon and social media sites are well and truly headed down the database interlinking and data analytics path. Expect to see more activity from them in the area in 2012. Facebook remains the global social media leader and has expanded its offerings to much more than just social communication. However, while Facebook has managed to capture the largest share of the market in recent years, the industry is not sitting still and new social networks that aim to improve upon the original models are coming to the fore. In addition, online gaming, particularly social gaming, are becoming increasingly popular, while cloud-gaming is also emerging as a hot trend.
Mobile broadband will continue its growth and will start making an impact in the developing world. National governments and international agencies are recognising the enormous potential in utilising this infrastructure for a far more efficient, effective and productive delivery of their services. The key driver behind the growth in the mobile broadband market is the fact that increased competition and a saturated mobile voice market, have forced operators to offer very competitive capped data packages. These packages have in turn led to consumers having more confidence in downloading and trialling mobile apps. Coupled with the adoption of smart phones and tablets consumer interest in using mobile data services is gaining solid momentum.
The financial crisis led to global attention focusing on high-speed broadband based on Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH) and deployments are expected to grow steadily for at least the next five years. This is due to a growing recognition, particularly amongst government bodies, that broadband does not only offer high-speed Internet services; it is also important for national infrastructure and will underpin a range of positive social and economic developments.
This year will also be an important one for smart TV and 2012 could well be the year when smart TV will become more prominent and an apps-based delivery mechanism for video-based services will be built into new smart TVs. As expected, Google (Android) and Apple will be leading this development and it looks as though Android will have a slight advantage here. Expect some fireworks towards the middle of the year.
Mobile software platforms
North America is rising as an important influence on the mobile sector. While in the past Europe and Asia has led this sector; companies from the US such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and RIM are beginning to have influence. Mobile software platforms are becoming as important as hardware. Developments in the USA, Australia and New Zealand are providing insights into the future direction of the mobile industry; there are well over five billion mobile subscribers worldwide; and the next phase of mobile technology and services will rest upon the development of wireless broadband and in particular the 4G, Long-term evolution (LTE) technology.
Kylie Wansink is the senior analyst, global markets at BuddeComm.