In 2014, operators focused on rolling out LTE, but some have lost sight of the bigger picture. 2015 will see traditional telecoms services delivered over multiple access technologies, of which LTE is just a part. As next year fast approaches, our predictions take a step back and look at how the industry will adapt to the changing landscape.
The SIM card loses its grip
An increasing number of urban Wi-Fi deployments are offering acceptable mobile coverage to consumers, without the need for cellular operators. Furthermore, a recent report by Analysys Mason has revealed that the 81% of smartphone traffic is carried over fixed-line networks, meaning that most of us will connect to a Wi-Fi network when we can.
Pay as you go consumers and those with small data bundles will increasingly use non-cellular connectivity and communication services, falling back to cellular only as a last resort. Whilst the SIM card will not become obsolete any time soon, it is slowly beginning to lose its hold on the market.
VoLTE arrives - but no one (outside the industry) really cares
Within the industry, VoLTE is big news. However, subscribers are unlikely to notice its introduction: the technology works behind the same familiar dialler. And if they do notice (high-definition audio, or faster set-up) they're not really going to care: we've all got used to incremental improvements, and HD voice has been available on some OTT services for a while. To get a "Wow", substantial innovation beyond the standard is needed in the service itself.
Same service, different access
In 2015, tradition telecoms operators will accelerate the decoupling of their service and access divisions. In doing this, operators will be able to deliver any communication service over cellular, IP or Wi-Fi, based on a customers' preference. The separation will allow them to focus on service innovation, similar to competing over-the-top service providers.
Meanwhile, access technology will horizontally integrate: mobile, fixed-line, Wi-Fi all coming together to offer complete and cost-effective connectivity packages. Telstra for example has recently announced it will activate a national Wi-Fi network made up from hotspots provided by its broadband customers. This trend will continue next year through partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.
The fog finally lifts as the cloud gets off the ground
The ability to work in the cloud has long been established in the data centre market, and its benefits will soon be widely realised by operators. In 2015, operators will move network functions virtualisation programmes from the test lab and into the live network. IMS and VoLTE service layers will be among the first functions to go fully cloud-based, and we will see operators utilise the scalability and flexibility of the cloud to launch new, innovative services.
We're pretty sure someone will host a 6G conference before 5G even happens, and we'll all shrug it off and move on, like this year when Windows decided that 10 was nice round number compared to 9.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.