Over the past two decades, we have experienced the rapid development of the information age, with various technologies and applications having grown in both scope and variety. The telecom industry was originally built around the delivery of voice services, and accordingly, mobile operators have long derived the bulk of their revenues from these services.
Today, however, mobile operators are shifting their focus from voice to data. By 2015, Ovum projects that revenue from voice services will fall 8.4 percent, from US$663 billion in 2010 to US$608 billion, while revenue from data services will increase 10 percent from US$907 billion in 2010 to US$1 trillion. The exponential growth of digitised information, combined with the skyrocketing popularity of mobile networks, has led to a surge in the volume of digital content.
User experience drives industry development
The digital era of today is marked by an important new component: user experience. Users have the ultimate say in steering the development of the industry so it is vitally important that they are equipped with the means with which to quickly and easily access mobile networks. In order to ably drive this development, vendors and operators must commit fully to providing an optimal user experience.
As mobile networks become more popular and as we enter the midst of a new information age where access to data is literally at the tips of our fingers, optimising user experience is the key to the further development of the telecom industry.
Users should have access to speedy networks where speed is defined by minimal wait time rather than simply raw bandwidth. They should be able to access quality content including 3D technologies, ultra high-definition technologies, and augmented reality technologies.
Given that the mobile Internet is growing at a rate two times higher than the fixed Internet, users should have easy access to whatever services and applications they like at any time and in any location. Devices should employ user-friendly ergonomics to better leverage natural human abilities, such as voice interactivity. The user experience should be defined by a community-like experience.
User experience and progress in network technologies are inextricably linked: User experience drives network development and progress in network technologies guides improvements in user experience. As an improved user experience coincides with cutting-edge mobile networks, a new round of opportunities avails itself to the telecom industry.
The mobile broadband boom
Within Asia Pacific in particular, the growth of mobile broadband has been especially acute. According to Wireless Intelligence, GSMA’s data service, 2.4 billion (48 percent) of the world’s more than five billion mobile subscribers were located in Asia Pacific as of mid-2010.
China and India alone claimed about 900 million and 700 million of these subscribers, respectively. India experienced a year-on-year growth rate of 47 percent, while Cambodia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka each saw growth of over 30 percent. Some analysts predict that by 2015, mobile subscriptions in Asia Pacific will increase by as much as 50 percent.
Since much of the development in the region has been so rapid and has taken place so recently, Asian consumers have been able to take immediate advantage of new devices, such as smartphones and tablets, as well as data-intensive applications, such as P2P and video sharing. Coupled with the sheer growth in subscribers, these usage patterns have resulted in a spike in demand for bandwidth, which has in turn strained existing bandwidth availability.
How to address booming demand
To effectively address this booming demand for bandwidth, while improving user experience and bolstering revenue and operating margins, the future of the industry hinges on six key areas:
• Building mobile broadband networks with traffic at a Gigabit level
• Evolving away from O&M-intensive copper wires towards optical access
• Deepening the transformation towards All-IP to lead the industry into an all packet phase
• Building networks based on data centralisation and data centres by utilising IT infrastructure based on cloud computing
• Modernising operations support systems/business support systems (OSS/BSS) to adapt to an open industry environment and the on-demand operational model.
Additionally, the industry needs to effectively corral “big data” in order to better understand and respond to customer needs, build intelligent and resilient networks that can support on-demand bandwidth operations, integrate digital media content with the means to distribute it across various platforms, integrate the IT supply chain taking cloud computing into account, and boost cyber security and privacy protection.
Connectivity for all
Notwithstanding the gains that have been made in the spread of both mobile and fixed broadband, much work remains to be done in order to extend connectivity to all. A World Bank study found that every 10 percent increase in mobile penetration produces a one percent increase in economic growth.
Looking toward the future, 2012 marks an important milestone in the ongoing quest for universal connectivity. Given the linear relationship between development and connectivity, it is more important than ever to enable the spread of affordable, high-quality broadband solutions across the entire socioeconomic spectrum.
Tiger Lu is chief representative, Hong Kong Representative Office of Huawei.
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