#1 Traditional Telephony: Advanced Services
Way back in 1993 I wrote a paper entitled Vision 2003 that dared to try and predict what the telecommunications would look like ten years in the future. I looked at ten core issues, telephony services was the first. I thought it might be fun to take a look at how much I got right and how much I got wrong! This is a cut down of the original version and I’ll mark the things I got right in green, things I got wrong in red.
Caveats: Although it is stating the obvious, it should be remembered that nobody knows the future and, even though we have used as many external attributable market forecasts from reputable market research companies as possible to size the opportunities, they in effect, know no more than ourselves. These forecasts should not be considered as being quantitative in the strictest sense of the word, but rather as qualitative in nature. Also, there is very little by way of available forecasts out to the year 2003 and certainly even fewer that talk about network revenues. You only need look back to 1983 and see whether the phenomenal changes that happened in the computer industry were forecasted to see that forecasting is a dangerous game.
Well I had to protect myself didn’t I?
As far as users are concerned, the differentiation between fixed and cellular networks will have completely disappeared and both will appear as a seamless whole. Although there will be still be a small percentage of the market still using the classical two-part telephone, most customers will be using a portable phone for most of their calls. Data and video services, as well as POTs, will be key business and residential services. Voice and computer capability will be integrated together and delivered in a variety of forms such as interactive TVs, smart phones, PCs, and PDAs. The use of fixed networks is cheap, so portable phones will automatically switch across to cordless terminals in the home or PABXs in the office to access the broad band services that cannot be delivered by wireless.
A good call on the dominance of mobile phones (It’s quant that I called them “portable phones”, I guess I was thinking of the house brick size phones of that era. The convergence of mobile and fixed phones still eludes us even in 2007 – now that really is amazing!
Network operators have deployed intelligent networks on a network-wide basis and utilise SDH together with coherent network-wide software management to maximise quality of service and minimise cost. As all operators have employed this technology, prices are still dropping and price is still the principal differentiator on core telephony services. Most individuals have access to advanced services such as CENTREX and network based electronic secretaries that were only previously available to large organisations in the early 1990s. Because of severe competition, most services are now designed for, and delivered to, the individual rather than being targeted at the large company. All operators are in charge of their own destiny and develop service application software in-house, rather than buying it from 3rd party switch vendors.
A real mixed bag here I think I was certainly right about the dominance of the mobile phone but way out about operators all developing their own service application software. I rabbited on for several pages about Intelligent (IN) networks bringing the the power of software to the network. This certainly happened but it didn’t lead to the plethora of new services that were all the rage at the time – electronic secretary services etc. What we really saw was a phenomenal rise in annoying services based on Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) – “Press 1 for….” then “Press n for…” and so loved by CFOs.
Customers, whether in the office or at home, will be sending significant amounts of data around the public networks. Simple voice data streams will have disappeared to be replaced with integrated data, signalling, and voice. Video telephony is taken for granted and a significant number of individuals use this by choice. There is no cost differential between voice and video.
All public network operators are involved in many joint ventures delivering services, products, software, information and entertainment services that were unimagined in 1993.
Tongue in cheek, I’m going to claim that I got a good hit predicting Next Generation Networks that integrate services on a single network. Wouldn’t it have been great if I had predicted that it would all be based on IP? It was a bit too early for this at the time. Wow, did I get video telephony wrong! This product sector has not even started, let alone taken off?
What did I really not see at all because it was way too into the future were free VoIP telephony services of course as discussed in Are voice (profits) history?
Next: #2 Integration of Information and the Importance of Data and Multimedia