Predictions for 2004

After spending the best part of a couple of weeks away from my beloved broadband, I find myself with an almost unquenchable thirst for news and reviews that I may have missed out on during my time down south with just a simple CDMA connection to rely on.

I’ve found that I don’t have much of a job to come back to as internal wrangling over moving from one department to another have left me a little “underutilised” until it gets resolved. This is a mixed blessing as, while I can spend my time on the strategic stuff I was working on prior to Christmas, there is no clear desire for that work to be performed due to the departure of the manager for our little group of people. The transfers must be going ahead though as both myself and my colleague are now reporting to one of my colleagues team members who has been given the role of acting manager. Anyway � enough on that…

The lack of imminent work allows me time to not only reflect on and plan for my impending wedding it also gives me some leeway to catch-up on what I’ve missed over the Christmas break.

January is traditionally the time where all the industry commentators compare their past predictions with what happened in the previous year, and make a whole set of new predictions for the year ahead.

In keeping with this tradition (and starting the same tradition myself) I’m making the following predictions for 2004.


Ah yes, my December blog was supposed to have covered this in some detail, but, suffice it to say, the message got lost in the post (pun semi-intended). I believe that wireless devices will be come more mainstream this year as the 802.11 standards have been ratified and manufactures scramble over themselves to get devices to market including all those wonderful retro-fits which will enable us early adopters to get connectivity for our, now ageing, devices.
To achieve this penetration the industry will need:

  • Relevant content & services
  • An attractive price point (includes device AND bandwidth costs)
  • Ease of configuration
  • Connection security

Relevant content and services must be the enabler for effective uptake of wireless as, without something to use it for, the technology is pointless.

In a similar vein, the price point for both wireless enabled devices and, possibly more importantly, access but be within reach of the average consumer. If the devices are cheap but the access is prohibitively priced then devices will still be bought, it’s just they won’t be used to their full potential as the wireless side of the technology will not be utilised until such times as it’s affordable.
The ease of configuration is a tricky one, while early adopters are fairly tech-literate, the penetration into the market depends on pretty much a click and go philosophy. I’m not sure if it’s that we’ve been ‘dumbed down’ by the installation ease demanded by the newbie’s to computers and delivered by our friendly Mr Gates or if indeed technology honestly should be easier, but suffice it to say, if it can’t be plugged in and/or turn on and work then we’re in for an uphill battle. Users lose interest REAL quick and take a long time to be coaxed back into trying again. This issue is/will be compounded by the inability to access in “mesh” context, rather, requiring users to re-authenticate, possibly with different credentials, at every access
point they encounter.
Security should be top-of-mind for every user, but the simple fact is, it isn’t. Perhaps it’s the ‘dumbing down’ I referred to earlier or maybe people just don’t care about their data/identities. I suspect it’s a bit of both and, much like a hard drive crash to a backup policy, it’ll take something extraordinary to change peoples mindsets. We’re already seeing a bit of a turnaround when we look at email attachments and user behaviour, but it more of a vendor focus to change the way people use their gear, and in the interim I suspect
we’ll have to live with whatever can be shoehorned into default settings
without affecting that ever important ease of configuration.

Local Loop Unbundling

I pretty much cover this in my December blog so I’ll save some bandwidth by directing you there. I do think that the LLU will end up going ahead in New Zealand, however I believe this will be more of a vote buying exercise than an honest attempt to get broadband access to the masses and open the market to innovation. If it was my call to make I’d be inclined to legislate that broadband coverage must be available to 90% of the residents of the country at an affordable rate within 3 years and available to the entire country by say, 2008, mainly because it’s a nice round number than any external influences.
I’d say with this kind of motivation along with some financial backing in the right areas to fund innovative approaches to the task, we’d get there in time. I think the bun fight that will take place if LLU goes ahead will not only remove the focus from where it should be (i.e. providing broadband access to all citizens) but it will also cost a huge amount which could be invested in other ways toward the same end goal. Let’s not forget that if it was any other company who was incumbent on the local loop they would be doing exactly that same thing to protect their position.

PDA / Smart Device Penetration / Phone Wars

Smart Device Penetration – sounds really painful right? I’m predicting that smart devices will become more prevalent, following the lead of those crappy pxt phones. People will want them because they’re there and yet, unlike pxt, there is some real benefit to the technology that the smart devices will make avalible.
You will be seeing a real toe-to-toe battle between the big names in this area in 2004 as each tries to buy the market into it’s version of what is essentially the same technology. While it might be nice to have a pretty blue phone that plays Oh Fortuna when the mother-in-law calls, whilst allowing you to roam all the way around the world (very few of us do), the killer app will not really be an app at all, it will be the enablement of content. And that is where the battle will be won, who can get the best content and services to the people at an affordable price.

Home Entertainment

Home Entertainment will be where the push comes from in regards to getting broadband to consumers and convincing them to undergo a full technology refresh.
It is the easiest way to catch the attention of the public, give them some ‘wow-factor’ and build the need/desire for the latest stuff. The backbone for this will be wireless networking, very few people are like me (which is good) and because of that (average people simply don’t run CAT5 through their walls) wireless is *the* way to get multiple devices into the home environment and talking to each other. The more devices that you can get into the home the more services can be sold, the more services that can be sold the more bandwidth will be consumed – do you see where this is going? The providers win any which way you cut it, if the technology is subsidised it will be based on service subscription, if the service subscription is subsidised it will be based on the bandwidth required to drive it, if the bandwidth is subsidised it will be based on the services subscribed to. At the end of the day both the hardware and the services suppliers have a very nice earner.

I have a 31 year relationship with television. If I can be exposed to new content and services via devices which plug easily into, and are controlled from, my television then it’s the perfect way to generating new revenue streams using an appliance that pretty much every home has and is comfortable with. Try getting the same engagement via a PC. Traditional telecommunications companies profits are continuing to shrink as the products they offer get marginalised by advances in technologies and the resulting cost savings that can be enjoyed, and supplied, by almost everyone. Content and content services may well be the lifeline that these companies can use to stay alive. Those that can’t get their heads around the shift will almost certainly go under.
At the end of the day we’ll be able to have one entry point for broadband, feeding multiple devices from hard wired PCs to portable notebooks, to wireless audio/visual components in the lounge, all sharing the same bandwidth, all able to access a pool of content either from the PC or from the service provider/internet as a whole and all using devices and interfaces that the consumer feels comfortable with.

I’ll see you next January and we’ll see how well I did[n’t] do