There are few other sectors where the rate of innovation is so rapid and the ability to access and harness this information so expeditious that a time frame of one year seems like centuries. The ICT (in this case the telecommunications) sector, is one such area. There is no evidence to show that this rate of innovation is slowing down in any way and 2017 looks to be bringing in some fascinating new developments as well as the tools to improve on existing technologies.
We asked Andy Openshaw, CEO at Electronic Communications Network (Pty) Ltd (ECN) to give us his thoughts on some of the trends to anticipate in 2017.
What are some of the factors and trends that we will see impacting the South African ICT space in 2017?
1. Approval of the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper
The White Paper is an integrated and holistic policy that covers the ICT and postal sectors. It sets out the framework of how government wants to provide access to modern communications infrastructure and services to facilitate the entry of new players and meaningful participation of all citizens, including those in rural areas.*
“Certainly debate and discussion around this will be a hot topic. The paper, while it contains some good views on issues such as universal access and reducing the cost of communications and enhanced customer choice, it certainly has some contentious plans around the future management and control of the scarce spectrum resources. While some new entrants might support the proposed wireless open access network, the incumbent operators who have spent millions building their own networks would certainly push against this.” Says Andy.
2. Fibre Connectivity Land Grab
According to Andy, “with more options coming to the market bringing larger bundle offers and lower cost options, operator deployment models and margins will certainly come under pressure, however this will only serve to benefit the consumer.”
3. LTE (Long-Term Evolution)
“The role of LTE as last mile access technology will continue to become more popular due to its wider national availability off the major mobile networks, it provides a rapid and stable connectivity mechanism.” Says Andy
4. Price Decreases in the Voice Space
Andy believes that with the interconnect rate decrease cycle now over, the pressure on continual price decreases in the voice space, with the continued increase in equipment and service costs, could be over. He notes, “We are already seeing the cost of voice calls increasing in both the mobile and fixed line space from various operators. Those alternative operators who have not secured sufficient or substantial traffic volume will feel a strong business model squeeze.”
5. Internet of Things (IOT)
Although the Internet of Things (IoT) will be a continuous trend for years to come, not just in 2017, Andy believes that it will have a significant impact regardless: “The IoT is most certainly coming more to the fore, with low connectivity costs we will see more “things” connected to the internet to allow remote management or monitoring. More connections mean more data usage and more over-the-top offerings becoming available. This fundamentally will grow the Cloud and Cloud App offering space in the coming years.” Good news for consumers and businesses.
The Internet of Things or IoT is the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.**
6. Consolidation and Bundling
“Consolidation and bundling is a popular trend” says Andy “that is happening globally. Last month for example, AT&T announced that it is buying Time Warner, looking to secure content to deliver over its connectivity. This trend is equally as important in South Africa and is already being harnessed. An example is how ShowMax who are discounting their offerings to DSTV subscribers.”
How will these trends impact business in South Africa and how can businesses better prepare for these?
Andy believes that more competition is positive and will lead to better or wider offerings at better or bundled prices. Businesses will get more, be it in bits, seconds or service for their spend. Their overall ICT spend may increase but the added value they get will exceed the price change.
He advises that SA businesses need to understand the changing environment and apply the applicable changes to their own business models. This will allow them to reap the benefits of the new technologies. The best way to ensure they do not miss out on this is to collaborate with the right ICT partner who can guide them through this complex field.
When asked how he will navigate his own business through these continuously shifting waters, Andy has the following to say: “ECN will certainly be looking to take advantage of these new opportunities and evolving technologies, taking new offerings and services to our wide customer base via our equally as wide partner channel. Our area of play is connectivity, communications, content and cloud, all of which are addressable and enhanced by the 6 trends described above. We will look to grow in new areas either organically or by acquisition, as well as look to further consolidate and aggregate in our historical areas of business.”
It is no wonder then that ECN is one of the leading ICT partners in South Africa. Offering a broad set of cost effective voice, data and hosted services to meet customers ever growing technological needs, ECN is at the forefront of providing market leading voice solutions, business grade internet access and hosted service solutions.
**Brown, Eric (13 September 2016). “Who Needs the Internet of Things?” Linux.com. Retrieved 23 October 2016.