It wouldn’t be the last working day of the year without the good old predictions piece so here are a bunch we got together from assorted telecoms industry luminaries. It should be noted that 2020 is also the year in which all predictions pieces will have to find a new metaphor/play-on-words for being able to see into the future, which will be tough for everyone.

Reality bites

My key prediction is that 2020 will be the year realism finally hits. After years of hoping that 5G will miraculously lead to increased profit for the equipment providers and mobile operators, in 2020 it will be increasingly clear to investors that this is not going to be so and indeed it might actually reduce profits. Altnets will have to start demonstrating they can deploy fibre networks at scale and at a speed to match incumbents, and many will be found lacking. Quite how realism will manifest itself is hard to know. Keep an eye on those share prices and stay away from the Kool-Aid.

William Webb, Telecoms Consultant.


Fibre stimulation and content aggregation

Fibre build will be stimulated but the valuation of fibre businesses has so limited the investment players that the price of fibre companies has topped out and we’ll see consolidations. The stimulation of fibre means that 5G in new areas will become more possible, and SMEs and local initiatives will use it to do things the MNOs haven’t thought of or didn’t think of as profitable. The amount of roads being dug for fibre on top of all the other utility digs will bring all of London, Manchester and Birmingham traffic to a standstill at least once, hopefully not simultaneously.

TV content aggregation will become a key battleground as the myriad of service and bundling options (Britbox, Now, AppleTV, Amazon, Netflix, Disney, etc etc) starts to drive viewers round the bend and into bankruptcy.  This means smart rights owners will start to disaggregate their content on the basis of micropurchases per episode, maybe even per view and the provider of the best EPG may well be able to own the viewer and a portion of their data and advertising revenues without needing to spend billions on content.

Ros Singleton, UK5G Chair


Consumers will say “meh” to 5G

Much of 5G marketing is as we might expect it to be. One operator is hyping it as offering speed “like you’ve never seen before”, with an “instant connection” to the content you love most. Another touts “ultra-fast speeds and ultra-low latency”. But the reality is that the main benefits of 5G are complex and not best communicated with such simple messages. In fact, to date, there’s no real evidence that consumers are terribly interested in 5G, and the current rhetoric claiming that the technology is offers faster speeds than ever before is unlikely to change that. Instead, we’ll see operators focus on enterprise customers as early adopters of the technology, and rather than emphasising the speed of 5G, we’re likely to see marketing focus on 5G benefits for specific use cases.

Gavin Hayhurst, Product Marketing Lead, TEOCO


A move to speed-based pricing for mobile

The fact that operators aren’t charging a premium for 5G services currently does not mean they can’t in future. The fixed broadband world has offered speed-based pricing for some time and it stands to reason that mobile operators will continue to follow suit. 5G enhanced mobile broadband does offer considerable improvements in network speeds and capacity and consumers are increasingly used to paying more for the best connectivity. Industry analyst group, CCS Insight, predicts that most 5G operators will move to speed-based pricing by 2021. This will be especially true of operators looking to offer converged mobile broadband and fixed wireless access connectivity in a 5G age.

Niall Norton, CEO, Openet


The rise of the private network

There will be a rise of 5G private networks in the next 2 years in many cases with involvement of operators. A private 5G network is a local area network (LAN) that will use 5G technology to build and create a network. The network thus created is expected to carry along all the features of 5G network including reduced latency and higher speeds. Private networks for enterprises will be the most direct option for large businesses that want to benefit from 5G capabilities. However these networks may be offered by CSPs or directly by infrastructure and cloud and other software vendors.  Businesses, especially those involved in manufacturing and other industries, are looking forward to using private 5G networks to get high-level granular views on their sales and operations. Operations and monetization of these networks will be key to success of these networks.

Ari Banerjee, VP of Strategy at Netcracker


Telcos fully evolve their focus from NFV to cloud native

Regardless of the number of public cloud partnership announcements we continue to see, operators will continue to heavily invest their resources into evolving to cloud native principles. This includes the shift from VNFs to CNFs irrespective of the choice to leverage public cloud platforms or not. This shift and investment to cloud native is what will enable dynamic network capabilities, and massively streamline the cost and time to market for digital services. So, there will be less hype around ‘cloud’ itself, and much greater focus on cloud native evolution happening inside the carriers’ data centers.

Jennifer Kyriakakis, Co-founder and VP, Marketing, MATRIXX Software


eSIM devices and 5G to stimulate the launch of pure digital parallel brand businesses

 The pressure for moving faster to digital, automated businesses and turning new technologies like eSIM and 5G services into tangible consumer propositions will further drive operators to launch parallel brand propositions. There will be a fully focused mission to deliver excellence in digital self-care, without the constraints of legacy BSS systems and old business processes.

Jukka Heiska, VP Business Development, Qvantel


Let’s learn to play nice again

Policymakers should work to build a consensus with industries, businesses and other nations to reinforce the principles of free trade and rejuvenate the global trading system. Tariff barriers have reduced global commerce and international co-operation and this has had an indirect and damaging impact on cyber security. Policy makers and business should come together to reinvigorate the global trading system and agree strong, new cyber security rules that apply to all – supported by robust monitoring mechanisms that help build confidence.

Victor Zhang, President, Global Government Affairs, Huawei


5G indoor coverage will gather momentum

In 2020, building owners will request that current wireless coverage systems be easily upgradeable to 5G. This offers the perfect, cost-effective solution. Venue owners and operators want longevity and ROI for purchases; what they don’t want is to have to buy a whole new system in a year or two, as demand for 5G in-building coverage grows. From a technical standpoint, upgrading platforms to 5G will mean wider frequency bands (e.g. 400MHz in band 3.5). I expect 3.5GHz to be in most indoor environments, however, this will not increase coverage: 3.5GHz is all about boosting capacity.

Info Flomer, VP Business Development and Technology, Cobham Wireless


Innovation in spectrum will enable the rise of new 5G players

5G will see new, disruptive players entering the market in smart cities, IoT devices and private networks. All these new players will also require spectrum, driving innovation in regulation and allocation. Multiple countries, including the USA, Japan, Germany and the UK are already regulating bands of spectrums to be available through shared and priority access, and to be dedicated to enterprise applications. But in 2020, as 5G begins to takes hold, this will encourage innovation, disruption, and competition in that market. Traditional CSPs will evolve to open cloud networks, network sharing, network slicing and new spectrum to attain the cost structures, agility and innovation to compete in 5G.

Angela Logothetis, CTO of Amdocs Open Network


Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson will lose out to open-minded vendors

As we enter the 5G era, the traditional, closed model for building the RAN is no longer sustainable. In developed markets, the race to deliver 5G is in full swing and operators are spending considerable amounts building out their next generation networks. They need a new approach that will allow them to deploy and cost-effectively run 5G technology efficiently alongside their 2G, 3G an 4G networks. 2019 saw significant moves towards OpenRAN, illustrated by Vodafone’s announcement that it would be opening its entire RAN in Europe to OpenRAN vendors during TIP Summit. In 2020, the momentum behind OpenRAN will continue to grow as other operators realise it can help them reduce costs, drive more competition between technology vendors, and stimulate higher levels of innovation in the industry.

Steve Papa, CEO at Parallel Wireless


Cloud partnerships and super-aggregation

I think the recent partnerships between cloud computing behemoths and network operators – Amazon and Verizon and AT&T and Microsoft being particularly notable – will accelerate innovation applicable to the full spectrum of cloud-dependent services and applications, more effectively supporting latency-sensitive use cases than ever before. We’ve been speculating about 5G use cases for some time and these edge-computing-enabled 5G networks will offer the first large scale environments in which to test, prove and deploy the wild innovations which will eventually define the 5G era. They also pose some interesting questions around the how value chains will form around the use cases which eventually scale.

CSPs who integrate the most popular video services into a single aggregated platform – offering federated capabilities such as payments and billing, search and recommendation, ad sales and targeting, subscriber retention, video data distribution, audience data analytics, etc, to all partnered video services – will offer a better UX and achieve better retention and usage rates compared to offering them separately. Integrating Netflix into a partner’s UI, billing system and bundling strategy has been commonplace for a while and we’d expect that to extend to more and more services. One CSP described it to me as “operating the mall, not the shop” but because Analysts need to give fancy names to things to charge more to talk about them, we call it “super-aggregation”.

Ed Barton, Chief Analyst, Entertainment at Ovum


The Balkanisation of the business world

There’s no way US President Donald Trump, who seems likely to be re-elected in 2020, and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, who has dispensed with the inconvenience of elections entirely, will give any ground to each other in the foreseeable future. As a consequence the trend established this year for waging a cold war via trade and business will continue. Chinese telecoms giant Huawei was the focus of this activity in 2019 and it will be joined by others from both countries, with companies becoming bundled in with trade tariffs as the great global pissing competition escalates. China is already moving towards national self-reliance in PCs and other industries are bound to follow. The US will reciprocate and regions such as Europe will increasingly be asked to pick a team. 2020 may mark the high-water mark for globalisation as China and the US increasingly seek to become self-reliant in order to deprive each other of chips to use in the great geopolitical game.

Scott Bicheno, Telecoms.com Editor


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