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PTC Eye on Trends
Video and Mobility Take Center Stage
by Mark Hukill, Senior Advisor, Pacific Telecommunications Council

"The PTC conference in January could not be better timed. Asia is where the major growth is and the Pacific has taken over from the Atlantic as the centre of telecom action. New innovations, explosion of video, rollout of broadband Internet have all combined to create an explosive demand for domestic and international communications. The industry leaders from operators, suppliers, academia, the Internet and content world will come together to meet, hear and discuss how each can carve a role for themselves in the current bonanza. So whether it is submarine cables, satellites, global connectivity, regional and island Internet development, the impact of video or other facets of the industry, the PTC conference in Hawaii will be the place to be in January."— John Hibbard, Member, PTC Board of Governors and CEO, Hibbard Consulting, Australia

It was bound to happen: full convergence in practice. We are moving well beyond the initial service and market testing of triple play features; Beyond robust, widespread and competitive mobile voice and text; Beyond the very significant changes in music, news and other media/entertainment distribution across a host of telecommunications, broadcasting and ICT networks. Now, the extensive use of video in all forms and across all networks of communication, as well as the demand for high levels of enterprise and user mobility, are defining the new core of telecommunications.

From YouTube to enterprise video communications on-demand, the shape of telecommunications networks and their interconnection are being radically altered. The integration of previously separate services and the staggeringly massive inter-combination of entire industries, including telecoms, broadcasting and information, are coalescing around the Internet and digital airwaves, across undersea cable and satellites, from carriers to network peering to homes and offices, and indeed onto all IP platforms. And users are doing what they want, in their own way.

Mergers and alliances continue apace. Acquisitions and expansions are global in nature. In addition to the usual push from Western countries, Asian telcos are now investing heavily elsewhere, including Africa. New partnerships and multiple partner projects abound. Market opportunities in rapidly expanding economies are plentiful. A mix of private investment and public funding is reaching lesser-served regions with more appropriate technologies tuned to local conditions. Regulation may not be keeping pace and it probably cannot, but it may at least not get in the way. It may even, in a rare fit of inspiration, provide a reasonable guide to promote further development, investment and a clear explication of market frameworks.

The result? Far more users are actually getting what they want at a price they can afford. Advanced integrated service offerings across mature markets, with innovative delivery of personalized information and entertainment, are quickly becoming the order of the day. Even more dramatically, there are now a half billion more mobile subscribers worldwide, largely in lesser developed countries, where there was hardly any telecom access at all just a few years ago.
Is this the dawn of a true transformation in telecommunications? It is now five years since the greatest downturn ever experienced in the industry.
"The boom-bust cycle raises the question of what's in store over the next few years given we seem to be on the crest of a wave. Will it crash or will we all be able to surf it for another five years at least?" —John Hibbard

Despite the usual overly optimistic hype that surrounds many trends, there indeed appears to be a new foundation for the future of the industry. That foundation is being built on broadband, intelligent end-to-end IP networks, both fixed and mobile, all with the robust capability to securely integrate all digital services and applications, including capacity-hungry video. Whether for location-based services, personal and social networks, gaming, entertainment, or business needs, the proliferation of interactive video in telecommunications will bring us to a new scale of operation. This new scale is several orders of magnitude greater than previously provided.

Business models abound to take advantage of services and applications using various combinations of transaction fees, subscriptions and advertising. Mobile communications as a social and business platform will expand rapidly. Mobile devices are not only becoming full scale interactive information, entertainment and communications centers, but they may soon become our wallets too, as consumer payment and banking systems via mobile networks evolve. No one provider has all the solutions. No one entity can provide the necessary flexibility to accommodate all users and the multiple forms of applications demanded, indeed even created by users. Cooperation is as much a necessity as competition is a driver.

There is also new momentum for understanding the important role of telecommunications and ICTs to enhance knowledge sharing that promotes social and economic development. Such knowledge development is a key part of building civil societies. Practical partnership efforts at the local level have been particularly effective at providing appropriate systems and services, including building both human and technical capacity, heretofore unavailable in rural, remote and lesser developed areas.

Today, there is unprecedented opportunity in telecommunications, and as ever, plenty of challenges. PTC'08 trumpets the theme "Telecom with Vision", taking advantage of its dual meaning of the significant development of interactive video and a view toward the future.

Reflecting on all this information, John Hibbard, quoted above, has responded by raising a number of questions that lead us to Honolulu for PTC'08:
  • Will the demographics of what has restored our industry and driven growth in all sectors change, and if so where, and with what impact?
  • How can the Pacific leverage the current boom to position itself for the future?
  • Where is the money currently being made? Will video be the new cash generator or will it still be voice?
As telecommunications and ICTs weave ever deeper into the global fabric of human endeavor, what indeed is our vision?

See you in January at PTC08! Registration and additional information.

About Pacific Telecommunications Council
Open new markets, uncover new resources, strengthen relationships, build your knowledge base, network with industry leaders, and make a difference on improving the quality of life in the Pacific Hemisphere.

If this sounds like an ambitious agenda…it is! The Pacific Telecommunications Council and its international community of members offer you a tool for expediting the accomplishment of your organization’s critical goals. Through a network of members extending across 40 nations, PTC promotes the development and use of telecommunications and ICT (information and communications technologies) to enhance communications in the Pacific hemisphere. PTC does business and is located in Honolulu, Hawaii.