Last week, I was asked by Voice & Data in India to contribute to an article they’re publishing in January on the “Top 10 Technologies in the last decade that have Transformed the Telecom Sector.” This was an interesting exercise for me, and really got me thinking.
While 10 years is not a huge amount of time, the past 10 years have quite possibly been the most incredible in terms of technological achievements in the telecom industry since the invention of the telephone. Yes, I know moving to digital from analog and the first wireless networks were innovative, but when looking at an entire 10 year span, the advancements are astounding. The telecom downturn of 2001 was, from my vantage point, worse than the recession of 2009. Even though it caused a lot of churn in the industry, it ultimately made the telecom industry stronger overall. This downturn caused many people to take stock at what was going on, and look for cost-effective solutions within technological achievements.
Now, as we stand on the cusp of 2011, we are seeing new advancements every day – things that were just getting started (or just dreamed about!) 10 years ago. Here is my list of the Top 10 Technologies that have transformed the telecom sector.
- Advent of VoIP. True telecom and internet convergence is possible because of VoIP, spurring incredible innovation. VoIP in the enterprise and VoIP in the service provider industry is now commonplace. “Triple play” cable services in your home would not be possible unless there was VoIP. “Skyping” would not be possible unless there was VoIP. Entire swaths of industry infrastructure would not exist, including VoIP gateways which are about $1B in market size each for enterprise and service provider, session border controllers and softwitches.
- Mobile networks through 2G, 2.5G and 3G. There will soon be the same number of cell phones on the planet as people.
- WiFi networks transform the computer to a mobile device.
- Broadband cellular experience due to 3G+ networks transforms the mobile device from just a phone to an extension of your computer.
- Smartphones. With more processing capability, bigger screens, increased battery life and the availability of applications and WiFi and broadband cellular, the smartphone is transforming the way people think about computing. I look at the iPad and to me, it’s a thin-client from the old days, albeit with a real compelling user interface.
- All of the above enable “over the top service providers” such as Google and Facebook to essentially enter the telecom industry.
- Fixed Mobile Convergence emerges. This emerged in many forms, but really the first successful one was the Blackberry. Being connected to your email via a phone was truly innovative, and enabled you to get your email anywhere, anytime.
- Mobile entertainment comes to your phone. Your phone is not just something to talk on or text with. Things like Color Ring Back Tones, interactive games and televoting have become popular Value Added Services that the industry makes money from.
- Location-Based Services via GPS tracking. These technologies now enable new services such as location-based advertising and “family locator” applications.
- Going back to point 1, Web APIs that enable Internet applications to much more easily handle telecom functions.
We’ve come a long way in the past 10 years…I can only imagine what I’ll be writing about in 2020