The telecoms sector in the UK is at a critical juncture with many large scale infrastructure projects going on and the debate about what is and what isn’t healthy competition. Here are just a few of the bigger trends taking place.
Rural broadband rollout
With many in rural parts of the UK still struggling to get decent broadband speeds the UK government’s plan to rollout high-speed broadband to 95 per cent of the country and bring the most isolated communities up to 2mbps has come under fire of late.
A report from the UK’s National Audit Office in 2013 found the scheme, which was started in 2011 to be two years behind schedule.
With the scheme’s existing Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) solution failing to impact the most remote areas due to the continued reliance on existing copper cables, expect to see a spurt of smaller technology and network providers such as satellite, femtocells tech (such as Vodafone’s Rural Open Signal) and hybrid network solutions pumping out local wifi from subsidised access points.
Investment in fibre broadband infrastructure
As well as investment in rural broadband, Virgin Media has announced it is investing £3 billion into developing its fibre broadband network over the next five years.
The company is calling on businesses and households to register their interest through its website.
The plan won’t really impact rural areas or smaller towns but the economic boost to many UK businesses could be huge on an investment this big, which is clearly designed to head off competition from BT, who spent half a billion less than this on getting FTTC to two thirds of the country.
And don’t forget Talk Talk and Sky. The competition is clearly on.
Increase in adoption of VoIP
VoIP telephony continues to go from strength to strength, with the popularity of both hosted telephony and SIP Trunking amongst businesses of all sizes.
Key to this growth are the cost, flexibility and scalability advantages VoIP offers and a dramatic improvement in general reputation after the call quality issues of what now seems like the distant past.
Fundamental to the popularity of VoIP is an ever increasingly mobile workforce, which is reliant on freelancers, consultants and contractors that are often hotdesking, away from the office or working at home.
This uptake isn’t limited to large companies either, as we see more and more SMEs opt for affordable VoIP solutions like hosted telephony.
Research from Cavell has found that providers are now looking to expand internationally, with scale starting to be reached by certain players. The research also found that indirect channels are finally starting to take off.
Finally, despite slower than expected uptake of SIP Trunking, we are seeing an increase in smaller companies with no existing legacy infrastructure buying into the technology.
As education around the advantages of SIP Trunks over ISDN continues we can expect to see this trend continue.
Ofcom’s increasing presence in the industry
A marked shift in the UK’s regulatory environment has been Ofcom’s increasing role in the industry, as it seeks to protect consumer’s rights and see off potential competition issues.
First on the consumer rights issue, the regulator has made sure all 0800 and 0808 numbers are now free to call from any mobile and making sure all advertising around 0845 and other standard rate numbers clearly explain costs before a consumer calls so as to avoid unexpected charges.
Ofcom has also recently announced how it plans to help subscribers quit their broadband provider in the first three months without incurring fees if their broadband speeds are consistently too low.
With the internet increasingly being seen as a basic utility and therefore a right not a privilege we can expect more of this kind of regulatory intervention in the future.
In its continuing bid to improve competition in the sector, Ofcom also plans to open up BT’s fibre optic cables to competitors like Talk Talk and Vodafone, allowing them to piggy back their technology either end of the cable, a setup known as dark fibre.
Continued expansion of the Internet of Things
No summary of telecom trends would be accurate without mentioning the pace of development of devices connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT).
A report in 2015 from IDTechEx Ltd looking into business opportunities over the next decade has found the potential for an entire industry to grow out of converting networks to IP and implementing security for legacy systems in the coming years.
It also found that devices are primarily to be fitted with microcontrollers, be sensor network orientated, with RFID is hardly involved at all.
A new buzzword to watch out in the coming years could be the Intuitive Internet of Things (I2oT); which postulates the connection of so many people and things that data collected can be stored in the cloud and used to manage sustainability and safety of our world in real time wherever we are in it.
Finally Google has launched its new IoT operating system Brillo at the San Francisco I/O conference. Brillo hopes to make it easier for developers to create IoT-ready devices by bringing IoT devices together under a single platform.
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