Colin Sempill, Managing Director at SSE Enterprise Telecoms, says there is plenty of momentum in the telecoms sector and that new technological developments will help drive a number of changes throughout the industry this year as he explains to Ian Hunter.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): There are many new technologies reaching critical points in their journey to maturity each of which will generate huge volumes of data. Will network operators be able to cope with these additional demands?
Colin Sempill (CS): With mobile data usage set to skyrocket over the next few years, forecasts show UK users could end up consuming a staggering 18GB of data a month. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) will need to provide this, as consumers and businesses (not to mention technologies like smart city devices) increasingly rely on high-speed access.
MNOs also need to continue preparing for the advent of 5G, with a number of 5G-compatible devices set to arrive throughout 2019. As it stands, EE currently has the most spectrum overall, following the 5G spectrum auction in April 2019. But with an additional 116Mhz of spectrum set to be auctioned off in late 2019 – including spectrum in even higher bandwidths – this could change, with all four major networks keen to establish themselves as 5G leaders.
Of course, the rollout of 5G will also rest heavily on a robust level of investment into infrastructure – and with European tech giants already concerned that this isn’t happening, 2019 will likely see MNOs and telecoms companies calling for further vital investment.
CBM: To this we need to add the rise of IoT and emergence of smart cities?
CS: Smart cities, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) – these technologies will revolutionise the way we live. Heavily dependent on 5G networks to work effectively, and therefore the deployments we expect to see develop throughout 2019, we expect to see momentum around these technologies develop as cities have their 5G capabilities switched on. To function successfully, smart cities and IoT devices will rely on a proliferation of high-bandwidth, low latency connections. Meaning, whatever method this ends up being delivered through, the telecoms industry will be called upon to provide this. So, 2019 should see a great deal of investment and innovation in this area.
CBM: Could innovative digital technologies save the high street?
CS: It’s certainly been a challenging year for the high street, with both small retailers and big-name department stores having faced significant store closures, including well-known brands such as House of Fraser. To survive in 2019 and beyond, retailers will need to enhance their in-store experience – and it’s not just a case of offering in-store WiFi. Digital innovations, like augmented reality and Near-Field Communication (NFC), could transform the world of physical shopping. But again, this will require high-speed, robust connectivity, so telcos will need to be ready to provide this.
Whatever happens in physical stores, a brand’s digital offering will continue to become more important. More businesses may move away from physical premises and the costs associated with this (from core networks to rents and business rates), relying instead on digital services delivered over the cloud. As the requirements of business customers change, so too do telcos to ensure they can support the ever-changing retail environments.
Supporting the growth in demand for data
The connecting factor is the way our world works is set to become ever more digitally driven, and with all of these developments comes a growing demand for high-bandwidth, low latency and secure data connectivity. The telecoms industry will play a huge part in enabling this – so everybody needs to be prepared to innovate and invest in order to make this happen.
Data volumes are set to grow even faster and the industry certainly faces many challenges in handling these increased volumes. SSE Enterprise Telecoms is doing its part and has committed to unbundle an additional 177 BT exchanges over the next two years, growing their network by 132% and enabling them to reach an additional 180,000 UK business postcodes. This, they say, will enable over 435,000 businesses to improve their connectivity speeds up to 100Gbps.