The Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) practice at Deloitte today announced its predictions for the telecoms sector for 2007, forecasting that broadband appliances that do not need a PC will vastly increase Internet use.
Tony Cooper, telecoms partner at Deloitte, comments: “Future growth in Internet penetration will not be solely via a PC, but will instead be driven by a range of small, simple and relatively inexpensive broadband appliances, such as portable email devices and media players. There is an opportunity for technology companies to create a range of devices for such use, with an emphasis on mobility, such as Internet radio receivers, shopping terminals, handheld encyclopaedias, digital messaging devices and video security, all of which avoid the cost and complexity of a PC.
“Another key prediction for 2007 will be the intensification of the worldwide debate over net neutrality. Advocates of net neutrality argue that any attempts to prioritise traffic will undermine the fundamental freedom of the Internet. However future growth in the Internet and continued demands for greater bandwidth will require considerable investment in new infrastructure. Infrastructure owners argue that with continued net neutrality they will have little opportunity to recover some of the high costs needed to invest. To reach agreement, arguments for and against net neutrality will need to become less partisan and emotive.
“The biggest revenues and the best margins in the telecoms sector have come from services based on the smallest files and narrowest bandwidth. One of the most successful of these to date is text messaging, a service that generates at least three times the gross revenues of the entire global recorded music industry. In 2007, the most profitable and successful network operators will be those that identify and popularize mass-market, simple, narrowband applications.”
Three key trends identified in the report are:
The broadband appliances unlock the Internet
Internet penetration via PCs has reached saturation point. Future consumer penetration will be driven by innovation that does not centre on the PC. A range of small, specialist, simple and relatively inexpensive devices focused on driving demand for services and applications are likely to quickly be adopted by the mass market. The technology industry has the potential to exploit broadband appliances to make the Internet relevant to a greater part of the whole population.
The debate around net neutrality will become increasingly vocal and global in 2007. At issue is whether additional government regulation is necessary to protect the vibrancy and potential of the Internet. The debate relates to whether there is a need to preserve the ability of any Internet user to connect to any web site or service without discrimination or interference. But some ISPs and telecoms operators argue that they should be able to establish preferential carriage agreements to generate revenue. Balancing both the two sides of the debate will remain challenging. Something has to change in the economics of Internet access, such that network operators and ISPs can continue to invest in new infrastructure and maintain service quality, and consumers can continue enjoy the Internet as they know it today.
The killer kilobyte
In the telecommunications sector the biggest revenues and best margins have often come from services based on the smallest files and narrowest bandwidth (text messaging, mobile ringtones, voice). However the telecommunications industry focus may remain on high bandwidth applications based around large files (e.g. IPTV, mobile music downloads). As a result, many operators will overlook a larger opportunity sitting right under their noses. Bigger is not always better. Of most appeal to consumers will be kilobyte applications such as email, instant messaging, calendaring, online chat and other simple services that in combination make the mobile device the centre of gravity for all forms of communication.