What can we expect in 2019 from the telecoms world?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Totojang1977 / Shutterstock)

2018 was a year dominated by two things: GDPR and Brexit. Both have continued into 2019 but they are unlikely to be the headlines, at least in the telecoms industry.  This is our look into our crystal ball to see what is likely to happen.

Brexit’s impact on roaming charges

We may as well start with Brexit. Nobody knows whether we are staying in, leaving with a deal or with no deal. Hopefully it will be sorted shortly, but you never know.  Roaming charges may be rearing their ugly head again, particularly if we leave with no deal.  Although the main mobile operators have said they have no current plans to change, that doesn’t mean it will be the same after March 29th. Planned government legislation sets a limit at £45 per month (unless you opt out) and a requirement for the operators to warn you before you go over your data usage allowance.  We will wait and see.

Sweden and Finland are the only EU countries in the top 5 telecommunications manufacturers, so we don’t know what impact Brexit will have on the costs and availability of Nokia and Ericsson hardware. Of course, we will have to get trade deals into place with China, the USA and Japan as well to put any certainty on the costs of the rest of the biggest manufacturers too!

5G

The UK lags behind other parts of the world, in terms of testing 5G, but it is happening.  EE announced, late last year, the first six cities they would be launching in: London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. As consumer equipment starts to appear in the shops (due in mid-late 2019), we will truly be able to see what difference there is between 4G & 5G.

Real life speeds

The marketing hype around 5G grows daily. If the speed claims continue to grow at the rate the marketing teams tell us, we’ll be able to download whole box sets before we’ve even thought about doing it! Claims of early speeds of 5Gbps, and climbing, will need to be proven. Once the networks are live to consumers and they are being properly load-tested, we expect real-life performance results to be down on the claims.

  • Huawei attained 970 Mbps at the beginning of 2018
  • AT&T tests showed on 194.9 Mbps download
  • Qualcomm’s real-life simulations delivered up to 717Mbps

Although expectations are that there may only be about one million 5G handsets on the streets by the end of the year, it will be interesting to see what speeds they see.

Who will hit the streets first?

None of us can use 5G without a device. Every major handset manufacturer is developing something, but we will have to wait and see which one hits the shops first. Huawei may have the P30 out first, or it could be Samsung with their S10. February’s Mobile World Congress Event will give us all an indication of the answer to this question.

More data please

Data consumption will continue to climb this year, most likely at a faster rate than every before. 2016 stats show 1.26Gb per user per month, climbing to 1.72Gb in 2017. Although we cannot find stats to prove this, we believe business users are consuming more data than consumers. At the time of writing, I’ve consumed an average of 7.1Gb of data per month over the last three months.

With the increasing cyber security threat, the use of mobile data, as opposed to Wifi, will increase dramatically. With mobile data becoming cheaper and cheaper, it simply isn’t worth the risk.

With the consumption of more data will the sharing your personal data with more organisations. Companies that are collecting and using that data will need to put into place even tighter security, as well as managing the data, proving that they are only collecting and keeping data they need. ROTten (Redundant, out of data or trivial) data can quickly build up. Not only does it need storing, it needs filtering and then deleting. This is to both stay within GDPR and to keep the confidence of their customers.

A marketing conundrum

There isn’t a telecoms company out there that doesn’t sell both mobile solutions and internet connectivity and this will lead to a conundrum.  For both consumers and SMEs, what products will they recommend?  The investment that’s been made to install fibre, both FTTC and FTTP, is going to be threatened by 5G. The investment made by Openreach and other providers, such as Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and Virgin Media, will be expected to deliver a return on investment, so what will they do?

For companies with high data requirements, the choice will still be a fixed line internet connection, whether that is fibre or copper. For small businesses with data needs, they will have a choice. For areas where high speed internet coverage is still poor, such as rural locations, out of town business parks and even some city centre areas, 5G will provide welcome relief to high cost copper-based solutions.

The death of the consumer landline

The number of homes in the UK with a landline has dropped by 3 per cent in the last 5 years. A further 24 per cent of households have a landline they never use.

With companies such as PwC removing landlines from all their UK offices, it is likely that the office landline will head in the same direction too.

For people who still like using a deskphone, the telecoms industry is developing devices to give them the experience of using a desk phone from their mobile.  Devices such as the ZigeeDock mean you have all the features – you just use your mobile to make the calls.

Much of what we’ve discussed here are things that will start in 2019, with most of the real impact taking places in the few years after that. They have been happening slowly for the last few years, but they will accelerate significantly over the coming twelve months. What do you think is going to happen?

Mike Ianiri, Director, Equinox
Image Credit: Totojang1977 / Shutterstock