IT & Telecom Trends in 2007

I’ve been asked to give my thoughts on what trends are likely to emerge during 2007 in the Information and Communications Technology market. As usual, this will be a mix of “duh, of course, what do you think!” type stuff and some “what are you smoking” ideas that may well be way off the mark!Here goes:Obviously the desktop hardware technology “refresh” will get going as IT budgets are approved and laptop and desktops using Intel’s new super fast core 2 duo chip’s start hitting corporate desks in earnest; followed closely by the early adopters of Microsoft’s much awaited new operating system ‘Vista’. (The more cautious of us will wait for Service Patch 1 or even 2 to appear!)On the bandwidth front – Broadband, now far from broad, will continue to drop in price, but I doubt as much as we have seen in the last 18 months. MTN have created a new benchmark with their new offering at around R0.20/MB. It would appear to be a limited duration half-price special, but shows what can be done!Sentech announced they’re providing more bang for buck; lets hope they get their service offering right this time. Vodacom then dropped their price (by 61% according to their ads) after being almost double everyone else’s price. iBurst also dropped their pricing, but remain more expensive than Sentech for equivalent packages. The unlicensed players like Amobia and Uninet are still an order of magnitude cheaper but don’t have the coverage advantage. It is all a bit confusing for the man in the street, but ultimately these changes will make getting online and staying there permanently, more affordable. Offerings should start to differentiate on quality (reliability of throughput) and you should be able to get fixed IP addresses – currently not available to ADSL users. This will facilitate hooking up remote offices for voice and data over IP.More telco’s will announce moves to converge their voice and data networks onto IP based New Generation Networks like British Telecom’s 21st Century Network project. This will make networks more intelligent and flexible, but will unfortunately not impact on customers for some time to come.Video on Demand is growing overseas (where real broadband exists) – people are prepared to pay a premium over the likes of Mr Video et al to choose their viewing for the evening from their armchair. Don’t hold your breath here – we’re too spread out geographically to make it profitable just yet. And Telkom still dominates the local loop.IPTV is being touted by vendors as the next big thing. Again, dependent on broadband, and ownership of content will be key! It will not be over the Internet, but over managed IP networks.Music and video downloads, both legal and illegal, continue to grow. More cell phones with better mp3 players will eventually make people wonder why they have a CD player, but probably not this year! Apple’s iPhone will develop a cult following but will hardly make a dent in Nokia’s global market dominance.Instant Messaging (IM) will continue to grow. Local mobile phone based instant messaging service, MXIT (Think MSN messenger on your phone) will find ways of “growing up” and becoming more respectable. IM will start making deeper inroads into corporate culture with IT managers needing to develop policies on IM usage.WiMAX equipment will drop in price as the economies of scale kick in and more networks other than Sprint Nextel in the USA do mass roll-outs. It will continue to disappoint those who believed all the hype w.r.t. 70Mbps @ 70 miles @ 70mph. Some Meshed WiFi networks will appear here in SA, whether legal or not, and we’ll continue to see a LAN technology play in open spaces it was never intended for. Unlicensed Mobile Access, with VoWiFi phones following along behind, causing Mobile Networks to get edgy.Spectrum is being fiercely fought over. It is a scarce resource and it is unlikely that anyone other than a few established players will get licences. There will be many frustrated wannabes.Municipal networks are coming to the fore, with the Cape Town tender awarded, but challenged, eThekweni ready to roll but caught up with legalities, and City of Joburg now out on tender. They are unlikely to have any real impact this year. They do not really have much of a sustainable advantage in the long run, as they will have to allow others access to infrastructure and will find that building a telco is not trivial.The Mobile networks will announce HSUPA with great fanfare. Mobile broadband will then be about as broad as it gets for a while, but as up- and down-load speeds will be around 5Mbps, it will make quadplay (or fourplay?) possible – mobile/voice/internet/video.Mobile interconnect prices are due to come down by 20 to 25% shortly. This should allow Telkom to drop the price of calls to mobile phones – whether they will pass on the full benefit or not will have to be seen. Mobile packages are unlikely to change as a result though. Least Cost Routing will become more and more marginal and the shift to Communication Service Providers using VoIP will be become more obvious.Asterisk, the open source “IPPBX” will continue to make some serious inroads into the PBX market, with damage being done at a “higher level” in the market than originally proposed – medium to large corporates instead of SME’s. Watch the call centres here – they’re the weather vane of change.Hosted IPPBX’s will start emerging as broadband improves and investors in some of the early VoIP entrants who committed large capex in these sorts of solutions seek to get ROI moving.Social Networking using web based applications like MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, blogs, Second Life etc will become more widely known and used as people get used to being online 24*7. We’re seeing South African flavours of these appearing.DSL and SSL VPN’s will become more popular as DSL prices drop and quality improves and mobile broadband grows. Business will seek help to set up and manage increasingly complex networks of devices.As broadband improves in throughput, price and reliability, ASP services will become more popular, with companies seriously considering (but possibly not committing to just yet) such things as Getting Things Done, Gmail and Office packages from the likes of Google rather than Microsoft (from one evil empire to another!?).VoIP [http://www.storm.co.za/voip2.q] will start emerging as more than just a cost saving exercise with some of the first real value adds starting to come through, with integration into calendars, address books, CRM’s and PBX’s.There will be a lot of consolidation in the next few years, with bigger players buying smaller, more niche players to fulfill the need to have broader voice and data offering.Oh, and Neotel will start taking on Telkom in the retail market and Infraco will make its clumsy and controversial way onto the stage…

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