Telecoms is set to undergo several seismic shifts next year. There are industry moves, such as BT’s acquisition of EE, Hutchinson Whampoa’s acquisition of O2, possible changes to the ownership of Openreach. There are technological changes coming; a growth in software-defined networks, the standardisation of wireless being two examples.
CBR spoke to ten exclusive industry sources to get their views on where the market is going.
1. Customers will demand more visibility over their network services
Duncan Gooding, Director of Major Account, TalkTalk Business, said:
"Delivering this shift to a digital economy is the Next Generation Network, which for businesses has moved from being a peripheral consideration to a fundamental IT service. As more objects are connected, with trends like the Internet of Things and Bring Your Own Device, the need for a fast, flexible and reliable network is only compounded.
"Increasingly, companies are looking to move away from legacy systems to a more software defined network, with access to real-time information to inform these strategic decisions. Most importantly, by operating as a more agile business, they are demanding greater flexibility not only from their partners but from the services they require to deliver this change.
"In 2016, we expect businesses to look for greater visibility over what they’re paying for and greater control over how they use and manage services, such as a network, which is so essential in enabling their own digital transformation and ultimately, their next chapter."
2. BT will hold onto Openreach
Matthew Hare, CEO at Gigaclear, said:
"BT will complete the purchase of EE, moving its focus to ‘Mobile and Media’. This will involve launching a range of new bundled fixed-mobile-media services and levering a new "HomeHub" which incorporates a personal 4G base station.
"I don’t believe Openreach will be split from the BT Group. BT will agree to substantially increase its capital and operating expenditure on Openreach, to improve the network quality and capacity.
"Virgin Media will start to make an impact with ‘Project Lightning’ mostly focused on in-filling around the edge of its existing network footprints, building to over 250,000 new properties in the process during the year."
3. Satellite broadband hits the mainstream
Neil Fraser, Satellite Lead, ViaSat, said:
"From 2016 satellite broadband will be considered together with fibre and 4G by IT decision makers future-proofing their organisations. We are likely to see the IT market’s understanding of satellite maturing, seeing it as another way to overcome connectivity challenges and help keep up with constantly increasing demands for capacity.
"This will only become more pronounced as business and consumer demands outstrip the current level of broadband capacity in the years ahead. For instance, we will see satellite technology increasingly used to serve workforces in remote locations and, in tandem with other technologies like fibre and 4G, to provide greater resilience for critical communications.
"Satellite is becoming more cost effective year on year and will have an important role from 2016; bridging gaps in connectivity and getting broadband to more business users worldwide."
4. Steps towards 5G
Joe Marsella, CTO EMEA at Ciena said:
"While we are not ready for a launch of mainstream 5G services just yet, the industry is preparing. Impressive plans for 5G suggest it will require 1,000 times more bandwidth, 100 per cent coverage and 99.99 per cent availability, all essential given that 21 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices are expected to active by 2020.
"In anticipation backhaul and core networks need to be strengthened and made more efficient – to carry both the throughput as well as the number of concurrent devices. In particular, software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) provide opportunities to utilise unused capacity more effectively as well as a means to consolidate services over a single underlying network infrastructure.
"With SDN and NFV, network operators will accelerate and automate service delivery across both virtual and physical domains. 2016 will lay the groundwork for 5G’s inception, seeing service providers investing in cellular data network backhaul and core network infrastructure, as well as embrace SDN and NFV for faster service enablement. "
5. Wireless gets standardised
Tris Simmons, Senior Product Marketing Manager EMEA, NETGEAR, said:
"As the number of devices using the wireless network continues to explode, we can expect to see a much more rapid increase in businesses adopting 802.11ac wireless standards.
"This will accelerate in 2016, where we can expect to see a downward trend in the older 802.11n standard devices, as organisations using 802.11g, make the decision to move directly on to 802.11ac.
"We also expect to see the arrival of multi-gigabit switching, which will become more important as Wave 2 ac access points arrive to support Wave 2 clients where speeds greater than a Gigabit on the switch network warrant higher speed switching."
6. Farewell to copper broadband
Steve Holford, VP Products, Hyperoptic said:
"It’s well documented that UK broadband data consumption is doubling year on year, so the need for faster broadband connections in 2016 is a no-brainer. What’s really interesting though is the shift in understanding about what’s available, and them not being restricted to broadband over copper phone lines- and this will most certainly come to the fore next year.
"Business and consumers are rightly looking for the best service that suits their needs and challenging the status quo – because reliable and fast broadband is so important, they are spending more time on the decision, researching connection options and the range of packages available.
"They will be much less likely to be lured into long contracts with free gifts if the speeds aren’t up to scratch, especially if they have to bundle in services they don’t need – which is great news for the market as the onus will finally be moved to quality and reliability."
7. Wi-fi will speed ahead of cellular
Gary Griffiths, CEO at iPass, said:
"The already superheated wi-fi market will go magma in 2016. This will be driven by two factors: insatiable demand from consumers to always be connected everywhere, and emerging and competing technologies that will bring more attention to wi-fi.
"At the same time, technologies competing with wi-fi , such as LTE and LTE-U (which promises to deliver LTE in the unlicensed spectrum) will stall as continued skirmishes between the big telecom players and ongoing SIM dependencies will result in further delay.
"Though progress will continue to be slow, initiatives like Hotspot 2.0 and Passpoint will bring much needed reliability and ease-of-use improvements to wi-fi where new hotspots are deployed. Overall, the good news for all of us is more global wi-fi coverage with steady, if gradual improvements in performance and reliability."
8. The year of software networks
Marcus Jewell, Senior Vice President of EMEA at Brocade, said:
"Software-based networks are clearly the future: Over the past year, software has transformed the data centre and networks in general, with service providers and enterprises turning to Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) to create new services quickly, scale them easily, and deliver them in user-centric ways.
"2016 will bring about the expanded adoption of innovative, open, and automated software networking platforms as enterprises and service providers migrate to New IP networks. The increasing deployment of x86 server architecture will accelerate this transformation, replacing specialised networking hardware in multiple network roles, such as Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs).
"ADCs have already begun transforming to a virtual (vADC) model to help enterprises and services providers scale capacity on demand to handle peak workloads. Software is increasingly permeating every aspect of this virtualisation transformation.
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) that have been struggling to keep up with fast-changing customer needs and market opportunities will be compelled to embrace SDN and NFV in 2016."
9. The battle over high street wi-fi: brands or telcos?
Dave Fraser, CEO, Devicescape, said:
"2016 will see a decline in carrier-owned public wi-fi deployments and possibly even some retrenchment. The carriers that want to continue to provide wi-fi connectivity will look to new solutions on the supply side, and there will be more strategic partnerships designed to expand the range of ways in which operators can access Wi-Fi capacity.
"Free public wi-fi – or ‘Amenity Wi-Fi’ – will be de-stigmatised in the telecom industry. It clearly has high value to the public, but the traditional carrier community has often sought to position it as somehow lower-grade than commercial or carrier Wi-Fi. Developments this year have shown that quality is not the issue; all that is required is a way to manage its inherent fragmentation.
"There will be a tussle between brands and carriers to claim kudos for providing the free public wi-fi their customers love. In the U.S. and the UK some stores and venues have branded SSIDs while others either co-brand with — or cede branding entirely — to a carrier."
10. Wi-fi calling will drive new wi-fi demand
Dave Wright, Advanced Technologist, Ruckus Wireless, said:
"Web-scale content companies (social media, search, hosted services, etc.) will launch some very-large-scale Public Access wi-fi projects in developing markets. Expect to see an acquisition or merger between a Tier 1 MSO and a Tier 1 MNO.
"Hotspot 2.0 will become the de facto standard for public access and hospitality Wi-Fi. Now that Hotspot 2.0 is supported in all major mobile and laptop operating systems, deployments will accelerate by service providers and hotel brands. Carrier wi-fi calling will be one driver for this.
"Many of the traditional distinctions in the wireless industry will be blurred due to technology, regulatory and business advances. Blurring will happen between licensed and unlicensed spectrum, service provider and enterprise, and public versus private wi-fi. Specific advances that will affect these include unlicensed LTE, 802.11ax, Wi-Fi calling, enterprise IMS and WebRTC, CBRS, private LTE and Hotspot 2.0."