By Aidan Dillon,
Founder & CTO,
A century ago, history was poised for a major technological development that would take place in 1915: the first official transcontinental telephone call -- New York to San Francisco -- enabled by the newly invented vacuum tube amplifier. It's dizzying to think that 100 years later, humans everywhere can get all kinds of information on a little device that easily fits in a pocket. Despite today's breakneck pace of technical innovation, mobile communications is still in for some significant developments in 2015. Here are three initial predictions for what we expect to see happen next year.
#1: VOICE OVER IP WILL REACH THE TIPPING POINT
In the pervasive digitization of everything, voice over LTE will come into its own in 2015. What Apple did with its iPhone 6 and carriers like T-Mobile are doing with Wi-Fi calling will mushroom. It makes sense given the advantages of LTE, like greater bandwidth creating faster upload and download speeds and better-quality service. This is what subscribers want. There will be less focus from telecom players and device makers in 2G and 3G networks. The new digital technology behind LTE creates just one data network for both voice and data, which is more efficient. But this brave new digital world will still have some holes next year; LTE still won't be everywhere. What will mobile operators do about coverage in those places? There's the option of using the old circuit-switch systems but a better approach -- and one we predict -- is that operators will build out more voice over Wi-Fi, which will shore up the voice over IP services where it doesn’t work on LTE.
#2: EVERYBODY WILL DIVE INTO QUAD PLAY
Yes, those big bundles -- jokingly called "the fantastic four" -- aren't anything new when one considers telecom history but in 2015, more companies than ever will get in on the act. It's going to become a battle between mobile operators and service providers scrambling to add in the services -- broadband, tv, phone, wireless -- they don't yet have and try to entice subscribers into buying their bundles. This trend is starting in Europe and will spread, we believe. The signs are there already: Vodafone has bought fixed operators in Germany and Spain with Liberty Global next possibly and British Telecom are mentioned to be interested in buying a UK mobile operator. Expect to see Microsoft -- which paid $8.5 billion for Skype in 2011 -- add more services and try to sell bundled services. As will Apple. This won't please the vendors of the separate services that used to have those accounts. As for consumers, this land grab among companies -- as usual -- is unlikely to deliver compelling advantages to the targets of these quad-play services. There's no guarantee that every service available in a bundle is the one subscribers want the most so it makes sense to watch and wait during the battle to see who wins and what's being offered.
#3: ROAMING WILL GET BETTER
In today's on-the-go world, telecom services are only as good as the roaming technology that lets subscribers use voice and data services when they're away from their home base. The "quality of experience" advantages of new network technologies will continue to be taken seriously by vendors next year and also by organizations like the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA), GSMA and the 3GPP. Top of mind is seamless connectivity but also security. Security and policy methods such as Hotpot 2.0/Passpoint from WFA and Automatic Network Discovery (ANDSF) from 3GPP will get more attention from carriers next year while important efforts like WBA's Next-Generation Hotspot (NGH) will expand. In fact, NGH with WRIX make Wi-Fi roaming work for carriers like mobile roaming works today, which will spur its adoption. A parallel activity that will make it easy for carriers to deliver high-quality, secure roaming services is AT&T's Wi-Fi Hub, which we believe will expand its reach significantly next year. Available worldwide to carriers so that they can provide secure, seamless hot-spot access to their subscribers, the Wi-Fi Hub uses Wi-Fi roaming and encryption technology from Accuris Networks. Since "faster, better" has long been the mantra in the electronics sector, an easy prediction -- which was the foundation of our above prophecies -- is that there will be no interruption in this long-term trend in 2015.