Over the last 20 years, if you wanted to know what was driving internet ecosystem revenue, you had to look to the consumer segment. It was the consumer app and platform suppliers that drove growth overall, while telco revenue growth was driven by consumer mobility and internet access revenues.
Growth drivers are likely to change in the next era, as app and revenue growth shifts substantially towards enterprise (business) revenue opportunities made possible by the internet of things. That is going to be a big change.
It is possible that mobile revenue, globally, will peak as soon as 2021, a fact that drives mobile operator and fixed line telco interest in possible internet of things revenue streams, to say nothing of video entertainment and advertising revenues.
In fact, so much will revenue sources have to change that we might call the coming eras starting with 5G the post-mobile era, in the sense that consumers using phones will not be the growth engines any longer.
In fact, much 5G consumer revenue will simply displace existing 4G account revenue, which is why the emphasis has to be on entirely-new sources of revenue coming from someplace other than demand for mobile phone usage.
So connectivity revenue growth, for any tier-one mobile operator, will not, in the future, be driven by consumers and businesses using mobile phone service and mobile internet access.
That same trend can be seen in the Wi-Fi space, where the new WPA3 Wi-Fi security protocol is expected to include features that enables one-touch setup of devices with no screens. In fact, many devices might require zero-touch activation.
If you have had to set up a smart speaker recently, you understand the issue of configuring an appliance with no screen or other obvious direct input features.
That implies something important about where device and usage growth might occur, namely in the internet of things area. For Wi-Fi interests, growth also is seen as shifting to new areas such as IoT and sensor connections that are part of the move towards pervasive computing.
Some people refer to that as the “internet of everything.” The point is that sensors and computing appliances will be ubiquitous, and connected.
Still, connectivity revenue for IoT sensors, appliances and devices might represent about three percent of the annual value of IoT spending, most of which will occur for devices, installation services, apps and platform purchases.
And while better security for any internet-connected device is an obvious intended outcome of WPA3, the ability to easily configure devices shows the coming importance of many low-cost, small internet of things appliances and devices that will be using IP and the internet to connect with remote servers.
It is possible that, by about 2024, almost $1.3 trillion worth of IoT devices will be sold. That is a lot of appliances that will require zero-touch or one-touch activation.