In Business Model, Internet Access, Spectrum

It always is dangerous to make longer-term predictions based on where technologies or service providers are at the moment. The reason is simply that capabilities can change rapidly, even unexpectedly.  Consider the number of people in India using the Internet. In 2015, perhaps 22 percent of people used the Internet. That might have represented about 288 million people.  

By 2017, as many as 500 million Indian consumers expected to be online. By 2021, 636 million Indians could be using the Internet. That is rapid growth. Rapid change in the telecom business is not unusual, either.

Over the last couple of decades, it has been argued that the United States was “way behind” Europe in use of mobile phones, way behind Japan in access speed, or more recently that Europe as “way behind” the United States in 4G network availability and adoption.

Others have argued that U.S. Internet access prices were high, compared to other countries perceived as leaders. But price is relative. One has to adjust for general price levels across countries, and then to adjust for retail plan differences, to derive price per megabit per second, for example. Even in 2007, when the price differentials were said to be quite disparate, on a cost per Mbps, U.S., French, German and Japanese prices were comparable, according to the OECD.

Many have argued that average or peak U.S. Internet access speeds lagged either Europe or world levels. Those gaps also will close. Since 2011 alone, U.S. Internet access speeds have tripledFrom 2015 to 2016 alone, U.S. Internet access speeds  got 40 percent faster. Much of the credit for those advances goes to U.S. cable TV companies, who are rapidly increasing speeds.

The point is that such gaps always have closed. The same will likely be true for many new networks.

Supporters of specialized Internet of Things networks, for example, argue that mobile networks will not be able to match the specialized networks, where it comes to cost or power performance. That could change. Some believe mobile networks will generate as much as $67 billion in M2M revenue by 2021, for example.

Verizon, for example, recently announced it was launching LTE-M.

That particular standard is optimized for IoT applications. LTE-M has a little higher data rate than NB-LTE-M and NB-IoT, but it is able to transmit fairly large chunks of data. Thus, it can be used for applications such as tracking objects, wearables, energy management, utility metering, and city infrastructure.

The key point is that one should never assume that what we see now will be what we see in a rather small number of years in the future.

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