What can we expect this year when it comes to business telecoms?

Reports | Technology

Written by Mike Ianiri, Equinox

2018 was a year dominated by two things: GDPR and Brexit. Both have continued into 2019 but they are unlikely to be the top stories for the telecoms industry. So, what do the next few months hold for business phone lines, VoIP, broadband and mobile? Here is our look into our crystal ball to see what is likely to happen.

Brexit and Roaming Charges

We may as well begin with Brexit. Roaming charges may be on the cards again, particularly if we leave with no deal. The main mobile operators have said they have no current plans to change, that doesn’t mean everything will be the same post-Brexit. Planned government legislation sets a limit at £45 per month (unless you opt out). It also requires operators provide a warning before you go over your data usage allowance.

Sweden and Finland are the only EU countries in the top 5 telecommunications manufacturers, so we don’t know what impact Brexit will have on the costs and availability of Nokia and Ericsson hardware. Of course, we will have to get trade deals into place with China, the USA and Japan as well to put any certainty on the costs of the rest of the biggest manufacturers too!

The end of Consumer Landlines?

The number of homes in the UK with a landline has dropped by 3% in the last 5 years. A further 24% of households have a landline they never use. Many of these will simply be because their internet connection is cheaper when they take a landline from their internet provider.

The fact that most people’s mobile is usually within arm’s length, it is easier to use that device. Unlimited call contracts make it a no-brainer. Smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home and Apple’s Homepod, can connect to each other via the internet. You can talk to other devices in the same house and elsewhere. Phoning your clients has never been easier.

With companies such as PwC removing landlines from all their UK offices, it is likely that the office landline will be disappearing as well.

For people who still like desk phones, products such as the ZigeeDock mean you have all the features, but you use your mobile to make the calls.

5G

The UK is lagging behind other countries when it come to testing 5G, but it is going on. For example in November 2018 EE announced, the first six cities where it will launch: London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. As consumer equipment starts to appear in the shops (due in mid-late 2019), we’ll be able to see the difference between 4G & 5G.

Real Life Speeds

The marketing hype around 5G grows daily. Claims of early speeds of 5Gbps, and climbing, will need to be proven. Once the networks are live to consumers and they are being properly load-tested, we expect real-life performance results to be down on the claims.

  • AT&T tests showed on 194.9 Mbps download
  • Huawei attained 970 Mbps at the beginning of 2018
  • Qualcomm’s real-life simulations delivered up to 717Mbps

The expectation is that there will be around one million 5G handsets by the end of 2019, it will be interesting to see what speeds they can get.

Who will hit the streets first?

We won’t be able to use 5G without a device. Every major handset manufacturer is developing something, but whose will we see in the shops first? Front runners are Samsung’s S10 and Huawei’s P30.

Increasing Data Needs

Data consumption is going to continue to climb. Stars from 2016 show 1.26Gb per user per month, increasing to 1.72Gb in 2017. Although we cannot find statistics to prove this, we believe business users are consuming more data than consumers. At the time of writing, I’ve consumed 7.1Gb of data per month, on average, over the last three months.

With the increasing cyber security threat, the use of mobile data, as opposed to Wifi, will increase dramatically. With mobile data becoming cheaper and cheaper, public Wifi is just not worth the risks it poses.

How will this be marketed?

As telecoms companies sell both mobile solutions and internet connectivity this will lead to a marketing conundrum.  What products will these companies recommend (both to consumers and SMEs)?  The investment made to install fibre, both FTTC and FTTP, is going to be threatened by 5G. For companies with high data requirements, the choice will still be a fixed line internet connection. However, small businesses with data needs will have a choice. In areas where high speed internet coverage is still poor, such as rural locations, out of town business parks and even some city centre areas, 5G will provide welcome relief to high cost copper-based solutions.

Changes will accelerate during 2019 and continue into the following years.  These developments in telecoms will offer cost-saving and other opportunities so we all need to keep watching to be able to take advantage of this.

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