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LEFT OF CENTRE: Responsive sector a plus

Brian Linton

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“When America/Europe/The World sneezes we catch a cold” is a mantra often recited in Barbados. Thus predicting the direction of our telecommunications industry should be a matter of looking at global trends and then extrapolating these to the local context.
So in the short/medium term we should see:
1. More smartphones being sold than “feature” phones (albeit with many of these smartphones being used as feature phones).
2. Steady growth of wireless device sales, flat fixed line services.
3. Reduction in service and device costs.
4. Fixed and wireless broadband subscriptions continuing to grow.
5. Decrease in voice, increase in data revenue.
6. Entrance and exit of telecoms providers in the market (those who successfully remain providing imaginative but relevant products).
7. Increased competition from non-telecom companies (Amazon as a cloud provider).
8. Increased delivery of video based services via telecoms networks (on demand video such as NetFlix International)
9. Regulators and policy makers grappling with multiple issues, such as privacy, security and the amorphous nature of new technologies (should a provider block a smartphone messaging application with voice service?)
10. Reduction of international mobile roaming rates (users can use cellular VOIP, reducing traditional demand)
Some of these potential developments can be stymied by how our telecoms market operates; in a manner which is often divergent from the rest of the world. They are bottom-up – consumers demand more bandwidth and providers respond with “all you can eat plans”; ours is top-down, service providers increase our bandwidth allotment only when impending competition is at their doors.
We need to move to a model where entrepreneurial innovation and the providers drive the offerings of the telecoms sector.
For example a family of four each has a smart phone, tablet and laptop. Rather than obtaining separate voice and data plans for these devices, why not provide them with a single adequately provisioned voice/data plan which they share?
A high capacity fibre optic line runs to their home, wireless access while away from home is provided to a personal cloud running applications developed locally.
On entering a bookstore, an eBook preview of the latest novel is available for download from the cloud which the store utilizes, as a supermarket a few doors down sends coupons to the smart phones.        
Inventory information between stores’ branches is exchanged via cloud computing established by local companies, while local data mining companies determine how best customer needs can be met based on their past purchases.
A responsive telecoms sector will drive new business models and cultivate new revenue streams, and in turn will evolve to meet consumer requirements. That’s a win for everyone.
• Brian Linton is chief information officer of Garnet Technologies Inc.