Mobile Predictions for 2017 & Beyond

It's that time of the year…at the Wireless Technology Forum…when we make our annual industry predictions. When this organization was formed by Maury Margol & Steve Bachman in 2003, I don't think they had any idea how big and/or ubiquitous the wireless industry would be today. Which leads me to our next annual tradition, NOT comparing predictions from the previous year to present day.

Let's start with a few "big" news stories that we predict will be key in the industry going forward.

Self-Driving Tesla Fatality

Sorry to start with a tragedy, but no one wants to lose a life in pursuit of technology. If you're not already familiar with this story, a Tesla car in "Autopilot" mode was involved in a fatal accident. This was a wake-up call to Tesla, the entire automobile industry, and any technology event remotely connected to the incident. Tesla always maintained that their "autopilot" was a beta and that the driver should, “Always keep your hands on the wheel. Be prepared to take over at any time.”

Last month, we covered "Smart Cities" and somewhat stayed away from the autonomous vehicle topic for various reasons.

Reason 1 - We wanted to focus on the 'cities' in smart cities.

Reason 2 - We wanted to focus on multi-modal transportation (trains, bicycles, pedestrian) instead of just cars.

Reason 3 - We covered Connected Cars on May 21, 2015

Carlos Bosch, GSMA, asked how he could trust his car to drive itself, when his smartphone is prone to crash occasionally. In my opinion, this was a huge set back in the trust factor for autonomous vehicles. If we have an autonomous vehicle that requires us to keep our hands on the wheel, isn't that the equivalent of my car's cruise control capabilities today?

DDoS Attack

Remember those couple of days in October when you couldn't load your favorite website? Thanks to your neighbor's home surveillance camera that is intended to catch you stealing their packages, the entire internet was under attack. The irony is that we covered CyberSecurity, specifically smart home devices on August 18, 2016.

We even showed this graphic of someone's thermostat getting hacked as an example of the importance of CyberSecurity.

Even we couldn't predict the upcoming DDoS attack would come only 2 months later. No doubt, CyberSecurity spending will continue to grow. Oracle just announced that they are acquiring DNS provider Dyn, subject of the massive DDoS attack.

Personal Privacy

This segues into the personal privacy topic. Your carrier knows everything about you. Will the carriers find new ways to sell your data to the highest bidder? Tim Horanpointed out that Microsoft paid almost 100 times LinkedIn's EBITA for the data that LinkedIn holds. Horan also predicted a major privacy breach in 2017.

5G Speculation

Now that the carriers have deployed 4G / LTE and we have great coverage, let's start speculating on 5G / VLTE. By the way, LTE stands for "Long Term Evolution," thus VLTE stands for "Very Long Term Evolution." Not so fast, as Berge Ayvazian pointed out that 2G and 3G networks are still alive as backup. We need to look at 5G as an overlay (starting small) on top of 4G, 3G and 2G. Eventually, we'll deactivate 2G.

The specifications for 5G won't be released until 2018 or perhaps 2019. Anything we say about 5G today really is speculation. Will 5G be the next big step in mobile coverage eliminating our need for fixed broadband? I thought 4G would address all of my mobile video needs, right? Then why I am still looking for WiFi spots everywhere I go?

Berge Ayvazian predicted that 5G would be a series of releases and that we would still need our fixed network.

Mobile Video

Carlos Bosch pointed out that 50% of mobile data increase is due to video, but the other panelists pointed out that people are watching less TV; this trend driven by millennials. Miguel Myhrer stated that the cost to create content was rising, but Dr. Benn Konsynskiargued the counterpoint of user generated content. As a YouTube creator myself, my viewpoint is that traditional TV has a lot of competition with YouTube, Netflix, and other video content alternatives.

I believe content creation costs are decreasing:

Analytics from my YouTube channel of computer vs. mobile device viewing. How do people watch my videos from their smartphones (#smallscreen)?

Does this mean that the cable companies are in trouble?

Tim Horan says YES, and Comcast and Charter should buy Sprint or T-Mobile.

Who will win next year? Carriers, Google, hardware manufacturers, messaging companies, databases, cable companies, or content creators?

At the Wireless Technology Forum, we hope everyone wins next year as this industry is an ecosystem where players have increased their profits by helping each other help themselves.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few other points for speculation:

  • How will the new administration affect wireless / mobile industry?
  • How will we use chatbots going forward?
  • IoT and M2M will continue to grow, but very few IoT devices are SIM enabled (mostly WiFi or Bluetooth)
  • Will our wireless bills decrease or will the carriers consolidate to protect their ARPU?