Opinion: Crystal ball gazing

Predictions for 2011 and beyond

The advent of faster networks along with the popularity of consumer devices, is now emerging as a huge challenge for the IT department.

It isn’t the geeks that are bringing in the smartphone devices or demanding to use new applications, it is the employees in the accounting department. If that isn’t enough, marketing has convinced everyone they should be Linking In, Facebooking and Tweeting the company message. Many CIOs must be longing for the days when these sites were considered time wasters and could be easily blocked. The security issues are scary, the potential bandwidth costs could skyrocket (especially if video is allowed) — and who do you think they’ll blame if a virus hits or the telco bill blows out?

But worst of all you just know the CEO will have got an iPad for Christmas. Any day now the IT department will get an email asking it to create an app that he or she thinks would be great to showcase the company. Maybe a little ‘fun app’ to start with, that should only take an afternoon to come up with, shouldn’t it?

Adapting consumer devices and social networking sites for the enterprise environment (or should that be the other way around?) is a critical challenge for IT departments in 2011.

Late last year we asked a number of end users and industry folk to gaze into their crystal balls and predict what some of the major developments will be for ICT this year. Several responded to the challenge. We ran some of the more fulsome answers on our website last week and in this issue you can read a summary along with IDC’s predictions for 2011 here.

In the meantime here are my predictions as to what will happen in the New Zealand ICT scene this year.

Smart pipes

The rise of mobile devices — IDC predicts there will be 1.12 million converged smartphone shipments here by 2014 — comes against a backdrop of declining revenues for telcos. The loss of core voice revenues, coupled with increased regulation such as Mobile Termination Rates (MTRs), will see the telcos look to make up revenues from non-traditional sources.

Watch for the rise of the ‘smart pipe’ in the mobile network — in other words mobile telcos will seek to clip the ticket on every data service that runs over their network. This practice was bitterly fought in the fixed line market (often characterised as the ‘net neutrality debate’).

Govt ICT keeps data onshore - for now

As the government moves to consolidate its ICT spend — which NZICT CEO Brett O’Riley suggests is worth about $2 billion — there will be less and less inclination to offshore data, especially in an election year. The National government is unlikely to risk a headline such as “Kiwi health records resident in Shanghai”.

As government continues to remain the biggest customer for every ICT vendor, it sets the scene for commercial enterprises to follow.

UFB and RBI may converge

The Ultra Fast Broadband and the Rural Broadband Initiatives could merge, especially if the Telecom/Vodafone bid gets the nod. (Indications are that the Ministry of Economic Development is due to announce the successful bid later this month). The Big Two bid is expected to be hard to argue against —— both players are providing the bulk of the levy that funds it.

If Telecom also gets the majority of the UFB and subsequently splits, one of the key areas to watch will be where the cell tower infrastructure goes — currently Telecom claims it should be Telecom Retail company — not Chorus 2.

But as a large chunk of the cellphone network is built on or beside Chorus infrastructure, there’s an argument for keeping it with Chorus 2. Should end users care?

They should if they are planning to provide services to their customers over mobile networks (see Smart pipes above).

Of course, it is also an election year and that means everything is up for grabs, so who will make it over the try line for both the RBI and UFB is still anyone’s guess.

Indeed, the only thing for certain is that no commentator will be able to resist a rugby cliché in World Cup year!

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