By David Byrd
Although it's common to look back on the previous year for highs and lows, I decided to instead look ahead to the top 10 issues for IT and telecom I will be monitoring in 2013. Not listed in any particular order, they are:
1. Cloud Services. The growth of cloud services in support of hosted communications, IT infrastructures and application distribution continues unabated. Cloud services appeals to all sizes of businesses and has found useful purpose in the most intransigent businesses that once would have maintained all technology and services in-house. Obviously, there are concerns about security, data integrity, price and many other service-associated elements, but most believe these will all be alleviated or at lease reduced to the status of minor problems.
2. SIPconnect 1.1. The formal adoption by the SIP Forum Board of this technical recommendation is meant to resolve a number of interoperability issues and expand the usefulness of session initiation protocol (SIP). Major OEMs and enterprises are expected to deploy SIPconnect 1.1-compliant hardware in 2013. There are a few naysayers who believe that SIP is unnecessary for the ubiquitous deployment of IP-based communications and applications, but most of the IP community applauds the work of the SIP Forum. Regardless, service providers such as ANPI will find that reducing the interoperability issues will save time in turning up services, so we can shift the focus of our SIP engineering resources to performance improvements and new feature development.
3. Video. Initially, video was viewed as primarily for entertainment through content providers such as YouTube and Netflix. Moreover, through the efforts of Skype, FaceTime and Hangouts, video is widely available to consumers for communicating with family and friends. These video services are also found useful by many businesses, in particular those operating in Asia, South America and Europe. In 2013 businesses should see the expanded deployment of video-as-a-service (VaaS) by service providers. In addition to providing a platform for communication, VaaS will support collaboration between workers and partners; monitoring of systems, processes and interactivity between users and support telepresence; video conferencing with QoS; webcasting; and both traditional and new broadcast services. Furthermore, with VaaS, smaller ILECs and RLECs will discover new opportunities to resell such services to their business customer bases.
4. Call Completion Issues. This is perhaps one of the more vexing issues we face as an industry — and to some extent as a country — because it is principally affecting only rural communities. Rural local exchange companies (RLECs) have been experiencing a rise in uncompleted calls over the last two years. It is driven by the fact that termination fees to complete calls to RLECs are higher than in urban areas. This affects the margins that terminating carriers can receive for transporting those calls. Various schemes are used to avoid or reduce the number of calls terminated to rural areas, such as transferring calls from carrier to carrier until the post-dial delay becomes intolerable and callers hang up. Other practices are more blatant such as simply not completing the call and sending error messages or busy signals. The FCC and state PUCs have recognized the problem but do not have a solution in place. Warnings, fines and other penalties are under discussion or have been implemented, but the practice continues. ANPI and other key members of our ecosystem believe that 2013 will be a critical year in resolving call completion issues.
5. Net Neutrality. The FCC ruling regarding the protection of IP traffic over carriers’ networks continues to be assaulted by the major ILECs and cable companies. While my views on net neutrality have remained firm — that we should get what we pay for — a new and disturbing opinion has been presented to the courts in an effort to overturn or modify the rules. Verizon and MetroPCS claim that the FCC order violates their freedom of speech because they have a right to exercise "editorial discretion" over their customers' use of the Internet. Promoting the concept of “editorial discretion" over “lawful use" is ground-changing and could significantly influence the definition of the First Amendment. How the courts respond to this framing of the issue is of interest to many inside and outside our industry.
6. Mobility or Mobile Computing. The real questions are "What is it, how do I apply it and where is it going?" Devices supporting mobility include laptop computers, smartphones, tablets and any other computing device that can connect wirelessly with other computing platforms while providing a visual interface. Although IT departments are reluctantly supporting the inclusion of myriad mobile devices by granting permission to connect to company servers, the issues surrounding Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) are growing faster than IT departments and corporate governance can resolve. Furthermore, the number of device types and applications continues to grow. Thus the issues of compatibility, security, viruses, privacy, personal vs. company, formats, features, etc. remain in flux without pending resolution. The challenge for service providers is to maintain and operate networks that support evolving mobile devices satisfying our customers’ expectations for quality and performance. The disruption BYOD and mobile computing represent may last for another decade.
7. 4G Service Area Expansion. With the advent of 4G, mobility has finally reached the business professional. While the wireless carriers tend to be less than specific about how many subscribers use 4G or the actual percentage of their networks covered by 4G, several have been very specific in identifying the amount of investment they will make to expand their service areas, with AT&T leading the pack at $8 billion over a three-year period. The expansion of 4G services is very important due to the growth of 4G compatible devices. The Samsung Galaxy III, Apple iPhone 5, HTC, Motorola and many others now offer 4G phones. The adoption rate is increasing for these phones, tablets and other wireless devices that can take advantage of 4G.
8. Windows 8. This new operating system from Microsoft may not be a winner in the corporate world for another year or so, but it may create inroads for Microsoft with handheld devices. With RIM on the ropes, Microsoft sees Windows 8 as its best opportunity to sign up OEMs delivering mobile devices. Thus far the reviews and expectations for the product have been less than stellar, but the year is young.
9. USF/ICC Transformation Order. The devil is in the details. How this order is implemented, enforced and endorsed by the courts and Congress is of significant interest to our industry. The NTCA and major ILECs are petitioning the courts to force the FCC to delay enforcement and modify the order. Much remains to be done before the order is accepted as the new way.
10. The U.S. Government. With the fiscal cliff behind us and nearly nothing resolved regarding spending and the deficit, Congress and the president will be at it again as the country attempts to raise its debt limit. The lack of willingness among the two parties to sit down and develop a workable solution threatens our tepid economic growth and prolongs an uncertain business environment. The lack of a clear plan impedes employment, investment, purchasing decisions and many other core business activities. Tax reform, deficit cutting and entitlement changes will make for an economically volatile year.
David Byrd is chief marketing officer and executive vice president of channel sales for ANPI ZONE . He previously spent five years as vice president of marketing and sales for Broadvox and before that was vice president of channels and alliances for Eftia and Telcordia.