Changes in telecoms, that are already in motion, will be developing at an even faster rate over coming months. To help you understand what’s happening, we asked Mike Ianiri of independent telecoms brokerage, Equinox to explain what business owners need to know about the telecoms changes heading our way.
The long-heralded 5G
It is sad but true that in terms of testing 5G the UK continues to lag behind other countries. However, there is activity.
Towards the end of 2018 EE announced the first six cities for their launch. The lucky places are Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester.
Consumer equipment should begin to be available by late 2019. At this point, with new handsets we will be able to experience the real difference between the old 4G and new 5G.
Will the much-hyped speeds be achieved?
There has been an enormous amount of hype from the telecoms companies marketing departments about the impact of 5G. The claims for the increase in download speeds, for example are impressive, but of course, as yet unproven.
As soon as the networks are live, and we are able to use them they will be load-tested. It is suggested that by the end of 2019 there will be approximately one million 5G handsets in use.
At this point, we will discover if the real-life performance is as good as currently anticipated. My guess is that they will not be quite as fast, but we will see.
- At the beginning of 2018 Huawei achieved 970 Mbps
- Qualcomm’s real-life simulations delivered up to 717Mbps
- AT&T tests showed on 194.9 Mbps download
Which companies will get ahead?
We are all going to need a new 5G device before we can get access to it. All the large handset manufacturers are developing new products, but we don’t yet know which will be available for us to buy first.
Huawei may have the P30 out ahead of its rivals, or it could be Samsung with their S10. These phones aren’t yet out, but are expected later in the year, with Samsung specifically saying it will be the 2nd half of the year.
Qualcomm, the chip manufacturer, expect there to be approximately 30 5G ready phones on the market by the end of the year. Whether 5G is readily available by then is still to be confirmed.
How much data will we all be using?
Our consumption of data is continuing to increase significantly. Statistics for 2016 show that individual consumers used 1.26Gb per month. By 2017 this had increased to 1.72Gb per month.
Currently there doesn’t seem to be data to prove this but we are confident that business users are using more data than consumers. As of today, I’ve used 7.1Gb of data per month, on average over the last three months.
Given the ever-increasing cyber security threat, the use of mobile data will increase dramatically. This is for two reasons: 1) mobile data is becoming cheaper and cheaper, 2) people are becoming more aware of the risk involved when using WiFi.
The increased consumption of data means you will be sharing your personal data with more organisations. The Companies collecting and using this data will need to ensure that they have even tighter security than they do at present. They will also have to manage the data efficiently and be able to prove that they are only collecting and keeping data they need.
Redundant, out of data or trivial data can build up quickly which means that companies will need to be able to filter and then delete it. This is necessary to comply with GDPR as well as keeping the confidence of their customers.
How will the telecoms companies handle their marketing?
The telecoms companies all sell mobile solutions and internet connectivity. This will give them a marketing headache. Whether they are talking to you as a business owner or as an individual consumer they will need to decide which products to recommend to you.
Huge investments have been made in installing fibre and this investment is threatened by 5G. The investment that’s been made to install fibre, both FTTC and FTTP, is going to be threatened by 5G.
All the providers, such as Openreach, Virgin Media, Gigaclear etc will be expected to deliver a return on these big investments in fibre so they need to decide what to do.
If a business uses large amounts of data the best choice will still be a fixed line internet connection, which could be either fibre or copper. For small businesses with data needs, they will have more choices available to them.
In rural areas, out of town business parks and even some city centre areas, 5G will provide welcome relief to high cost copper-based solutions and provide better internet coverage.
Will we all be getting rid of our landlines?
In the last 5 years, the number of homes in the UK with a landline has dropped by 3%. A further 24% of households have a landline installed but don’t use it. In many cases, this is because the internet connection is cheaper if they take a landline with the package from their internet provider.
It is a fact of life that most of us have our mobile phones with us at all times. Inevitably this means they will be used more than a landline, especially as mobiles are also so easy to use. In addition, contracts with unlimited calls make it a sensible choice.
If you are using Smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home and Apple’s Homepod, they will all be connected to each other via the internet. You can talk to other devices in the same house which will certainly make communicating with teenagers easier.
With large organisations, PwC for example, removing landlines from all their UK offices, it is quite possible that that the office landline will become a thing of the past.
However, if you like having a landline phone in your workspace, the telecoms industry is developing devices that will help you to have the experience of using a desk phone from your mobile. Take one example, the ZigeeDock which gives you all the familiar features, the difference being that you make the calls using your mobile.
And finally: Brexit
I’m sure you’d be disappointed if we didn’t mention Brexit. Still nobody knows whether we are staying in, leaving with a deal or with no deal. This means that the question of roaming charges will be with us again, particularly if we leave with no deal.
Currently the main mobile operators have said they are not planning to make change. It may be different after 29 March 2019. Planned government legislation sets a limit at £45 per month (unless you opt out). It also requires the operators to warn you before you go over your data usage allowance.
In the EU, Finland and Sweden are the only countries with 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.
In terms of telecoms affecting us as business owners and consumers this is what we see happening at a faster rate in 2019. There will be changes but with bigger impacts continuing over the next few years. With changes to internet connectivity and to our use of data and devices we all need to keep up to speed with what is happening.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Mike Ianiri, Director of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox. Mike works with companies, charities and other organisations to help them choose the right telecoms packages for their needs and thereby reduce their costs. He is particularly knowledgeable on the integration of IT and telecoms in business.
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