Even though I recognize and accept that we work in Internet time nowadays, it’s hard to believe a year has gone by since Communications Technology came under my purview. While some broadband-industry initiatives have moved ahead at lightning speed in the past 12 months, others continue at a snail’s pace. Here are some of the things I’ve been tracking:
Video on demand: I don’t know of anyone who watches all of his or her video programming in real time anymore and, if you are part of the younger set, you aren’t even using the TV much, except maybe for gaming. The concept of “TV Everywhere” has been universally accepted, aided in part by the rocket rise of the tablet computer.
Interactive TV/advertising and advanced program guides: These phenomena, which took center stage at last year’s Cable Show, slowly are inching up, with a number of MSOs doggedly transitioning customers to new handsets or tablet/smartphone apps. Regarding ads, wireless subscribers have purchased products and content from their phones for years, but the “red button” still has a ways to go before TV-screen purchasing really takes hold. On the program-guide side, more and more users see this as one more piece of their social-networking pie.
Network management/policy: The days of all-you-can-eat data plans are over, but operators continue to struggle with how to handle all the demands on existing spectrum, especially knowing that most subscribers have no idea how much data they really use on a monthly basis. The challenge now is to come up with tiered pricing plans that charge heavy downloaders accordingly and that give “normal” users a break. And caching is going to become more and more important.
The rise of LTE: 2011 will see the real cutover of Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G wireless networks, with more carriers getting onboard and more new subscriber gear coming to market. What this means for WiMAX and Clearwire remains to be seen. And we will wait to see how AT&T handles its new ownership of T-Mobile USA, which came as pretty much of a surprise late last month.
Competition: Everyone is out to eat everyone else’s lunch. Maintaining subscriber ownership is key.
Here’s what I know for sure: You don’t have to be the fastest runner when the bear is chasing you. You just have to be faster than the person behind you.