Will the chicken or the egg win out?
IN the beginning, there was the land-line. Then came the mobile phone, revolutionising the way we communicate. Now we are at the stage where almost a third of smartphone users don't even use their handsets to make traditional calls.
Apps, video calls, VoIP and wifi have resulted in the average handset usage focusing heavily on data-driven activity, with a notable decrease in the amount of traffic that is actually managed by the mobile networks.
So how long can this pattern continue or will it take a complete overhaul of what providers can, will provide, before the changing attitudes and behavioural patterns are accounted for?
Reduced usage means reduced revenues for the mobile operators which could ultimately result in higher package prices. Yet with more and more users needing efficient connectivity, the importance of an efficient service delivery cannot be denied, whether in the capacity availability, accessibility, and even customer care.
In light of the statistics regarding actual calls being made, these operators will also be noticing that the use of handsets for business purposes is also changing with there still being a – refreshingly old-fashioned in my opinion – attitude to having a land-line number registered under a company name for customers, suppliers and staff to avail of.
So, while it is entirely possible to run a company from a mobile device while sitting in a café somewhere, which we enable on a daily basis, the data usage involved in video conferencing or sharing files, for example, is huge.
Thanks to the widespread availability of wifi access, much of it for free, this sort of activity can be carried out anywhere and at any time, with the ability to make even your own car a personal hotspot.
This all affects the relevance of the mobile networks as they strive to maintain a foothold in the market. This in the same breath as referencing that the UK currently ranks 54th in the world for coverage, albeit with the supposed market-leading 4G.
Of course, the light at the end of the tunnel could be the introduction of 5G. While there is still no word on an official launch date for the UK, it will provide significantly faster connectivity which would hopefully encourage users to remain with their network providers, rather than relying on wifi.
Faster or not, the demand for connectivity is still only going to grow, where the price can realistically only drop. A mobile network has to retain its attractiveness and marketability to a consumer with numerous options, including the unconnected alternative.
Suppliers of telecoms services find themselves at the vanguard of new technology, applications and service provision as they, clients, the general public and the industry in general, must adapt to the changing landscape of phone usage.
:: Eric Carson is director of Northern Ireland's largest independent telecom providers Rainbow (www.rainbowcomms.com) and has been a pioneer of the local telecoms industry for nearly 20 years.