In 2016, BICS further consolidated its position in the North American market. An office was opened on the West Coast at the end of 2015, and last year we leveraged that presence not only to further boost our credentials in the region, but also to bring us closer to potential Digital Service Provider (DSP) customers in the Silicon Valley and the entire West Coast. By opening an office in San Francisco, we aimed to get closer to prospective customers, increase our customer base and grow our portfolio of solutions through customer intimacy. I am pleased to say that this was a success.
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Holidaymakers and frequent travelers on the continent had cause to celebrate few weeks back, when the EU announced it would put an end to wholesale roaming charges once and for all, helping mobile users avoid sky-high phone bills when they return home. Following almost ten years of negotiations in Brussels, it was decided that wholesale charges for data will initially be capped at €7.70 per gigabyte, dropping to €2.50 in 2022. Voice calls will be capped at 3.2 cents per minute, and SMS at 1 cent per message. The changes come into effect mid-June, which means that for many families travelling in Europe for half term, this month will mark the last time they could risk a hefty holiday phone bill.
The BICS team is nearing the end of a busy week in Barcelona, having met and chatted with customers, partners, press and analysts at our stand at the Mobile World Congress. We also found brief snippets of time to explore the halls here and discover the technology and talking points dominating the 2017 event. Developments in the IoT and the potential of 5G were huge this year, and with knowledge and experience of the Internet of Things, BICS is well positioned to help companies make the most of this technology. A number of car manufacturers were exhibiting this year, showing off concept smart cars and discussing connectivity initiatives.
In just a few days’ time the BICS team will be Barcelona-bound, as we return to Mobile World Congress on February 27th. Despite our long history of attendance, no two years are the same. The past 12 months have seen a whirlwind of M&A activity, the emergence of new mobile services and digital experiences, the increasingly global adoption of 4G LTE, and continued maturation of the IoT. All of these factors will influence discussion and announcements at the show this year, and we can’t wait to be part of it.
The GSMA has identified seven overarching themes for the 2017 event; connected consumers, entertainment, sustainable development goals, the fourth industrial revolution, the pervasive network, ecosystem enablers, and disruption.
Humans are natural born communicators, machines are not. This throws up challenges to the success of the internet of things (IoT), which is based on an expanding web of connected devices (the ‘machines’), all communicating with their owners and with each other. We are seeing a huge global shift towards companies connecting assets, but how can we ensure these connections are reliable? How can companies integrate the growing number of different devices into their business on a global scale, and ensure they all communicate seamlessly? BICS is well positioned to enable this communication, but before looking at the solution, it’s worth examining just how much companies can gain from the IoT.
Improvements in connectivity and the growth of the digital economy have forced the telecoms industry to adjust dramatically. Declining voice revenue, increasing competition, and the ever growing consumer demand for access to data services have produced a climate which has required telcos to move on from offering only legacy services. This move is a profitable one: a McKinsey IT study found that telcos with digital capabilities boasted a profit margin of 43%, while those with less digitalisation have a profit margin of 21%, on average. The consumer and business app market is booming, but competition is intense. The top five app stores feature 5.7 million apps, and in 2020, consumers are expected to spend over $101 billion on mobile apps.
2016 was an interesting year for the telecoms world. Once upon a time, the mobile platform was used as a standalone channel by operators to provide core voice services. And while voice services still remain one of the biggest revenue streams for MNOs, in 2016 mobile evolved to become a baseline for new, branded digital experiences. Mobile remained in the spotlight, thanks to popular messaging apps, emerging chat bots and the exploding Internet of Things creating new touch-points and means of communication. The main actors in this digital revolution are the digital service providers and MVNOs. As new entrants to the telecoms market, these players challenged traditional telcos in providing the voice and video calling services that we now take for granted.
Network infrastructure is the backbone of 21st century society. Whether you’re in Berlin, London, Paris or Rome, we often take for granted the fact that high-speed, low latency internet connectivity is integral to the smooth running of today’s digital economy. As we strive for quicker connections, more bandwidth and better network coverage in harder-to-reach areas of the world, data and connectivity requirements grow exponentially. And so power hungry servers and server farms across the world eat away at connectivity services in a bid to provide the best possible service at breakneck speed. To bridge the gap between supply and demand, companies are building more datacentres, and according to IDC, the number of datacentres popping up in the world will peak at 8.6 million by 2017.
Having a complete overview of activity on your network is vital to being able to plan, react, and adjust accordingly with whatever may happen. Nowhere is this more important that during the huge traffic spikes which occur every holiday season, and also during major sports tournaments around the globe. During events such as the Olympic Games in Rio, operators need extensive visibility of network usage in order to ensure reliable service. From supporting the 400% increase in roaming at the football World Cup in 2014, to enhancing roamer experience at this summer’s major tournaments in Brazil and France; BICS understands that providing the best Quality of Experience to new customers on their network is a priority for operator customers.
It won’t come as any surprise to anyone working in the industry that operators in Europe and Asia are pushing forward with their LTE-A, VoLTE and VoWiFi deployments. However, the rapid pace of development and launch illustrated in the latest Ovum VoLTE and LTE-A tracker (Q3 2016) shows the future is approaching faster than anyone expected. At the current trajectory it won’t be long before the majority of subscribers in developed markets will be able to access improved data speeds through LTE-A and clearer voice services. VoLTE offers increased quality for consumers while in the case of Voice over Wi-Fi, operators can improve access to voice in areas with patchy indoor cellular coverage. This is a natural evolution that is now taking place at astounding speed.