Fixed wireless (including 5G), broadband Universal Service, and increasingly diverse video options will be key focus areas for the telecom industry in 2017. Other top telecom trends for 2017 include G.fast and new business opportunities such as SD-WAN and the Internet of Things, including the connected car.
It’s also important not to lose track of an impending development that operated largely under the radar in 2016 — what Comcast (and maybe other cable companies) are going to do in the wireless arena.
In this environment, mergers and acquisitions also are likely to continue to be a hot area.
Here’s some background on each of these developments and what to look for in 2017.
Telecom Trends for 2017
Fixed wireless is shaping up to be a hot area in 2017, with companies as diverse as Verizon, AT&T, Google and smaller players getting serious about the technology. While the technology has been around for a long time, it’s on track to get a major bandwidth boost when 5G spectrum becomes available. In the meantime, service providers are planning field trials and more for 2017. Some carriers also view fixed wireless as the best solution to meeting Connect America Fund (CAF) broadband deployment requirements and carriers will need to get moving soon on that front in order to meet FCC-mandated deployment targets.
Broadband Universal Service will be an important area for large and small carriers alike. Large carriers will be looking at how to meet deployment goals, while smaller carriers await a resolution of a budget shortfall that threatens the effectiveness of broadband rural service in their territories.
Rethinking video will also be top-of-mind for telecom service providers. Questions to be resolved include whether other providers will launch over-the-top (OTT)-only services such as the DirecTV Now service that AT&T launched in late 2016 and whether such offerings will cannibalize increasingly costly traditional cable packages. Both AT&T and Verizon also are hoping to generate new advertising and content revenues through some big acquisitions. While AT&T hopes to acquire Time Warner, Verizon has its sights set on Yahoo.
We’re also intrigued by an opportunity that carriers reportedly have been pursuing under the radar – creating an Amazon style platform to support an a la carte approach to selling video programming, potentially from a wide range of sources.
G.fast seems to have the potential to eke considerably more bandwidth out of existing copper telecom wiring over greater distances than originally expected, making it another important contender for boosting broadband speeds for telcos that have seen DSL subscribership dwindling.
New business opportunities are always hot and two of the hottest we see at this time are software defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), which offers compelling advantages for enterprise customers, and the Internet of Things. With the traditional mobile market reaching a saturation point, offering connectivity for connected cars and other IoT applications has strong appeal for wireless carriers.
Cableco entry into the wireless market has been a potential threat for years but it looks like the threat could be real this time. Comcast has said it plans to enter the market using spectrum leased from Verizon and the cableco also could acquire spectrum in the 600 MHz auction, which is expected to wrap up in 2017. The possibility of using a WiFi-first approach could make wireless economics more attractive for Comcast than they would have been in the past. We might also see other cable companies launching wireless some type of wireless offering as they look to gain more control over their TV Everywhere offerings.
More M&A? The service provider industry already looks considerably different than it did a year ago as the result of several key mergers and acquisitions – a topic we discussed in a late-2016 blog post. The industry could see further change if M&A continues at the pace it saw last year – a trend that appears poised to continue in 2017.
Telecompetitor looks forward to covering these and other trends for you in the upcoming year.