Five telecoms trends to watch in 2011

[By Tim Walter]

Expect 2011 to be an exciting year for the telecommunications industry as a host of new products from the world’s handset and computer manufacturers hit the SA market and as competition among the country’s service providers and operators hots up.

Here are a few trends we’re expecting to see shape the SA telecoms market in the year to come.

The year of the tablet
Tablet computers will break down the door to the mainstream this year, following the breakthrough success of Apple’s iPad in 2010. According to the Yankee Group, adoption of tablet computing is outstripping that of high-definition television sets, handheld gaming consoles and MP3 players. The analyst firm expects the tablet market to grow in value US$16bn in 2010 to a huge $46bn in 2014. This is in spite of the fact that average price per unit will almost halve over that time.

Many industry watchers predict that tablets will change the way consumers access data for work and fun while staying mobile and accessing their social networks.

SA, where the iPad was officially released at the end of January, is finally enjoying a slice of the action this year. Samsung has also already released its Galaxy Tab to the local market. Hopefully, we’ll also see the local launch of the Motorola Xoom (chosen as the product of the year at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas), BlackBerry’s PlayBook, the next generation of iPads, and many other Windows and Android tablets during 2011.

This will be good news for hotspot and mobile data operators since consumers will be using even more data on the move.

Android on the rise
The Android operating system has already seized 25% market share across the world and looks likely to grab market share from the likes of Nokia and BlackBerry smartphones in SA this year. Android is building huge momentum around the world. Technology analyst Canalys says it is growing at twice the speed of its competitors.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that Android is outpacing the growth of its rivals given that it is supported by multiple hardware manufacturers, while the BlackBerry smartphone and Apple operating systems are found only on BlackBerry smartphones and Apple devices.

Android brings together the mobile world and the software innovation that powers Google. Increasingly, applications are harnessing the power of the cloud to perform functions that a phone simply doesn’t have the processing muscle for. A good example is Google Goggles, which matches pictures taken on the phone against a database of images stored on Google, and then returns a wealth of contextually correct information to the user.

There is still plenty of space for Android to grow its penetration in SA. The Android operating system is already available on handsets from Sony Ericsson, HTC, Samsung, LG and Motorola, among others.

Nokia gets its groove back
Nokia has — so far — been one of the big losers in the transition from cellphones to smartphones. But I am going to go out on a limb and predict resurgence for the handset manufacturer in 2011. Nokia’s hardware is still among the best in the industry and the company could bounce back if it successfully brings its software up to date.

Symbian is in for a facelift this year and Nokia has already launched its first version of the Meego operating system for high-end smartphones in the Nokia N8.  This could finally bring Nokia’s software up to speed with the latest iterations of iOS, BlackBerry OS and Android. Analysts also seem impressed with the moves new CEO Stephen Elop is making to turn the company around.

ADSL becomes a must-have
Falling prices of ADSL data, paired with growing interest in rich online media services, online gaming and other demanding consumer applications will drive growth of the ADSL market this year. It’s not that users will be replacing their 3G modems with ADSL connections; rather, the mobile connection will be used away from home, while the ADSL connection will be the always-on link that connects the home to the Internet.

In addition to uncapped and high-capped data products, the prospect of local-loop unbundling and pressure on Telkom to scrap the telephone rental component of ADSL (the much-hated Telkom tax) could see access prices drop this year or in early 2012. As a result, ADSL will be the must-have connectivity product for the middle-class home.

Tariffs keep dropping
Voice calls will keep getting cheaper this year.  In the mobile market, a more aggressive Cell C and a new entrant in the form of Telkom’s 8ta could shake pricing up.  Interconnect tariffs are set to drop again in March, which may give some operators and service providers scope to slash retail call rates. Telkom, meanwhile, will find itself under pressure to drop its retail rates to compete more effectively with voice-over-IP services and providers.

Though these drops will lead to an initial reduction in people’s mobile phone bills, expect to see minutes of usage gradually increase, allowing both consumers and business users to get more use out of their phones at the same (if not less) cost.

  • Tim Walter is GM for products and marketing at Nashua Mobile

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  • Eugene

    “Nokia has already launched its first version of the Meego operating system for high-end smart phones in the Nokia N8.”

    Meego is not available for the N8. The N8 runs on Symbian^3 and will also be the last high end smart phones from Nokia to run on Symbian. Symbian^4 is in the works, but will be used more on the mid range phones.

    I think you might be referring to the Nokia N9, which according to unofficial specifications will run on Meego.

  • http://getsmartphone.net SmartphoneEd

    Nice article. I agree with you on most points, but fear that you may be too optimistic in the case of Nokia. I hope you are going to be right, but the signs are not good. Nokia’s lunch is being eaten from both ends currently. Apple and Android are feasting on the top end while a host of Chinese manufacturers are eating away at the lower end where Nokia’s S40 software based phones have long been dominant. Nokia’s share of the smartphone market dropped from 44% in Q4 2009 to 30% a year later, while Android went from 9% to 33%.

    As Eugene pointed out Symbian has already been facelifted to Symbian^3, and is still not nearly in the same league as iOS and Android. The N8 is a beautiful piece of hardware, and the new E7 even more so, but they are both failing as a result of Symbian. Nokia has been battling to produce a new smartphone OS. Witness Maemo5 which was their first attempt. The only people who has heard of Maemo5 are the developers who designed it and the few owners of the Nokia N900. Their latest attempt, MeeGo, has been in the works for a long time, and is still not ready. And getting a MeeGo phone out the factory door will no longer be enough. These days an OS needs a complete eco-system (apps, etc) to attract consumers. There is a rumour going round that Nokia may do something with Microsoft. It may just be a rumour, but it is not completely crazy for Nokia to consider running the Windows Phone 7 software on its high-end phones. Microsoft appears to have succeeded in creating a phone OS with a real chance to compete with Android and iOS. The user interface is different from that of the competitors, the number of available apps is growing at a rapid rate, and Samsung, LG and HTC have launched phones running Windows Phone 7.

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