The annual telecoms survey is upbeat – wait, no it’s not …

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It is the beginning of the year which means, amongst other things, that the results of the annual survey are published.

There is comforting news – 76.8% of respondents (1,500 telecoms professionals, spread across operators, vendors, analysts and the world) feel positive about 2018.

So, that’s OK then.

Yet digging a little deeper there may be trouble ahead.

Although just over half the operators are investing in IoT, 20% believe that is overhyped. Many also say that there is a lack of internal commitment to IoT, as well as a lack of any clear business case.

The conversation around the operator’s role in IoT has, of course, been going on for years and has been conducted along familiar lines. Should operators become the application/device provider or the platform? (Think: ‘dumb pipe’ debates.) Some operators have made significant inroads into the arena – Vodafone springs to mind – and others simply do not see the point.

There is one question amongst the many asked during the survey that is fascinating. It polls respondents about what they might think of various technologies in five years’ time.

Worryingly, in five years’ time almost half of the respondents believe that IoT “was useful for telecom service providers, but it fell short of delivering on its initial promise”.

In fact, you could – by highlighting various figures from the survey – conclude that IoT has no clear business case, little internal commitment, is overhyped and will fail to deliver on its initial promise.

So, that’s not OK then. Definitely not.

Similar feelings can be pinned to SDN, where almost 44% say that in five years’ time, they will believe it was “useful for telecom service providers, but it fell short of delivering on its initial promise”.

Only video services fared better, with less than 40% believing it would not deliver.

Counterbalancing this doom and gloom is the slightly bland fact that 62% of respondents believe that “emerging technology is critical to success”. There is no real pointer as to which or what this technology is (presumably not the overhyped IoT, SDN or – of course – AI).

One thing to bear in mind is that it still takes about ten years for technology to become invisible and ‘just how stuff works’. Indeed, the best quote about technology came from Douglas Adams (author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) who said in a keynote speech, “Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.” So, maybe, given a few more years, IoT, SDN and AI will have evolved from ‘technology’ to ‘just how stuff works’.

Let’s hope so – otherwise the respondents who are confident about telecoms this year will have more to fear than the cost cutting and web scale giants that they say are their biggest threats.

The survey covers much more than IoT, and is a good, in-depth read. Download it here.

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