It was always going to be a close-run thing. According to the recent and much publicised report concluding that voice revenues are going to drop by 45% between now and 2024 (to a mere $208 billion). This is down from $381 billion last year.
No-one can say they did not see it coming. For years we sat through Powerpoint presentations where the line on the graph representing good old voice has gone from top left to bottom right and the line representing cool new stuff has gone from bottom left to top right. They used to make you feel a little bit sick.
The danger zone was the point somewhere in the middle of the graph where the two lines meet. That point, that seems slightly like James Bond managing to grab control of the plunging plane, has a date on it.
No longer is that date a distant one, it is within the next year or so.
The question is: are telcos ready to deliver compelling, cool new services now and if not, when?
The glib answer, of course, is ‘well, look here, we have 5G’.
The cynical response to that is a) no you don’t and b) that is not the answer.
The real answer depends on whether telcos have changed their thinking and their strategies to deliver the stuff that, for the moment, is being delivered by others. The report says that some of the loss will be offset by mobile video services but only about 10%, which is clearly not enough.
It is true that we have seen some encouraging developments in telco partnerships, with music suppliers and gaming companies but is it enough, or is it too little, too late.
Not surprisingly, the telco arena has always been obsessed by technology. It has always believed that newer, faster networks will deliver them from long term loss.
The reality is that it will not and the reality is that providing music and games is a digital transformation too far for many telcos (there are a few notable exceptions, such as Turkcell).
If, realistically speaking, telcos are not really geared up to deliver music or gaming, what other options are there?
Can they, for instance, be the real guardians of our online privacy and security? When companies such as Facebook tell you that they now play that role, you simply trump with laughter at the blatant lies.
The problem here is that they are playing on ground which is more comfortable for the big tech companies and are not going to win many battles there.
They need to do something, though, and quickly, particularly if the feeling out there that a tech bubble is not just forming but close to bursting, is accurate.