Most recognise that the telecoms industry is fixated by two things. The first is the network and the second is the handset. And if we are feeling generous, in third place comes the customer (although we had one view on this and Teresa Cottam had another – the debate is on!).
We are not there yet, but soon we will have more network than we will know what to do with. Knowing us, of course, we will fill it up with something or other – possibly even, as Tony Poulos points out, using it to make voice calls that. don’t. drop. out. – after a 20 year lull.
It is eye watering to even begin to list the network types that telecoms companies and organisations have been designing and deploying over the last decade or so. We have good old fashioned copper, which has been stretched into providing some sort of broadband. We have fibre, which one day might reach somewhere near our homes. And now fixed line networks come in all shapes, sizes and acronyms.
Then we have the mobile portfolio, with GSM producing 2G, then 3G, 4G and now(ish) 5G. In another few years we might have 6G.
Then there is WiFi, which started as something that made your broadband happen around your home, then went into the public and will soon be about ubiquitous as 5G. In fact, it will work with it, theoretically.
Then you have satellites (and ever more satellites) and balloons and drones, and WiFi via light bulbs and electricity and water and who knows what. And all of it ultra-low latency and close to the edge but not the customer.
Surely, at some point, we will go from most people struggling to get decent broadband via any access technology they have, to everybody getting decent broadband wherever they are. An analogy could be how we went from a complete lack of masks to protect people from COVID-19 to a plethora of masks that companies give away at the door.
If we get to the point of having surplus network capacity, the question is what should we do with it.
The telecoms industry will set about making it more efficient and cost effective and set off down that route as the way back to the profitability they used to enjoy.
Yet what the telecoms industry should be doing is – finally – focusing on what this huge network capacity can do for their customers and what the associated usage data can make them do better for their customers.
We can dream.