If you listen carefully you can almost hear the squealing of brakes across the telecoms world. We were expecting it, of course. The level of hype and general excitement was unsustainable without needing a serious holiday.
The problem is that vendors thrive on imagining the future – driverless cars, fuelled by AI, 5G, big data, analytics. And rightly so. This is how they keep connected to their customers, how they define road maps.
The other problem is that people like us thrive on reporting and commenting on these visions of the future. And, again, rightly so. If we constantly reported that telecoms companies were still playing catch up, still struggling with internal politics, legacy systems and processes and people who frankly just don’t want to change, then we could not boast of running a forward-looking, disruptive publication.
Sometimes however, we should take a break from the windswept world of disruption and upheaval and take time to reflect.
The recent Cisco report highlighted by John Tanner concludes that while APAC companies might think they are digitally ready (or ready for a digital world) they … um, aren’t.
They are not implementing IoT solutions, 5G and automation – not because they do not want to, but because they are too busy upgrading networks, bolstering security (often after being hacked) and rethinking their BSS.
There are, of course, exceptions in the telecoms world. Both Telefonica and Vodafone are launching workable solutions in a number of areas such as chatbots, IoT and (actually) just better connectivity. But they have size on their side. They are already many years into their respective transformation programs. They have turned the ship around and are beginning to make serious headway.
Many of the rest are struggling.
And the odds are not in their favor. Wholesale prices for 5G devices are looking to be around $750. This means that retail prices are going to be at levels which most customers will not pay, particularly as many of them are completely unaware of what 5G is and what it will do for them. Faster doesn’t cut it anymore and most people think that latency is something to do with boulders not rolling down hills until someone gives them a shove.
So, while the vision might still be there – a world where our lives are managed by an array of digital devices driven by AI and a host of other buzzwords – the truth is we are a long way from being home and dry.
In fact, as Douglas Adams might have put it, companies – and particularly telecoms companies – could not even be said to be home and vigorously towelling off.
Any word yet on what a $1,000 5G handset is likely to do for anyone? The Strategy Analytics piece that’s linked from here frets about the probable retail cost, but I would have thought the complete absence of apparent benefits should be more of a concern.