The history of ICT is about the democratization of processing power. What once took a valve computer the size of a room can be done by a chip in a wristwatch.
As goes processing power, so goes economic and social and political power. The world's networks were once ruled by an elite brotherhood that decided who and what could be connected and at what price.
As the blogger uprising following the disputed election in Iran demonstrated so dramatically, communications is no longer in the hands of the telcos and the press barons. Networks are open platforms and users have the choice of thousands of devices. Telcos themselves are no longer PTTs but commercial enterprises bound to go where their customers want them to go.
Those functions that telcos used to monopolize - network ownership, management, voice and data, interconnection, sales and pricing - can now be done by anyone. Most can be done by everyone. Users have long been able to switch calls on their own device. They can build out and manage LANs and home networks running multiple apps. Voice will become a low-cost app in a bundle. By the end of the decade it will be free.
Where once users had to rely on the public switched network and national numbering plan to connect with others, today Skype, MSN and social network sites do this for them. Every individual is managing his or her own network.
The next ten years will the same, only more so. By the end of the decade most of the world's phone users will carry around a phone and internet access device in their pocket, tightly-integrated with their multimedia social network app.
Those telcos left will be those that either cannibalized their own services in favor of those that allowed customers to do what they wanted, or decided to scale up as a giant bit carrier.
2020 at a glance
2020 at a glance
- Telco of one
- 20 billion connected devices
- Augmented reality
- End-to-end fiber
- Smart enablers
- Content conflicts
- Dumb pipes rule OK
- RIP ARPU and MOU
- RIP pay-TV
- LTE thrives, Wimax survives
- Rethink in approach to generating revenue
- The coming application store shakedown
- Only scratched the surface
- Low-cost 4G everywhere
- Big pipe – bigger apps