Telecom players braced and ready for 2012

John C. Tanner
15 Dec 2011

It's that time of year again, where everyone wraps up the year by breaking out their amateur crystal balls and attempting to divine the future or at least enough of it to get a handle on what the new year will bring.

Even if you don't take it that seriously, it can be admittedly a tricky business, especially in these days where the telecom industry is in a state of head-spinning flux as the world goes both IP and mobile, and as consumers take the helm, changing business models and driving demand into uncharted territory. Telecom players understand that the industry is changing rapidly, but what changes concern them the most, and how are those impacting them as a business?

So this year, Telecom Asia is taking a slightly more scientific approach to our year-end outlook. Last month, in partnership with Huawei Technologies, we conducted a online survey of telecom operators and vendors around the region to ask them about their business outlook for 2012 - not just in terms of general technology trends and growth drivers, but also changes within the company itself, the internal as well as external pressures driving that change, and whether they're at all confident in the face of all that change, or are bracing for the worst (the auspicious pop-cultural baggage that comes with a year like 2012 notwithstanding).

The executive summary goes something like this:

Many telecom players are facing both new challenges (non-traditional competition) and familiar ones (regulatory restraints), and are responding by expanding their market horizons and focusing on data, VAS and content as the big growth drivers over old-school segments like voice. But overall, they're pretty optimistic about their chances in terms of both market growth and making money from it.

Cautious optimism

Asked about how optimistic telecom players felt about growth prospects in their respective sectors, for the most part respondents were generally upbeat with the caveat that less than half expressed some level of optimism compared to the previous quarter, with close to 22% expecting no change in growth prospects (which is another way of saying that at least things won't get worse, growth-wise).

That said, just under 30% said they were less optimistic compared to the previous quarter, and only 2.3% expressed zero optimism at all.

Telcos are searching for new growth paths as they face declining ARPU and margins and increased competition from both traditional rivals and the over-the-top internet players. In cooperation with Telecom Asia, Huawei has supported this business outlook survey to gain insight into how service providers plan to address these formidable challenges. By leveraging the transformation from voice to data, pipe to content, human-to-human to machine-to-machine communication and communications technology to ICT, we believe the telecom industry will be able to converge broadband and digitalization for even greater development opportunities and turn challenges into growth opportunities.

- Jeff Liu, Huawei's president for the southern Pacific region

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