Close behind - and tied for second place - were video services (which includes mobile TV, OTT streaming, multiscreen services, etc) and mobile commerce, both of which were selected by 53% of respondents.
We also had a tie for third place - 37% of respondents selected digital content services (excluding video) and IoT/M2M as heavy growth prospects for the business. Not far behind was good old value added services (VAS, 33%).
To no one’s surprise, voice and SMS remain the least cited growth prospects - even when factoring in HD voice - with less than 13% of respondents expecting enough growth from the traditional cash cow to include it in their Top 3. That said, the result is slightly higher than last year, which could be for two reasons:
- We combined traditional voice/SMS and HD voice into one category this year (as opposed to separate categories in the previous survey).
- Some operators are finding ways to make additional money from voice outside of the usual per-minute model. Some wholesale carriers, for instance, are making money from voice-focused VAS services like fraud management and revenue assurance. VoLTE-related services for termination and roaming are also starting to pick up as VoLTE becomes more widespread, although an argument could be made that VoLTE counts as a data app instead of voice.
I want my LTE
We also asked respondents to name the top three technology trends that will have the greatest impact on their business in 2016 (see Figure 2).
As with previous surveys, LTE and LTE-Advanced are far and away the biggest technology trends (74%), as operators either move to LTE, continue deployments of LTE, or move on to LTE-Advanced. And that’s to be expected as LTE/LTE-A is a foundational technology that enables many of the new services operators want to launch.
Cloud computing ranked second overall (selected by almost 50% of respondents), followed closely by big data (48%) and OTT/social media (44%).
Security (which covers mobile security and the general security/privacy landscape) was selected by just under 30% of respondents, indicating they’re either unconcerned with cyberthreats or feel they have it covered.
We included video as a tech trend for the first time this year, and only 17% of respondents put it in their Top 3. Given that over half of respondents expect video services to be a key growth driver, we’ll assume the impact of video as a tech trend is because their networks are already engineered to deal with video traffic.
But network engineering plans don’t yet include network virtualization. Less than 20% of respondents cited SDN/NFV as likely to have a big impact on their business next year, which likely reflects that many Asia-Pacific operators - especially in emerging markets - are still working out just what they’re going to with SDN/NFV, and where.
A recent report from Technology Business Research says that over 50 operators are engaged in trials and controlled implementations of NFV and SDN, but a relatively small group of early-adopter operators will lead the charge on NFV and SDN adoption over the next couple of years - with the rest of the industry to follow suit in 2018, once NFV and SDN prove to reduce the cost of delivering network services in high-volume operator networks.
According to TBR, they’ll also be implementing SDN and NFV in stages, focusing initially on domains that are relatively easy to convert, such as routing and switching, optical transport, EPC, and IMS. Some of the more challenging domains, such as service delivery platform and the radio access layer, will be among the last domains to be virtualized. Thus, SDN/NFV’s low score in this category is likely a reflection of telco strategies involving early trials and phased adoption.