Vision of the non-voice future

23 Jun 2006

Any operator still not convinced that voice will be just another application on the network ought to look at what's happening to UK incumbent BT.

Matt Bross, BT Group CTO and one of the people behind its 21CN next-generation network project, pointed out during a roundtable at the CommunicAsia2006 Summit yesterday that only 10% of BT's revenue comes from residential switched voice minutes. And that figure is set to drop.

'Voice is just another application and we're busy turning off the public switched network,' he said. 'If you defend the traditional model too hard you will miss out on opportunities,' he warned.

BT is already tapping into the opportunities. Its revenue in the first three months of the year was up 7% thanks to new services including broadband and 'lifestyle' offerings that more than offset the drop in traditional voice.

Yesterday's roundtable discussed what the future telecom network would look like and whether technologies such as wireless broadband would eventually displace copper. However, the consensus view was that the various access technologies, both fixed and wireless, would co-exist.

'From our perspective it's a whole range of access technologies,' said Nick Hutton, VP of marketing and communications, Alcatel Asia Pacific. He pointed out that wireless broadband would play an important role in tapping the next growth phase in rural communities. 'In this part of the world, it's very important,' Hutton suggested.

'There are many ways to get to a customer,' pointed out Don Rae, chief operations advisor at PLDT. The Philippines carrier uses a mixture of fiber, copper and wireless and noted that 'this isn't a winner takes all game.'

However, he did caution that not all of the wireless broadband projects that are being rolled out with much fanfare will necessarily get out of the trial stage. He noted that there were questions with how they scale, while the cost of backhaul was always a problem.

Robert Healey, hardware products group director for Asia Pacific, Juniper Networks, noted that many of the drivers for the next wave of services were coming from users rather than operators.

'It's all about the content and the personalization and that's driving innovation. It's not coming from the service provider community, it's coming from elsewhere and we have to anticipate that,' he said.

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