South Africa's emerging telecommunications leaders will be the companies that are able to provide a convergence of voice, data and video.
This is according to Richard Menton, GM of Bytes Communication Systems, who identifies the four trends driving the rapid and ongoing evolution of the telecoms industry.
* Mobility – The adoption of mobile technology is growing at a brisk rate, with laptops, smartphones and newer devices such as the iPad delivering convenient access to multimedia services. The development of wireless technology on the part of Telkom and Internet service providers is key to the ongoing adoption of mobile technology. We are already seeing major developments in this area with advancements such as Cell C’s 4G and other wireless technologies which are being introduced. The promise is that the costs of the technology will come down, but that remains to be seen. The benefits to business include the reduction of costs, enhanced productivity and most importantly the improvement of customer relationships.. Mobility leads to greater flexibility in how we work and has made multimedia communication convenient and accessible. The growth of cloud computing has also contributed to the use of mobile devices, supporting more flexible working practices by providing services over the Internet.
* Unified communications – Unified communications (UC) links people to the enterprise. The International Engineering Consortium defines UC as all forms of call and multimedia or cross-media message management functions controlled by a user for both business and social purposes. This includes any enterprise informational or transactional application process that emulates a human user and uses a single, content-independent personal messaging channel for contact access. UC breaks down the barriers between different modes of communication, media and devices so that people can communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time, and through any channel. UC has been around in different shapes and forms for a while, uniting voice, e-mail, fax, presence and chat, but the missing component has been – and still is – reliable, high-quality video. Customers today are starting to evaluate providers based on their capacity to deliver video.
* Working from home – There is an increasing move towards working from home for at least part of the week. Being able to plan your day around traffic patterns, meetings and the like makes good economic sense and goes a long way to improving efficiencies and productivity. Interestingly, research shows that what works best is a healthy balance between home and office. Interaction with peers, the business process and the office culture are important elements to consider in maintaining this balance. The older guard is more reluctant to allow workers this sort of freedom to work from the location of their choice, but this will change over time.
* Information security – Security in the telecoms sector revolves around the provision of services. From the point of view of the enterprise, protection of information is paramount. At the same time, consumers are becoming increasingly used to social networking, and to applications such as LinkedIn and Skype, and they expect to have access to the same services within the workplace.