When I speak at industry meetings, one of the most popular topics is what’s coming next. The wireless industry grows and changes all the time. It’s a much different place than it was just a few short years ago. In fact, every five to 10 years the industry reinvents itself. The last big shift was the smartphone explosion. Now the next big shift is starting.
So what will this industry look like over the next few years? Here are a few of the top issues and challenges I talk about and we will be wrestling with. Some of these you may be familiar with, but I would guess there are several that may be a surprise.
So let’s take a look at what 2015 and beyond has in store for us. Let’s look at this from a variety of perspectives, including the wireless networks, handset makers, app makers, workers, partners and investors.
ONE: Wireless Pricing Will Continue to Drop
Wireless has always been an incredible innovation, but it has also been very expensive. There is a reason. It costs networks a fortune to continually pour billions of dollars into upgrading the networks for more network reach and at faster speeds.
However, we have seen that pricing is getting much more attention during the last year or two. Today AT&T Mobility (T) , Sprint (S) and T-Mobile (TMUS) lead the way with lower pricing. Customers love this.
Verizon Wireless (VZ) has not joined the low cost party yet. They are still the high cost carrier, but I would imagine they will join the party as their growth slows because of their high prices as the rest of the industry moves in this direction.
Will this trend continue long-term is the question.
TWO: Will Lower Customer Cost Slow Corporate Network Investment?
Initially customers love low cost, but will it impact earnings enough to slow down the continual investment in the networks? Wireless carriers have been pouring billions of dollars into their networks to expand their reach and speed them up from 3G to 4G and next to 5G.
If there is a slowdown in innovation and speed, will this affect how customers feel about the wireless industry? Will this affect how customers buy services?
We could see the industry split into different segments. One offering higher speeds at a higher price, and the other offering lower speeds at a lower price.
There is a market for both. It will be interesting to see how this industry develops over the next couple years.
THREE: Will We Run Out of Wireless Data Spectrum and Will It Cause Customer Complaints?
Wireless never had a wireless data spectrum shortage problem before. That’s because there were not enough smartphones to matter. Years ago Blackberry (BBRY) was number one and they only had a small slice of the market.
However ever since the Apple iPhone (AAPL) , Google (GOOG) Android and Samsung Galaxy entered the space a few years ago, the marketplace has changed. Suddenly there is explosive demand for wireless data spectrum. Apps on smartphones have jumped from a few hundred to more than a million in the last few years. Every app sucks data.
This is becoming a worry with carriers. The limited supply of wireless data spectrum is threatening to cause this information superhighway to develop potholes in the road. Will 2015 be the year we start to see occasional slowdowns and outages?
Unless we can come up with a real and long-term solution to this problem, this threat will continue.
FOUR: Will Leadership in Wireless Change?
Smartphones like Apple iPhone, Google Android and Samsung Galaxy continue to lead the handset space. However, we have not really seen anything brand new in a while. Will a newcomer change the industry once again? It has happened before with iPhone and Android.
Network changes are starting to occur as well. Over the years the largest and fastest growing networks have been AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless. Sprint and T-Mobile were struggling.
However, now that may be changing. I don’t see any trouble at AT&T or Verizon, but I do see Sprint and T-Mobile waking up and starting to grow once again.
In fact, Sprint is now waking up and could start to show rapid growth if they can keep coming up with terrific new marketing ideas like the half-off special they have in the marketplace for a limited time today.
It will be good to see the wireless industry in the USA have four, healthy, growing companies. I have a sense that is the direction we are heading.
FIVE: New Strategic Directions for the Wireless Industry
Over the years we have watched with awe how change in the wireless world led to rapid growth in the industry for both carriers and handset makers of smartphones and tablets.
Those same kind of changes will continue to sweep across and transform the wireless industry with new devices like glasses, mobile watches and more, but there is much more than that coming.
Wireless is beginning to transform other industries as well as its own. Take a look at industries like automotive, healthcare, retail and many others.
Leaders are reinventing their space. These leaders will have a competitive advantage for a while. Eventually, over the next few years, this will transform and companies who are not diving into these new waters will be at a competitive disadvantage.
The Bottom Line
There are many more trends and predictions in wireless, telecom, television like cable TV and IPTV and the Internet. I hope this gets you excited for the incredible year ahead.
The bottom line is this. Wireless has been and continues to be the center of the innovative universe. Wireless is growing and expanding. It is attracting the attention of not only companies, workers and investors in the wireless universe, but is now expanding into other industries as well.
Growth in the wireless industry will continue, but will also continue to spread and to change. Keeping up with the opportunities and the challenges is key to success and winning at this game.
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