Top 10 Mobile Voice Predictions For 2012

Smartphone

I have been getting into the spirit of Christmas and have prepared my top 10 predictions for 2012. And I’ve even added in a joker, gratis.

1. The Telecom Expense Management (TEM) proposition continues to consolidate in the US and finally starts to gain ground in Europe and Asia, driven partly by economic conditions but also by additional pressure from senior management to control costs.

TEM is such a good purchase for enterprise that the reasons behind its slow uptake outside of North America are still a matter of debate. With telecom suppliers regularly over-billing at the rate of up to 20% and mobile devices running up even larger charges if roaming is inadvertently left switched on, the potential for major savings is huge.

2. A major data loss from a smartphone or other mobile device, or a malware attack on an enterprise’s servers via a mobile appliance, temporarily halts the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. However, the huge proliferation of mobile devices re-starts the whole process again within weeks.

A recent report from security specialists McAfee highlighted a 37 per cent increase in malicious Android phone attacks over the last quarter. Combined with a 76 per cent rise in Android malware for the second quarter, this makes grim reading for the average BYOD house.

Although the iPhone is relatively unaffected at the moment, the US trend of jail-breaking – opening the device to apps designed for other operating systems – means that thousands of iPhone users who choose to jail-break or gain root access to their handsets are potentially vulnerable to the same risk, as hackers start creating malware for the iPhone.

Despite frequent warnings, with so many IT departments not yet set up to guard against such an attack, it’s only a matter of time before a major data loss hits a large enterprise player hard.

3. Greater integration takes place between the TEM and Mobile Device Management (MDM) propositions, as smartphone penetration in the enterprise market continues. MDM is one of the hottest topics around at the moment. Once the province of BlackBerry alone – who insisted you not only purchased their expensive server solutions but their priced-above-average handsets, too, for the privilege of controlling your users’ devices – there are now a number of players offering comparable if not better MDM solutions.

However, an MDM solution in isolation from a comprehensive system for managing and controlling ALL your telecom expenses is only part of the story. 2012 will see providers start to offer integrated TEM-MDM solutions that will not only manage the business’ entire telecom estate, seamlessly and from a single console, but which will equally seamlessly integrate with the business’ other internal systems (SAP, ERP etc) to fully control all of the telecom lifecycle.

4. Further TEM vendor consolidation takes place as competition on price forces more companies into the red, as a consequence of non-commercial and unviable pricing bids for new business. The pressure to deliver even more with less will accelerate in 2012, as will the inevitable attempt to squeeze the suppliers in turn. Some TEM vendors – particularly those with weak wireless businesses – will go to the wall as the economy flatlines and the European business sector continues to stagnate.

5. The Mobile Application market continues to grow unabated. Meanwhile, a power consumption breakthrough will take place, driven by consumer demand, as power-draining applications make phones unusable after a couple of hours.

If Santa could bring me a smartphone whose battery that lasted more than a day, I’d stop charging him for parking his reindeer on our roof. I’m tired of carrying around spare batteries, so it was good to hear recently that a team of scientists at the McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science appears to have cracked one of the thorniest problems of modern electrical engineering – batteries which actually work.

The team’s products, using a hi-tech mix of sheets of carbon and silicon to supercharge today’s lithium-ion batteries, hold up to 10 times as much power and charge up to ten times faster. They reckon the technology could be on the market within as little as three years, providing someone else doesn’t pip them to the post.

6. Real-time usage alerts for both domestic and international voice, data and text usage become the norm, to avoid customer “bill-shock”. I heard the other day of a delegate who attended a conference in Switzerland over a weekend and came back with a roaming bill in 4 figures.

A once-off data charge like that could cripple a small company if one of their employees went on a prolonged international trip and forgot to turn off data roaming, but even large enterprises can be affected if hundreds or – in some cases – thousands of staff make the same mistake.

As more and more staff turn to mobile devices to access corporate data on the move, and in the absence to date of consistent action to make the carriers reduce their charges, these bills could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. 2012 will be the year in which the issue is addressed.

7. Pre-paid Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) price plans gain ground in the business user market, as customers seek greater control over their choice of handset and greater flexibility in their choice of price plan. Smartphone handset prices may be coming down but no-one could yet call them cheap, particularly compared to the cost of standard devices.

It looks as if thrifty organisations are already following the consumer market and forgoing long-term contract commitments in favour of their own SIM-free handset plus cheaper, more flexible PAYG price plans – which they then chop and change as new offers come on the market. Next year we can expect to see this trend grow.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the mobile carriers, whose business models rely on a heavy user-subsidy up-front which they then recoup over the life of an 18 or 24-month contract. No wonder Vodafone, at least in the UK, is playing catch-up in the PAYG market and targeting a more affluent, up-market type of user. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some leading edge company going with Tesco Mobile! At least you’d get loyalty points – but would the company let you keep them?

8. The Mobile VoIP calls proposition gains ground. Meanwhile, Fixed Line VoIP installations increase and start to gain wider acceptance, while Voice costs themselves become less transparent and more difficult to manage. Mobile VoIP is maturing to the extent that dropped calls, other parties who sound like they’re calling from the bottom of a Chilean mine and lost calls are (if not yet completely a thing of the past) at least more unusual.

However, as VoIP gains popularity due to the significant cost-savings available, and POTS Voice traffic becomes a simple commodity, we can expect the carriers to respond by making it increasingly difficult to track the cost of a standard Voice call and carry out the cost comparison.

Meanwhile, there are some interesting cost-allocation implications for those enterprises deploying VoIP implementations across multiple territories and operating companies.

9. Enterprise senior management becomes better informed and more tech-savvy, to keep up with mobile developments as more and more business is managed in a mobile environment.

Example: demand for call tracking and auditing is already increasing, as compliance regulations require financial firms to track who owned what cell/desk phone number(s) at any given point in time, and be able to produce call detail data on request. With new EU regulations just imposed this month data integrity, it’s now down to the management team to keep a well-informed eye on developments or risk facing huge fines.

10. As a rule, data circuit pricing drops 5-10% every year. In 2012, companies will learn to respond to this by keeping a close track of contract expiry dates and negotiating better pricing at term-end.

This is more of a wish than a prediction… When you already know the rate is likely to be lower at term-end than at the start of a contract, it’s only sensible to diarise a “check contract” internal meeting 2 months before contract renewal, with a view to negotiating a better price with your vendor. Yet you’d be surprised how many firms fail to do so. Best practice contracts have a price review clause built-in at the outset: we’ve even heard of ones with a pre-determined annual discount clearly quantified.

Finally, one for luck and continuing the mobile theme: someone launches a “Mobile Utility Belt” – to carry all the accessories you need just to keep your mobile device working (including your four spare batteries). When you see everyone wearing one and it’s next Christmas’ “must have” fashion item, just remember: you read it here first.

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Ben Mendoza founded MDSL in 1995 with a vision to provide financial trading organisations with the tools to drastically improve the management of their market data services costs down to an individual user level. Ben's technology career began in 1974 and has included telecommunications engineering with British Telecom, applied electronics design with Marconi Space and Defence Systems, data network design with Timeplex, and North Sea oil platform systems implementations with Marathon Oil UK. Ben founded his first company in 1984. Digital Networks International Limited (DNI) was an independent IT consultancy firm providing network design and implementation services to customers such as Lehman Brothers, BAII and The Target Group. In 1987 Ben turned his hand to software, creating a Help Desk system called HDE. HDE customers included British Telecom, BP Oil, Barclays Bank, Robert Fleming & Co. and Levi Strauss & Co.