What to expect in the South African telecommunications market in 2011
The South African telecommunications market is part of a global market that is being driven by technology and advancement, with new gadgets and technologies changing the industry almost overnight.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2011, some of what we know will change and be replaced by newer technologies, while other existing telecommunications tools will expand and gain market share in the year ahead.
2011 might become known as the year of the tablet computer, following the breakthrough success of Apple's iPad launch in 2010. “The tablet is set to outpace laptops and notebooks, becoming the most important communication tool in business,” says Managing Director of Alvarion Southern Africa and Nigeria, Winston Smith.
“During the course of the year we are likely to see data, fixed line operators and voice technologies all bundled with tablets. Currently limited to only supporting WiFi and 3G technology, tablets will soon be able to support multiple radio technologies, including embedded WiMax chips, 4G, and high-speed radios. This will be the key to the tablet's continued growth,” says Smith.
“In the cellphone market, the variation between the different smartphones is becoming blurred,” says Smith. Players such as Apple's iPhone, Google's Android, the BlackBerry, and a new offering from an alliance of Nokia and Microsoft is set to be released soon.
“However, the Android, with its open operating system and multi-vendor support looks to continue to outpace the others,” says Smith. The Android operating system has already seized 25% market share across the world and looks likely to grab market share from the likes of Nokia and BlackBerry smartphones in South Africa this year.
Wireless technologies such as 3G, high-speed mobile, WiMax, WiMax enhanced and LTE (long-term evolution) are all set to grow in 2011, says Smith. The various technologies are moving towards converging on each other to all become LTE or 4G, he explains. “The subscriber numbers and uptake of broadband for wireless users is much higher than in cabled options in South Africa, and this trend is set to continue during 2011,” says Smith.
However, one inhibitor to this growth is the regulatory environment in the country. There is still the need for a reviewing of and an auctioning off of the frequency spectrum to new operators, enabling new entrants to participate in the mobile and fixed line environment.
This will allow new operators to supply their own infrastructure instead of selling that of existing operators and increasing competition in the industry. Timelines for this process are continually being extended and the process delayed. These continuing delays are the single biggest inhibitor to the growth and development of this industry at present, stresses Smith.
“Traditional telecommunications technologies such as e-mail are set to stay as one of the main tools used by organisations to stay in contact with people, but the location on which we access it is changing,” says Smith. “The desktop is rapidly being replaced by mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers,” he explains.
Social networking tools are also set to increase their impact and spread within the telecommunications market, being used anywhere from HR and management, to personal contact tools. “The likes of Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all growing to be part of the tools used by organisations to contact people, hire staff, market their products and increase brand awareness,” says Smith.
Connectivity options, providing larger amounts of data at faster speeds at a decreased price, are also going to increase in 2011. While connectivity options will become more affordable, consumers will choose to spend the same amount of money to get more data at faster speeds, Smith explains. Broadband technologies are currently capable of 10 megabits per second and above; however, the majority of broadband users are still only experiencing 356 kilobits per second on ADSL connections.