As we prepare to embark on a new decade, we’ll continue to see changes both in the way telecommunications companies provide their service and the way their customers will consume those services. We expect 2020 to be a landmark year of change in many respects and on both accounts. From the telecom provider perspective, carriers will continue the transformation of their networks to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI), robotics process automation (RPA), network and services virtualization, while continuing the turndown of legacy services. Those vendors with a wireless play will also be hard at work growing their 5G capabilities and footprint. At the same time, telecom consumers will look at how these, and other changes in the network, impact them and how to best adapt; whether it is understanding the opportunities associated with the adoption of 5G, the ongoing move to Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) to better control their network, the expanded use of the internet of things (IoT), or the continued migration of many traditional services to the cloud.
Let’s touch on the customer perspective and each of these technology changes in turn.
- 5G: This latest generation of wireless technology tends to be on the top of everyone’s mind with its promises of vastly increased speeds, greater bandwidth, lower latency and improved capacity. But what does that mean for the enterprise? With solutions only just emerging, companies are looking to understand how 5G may factor into their overall corporate strategy; whether it can be used as a fixed line replacement, how it can enable an IoT strategy, or it can enhance the capabilities of their mobile workforce. The potential is great, however, mobile carriers only started to deploy 5G this year. While coverage will continue to expand throughout 2020, there is a long way to go before we get close to a nationwide 5G network. In the near term, companies will need to focus on managing their current 4G services and spend, understand where 5G will fit and trial 5G where it’s available and makes sense.
- SD-WAN: We expect the adoption of SD-WAN to continue into the new year as companies look to achieve better control and visibility of their networks. In fact, IDG’s 2019 SD-WAN Market Trends Survey found more than 50% of companies surveyed indicate they have already deployed or are piloting this service[i]. While SD-WAN won’t replace all traditional network solutions, its benefits – including ease of deployment, ability to dynamically control the network down to the application level, and selection of the optimal access path – make it an important part of a growing number of WAN options within the enterprise. With this evolution comes a continued transformation of the underlying providers and service types that make up the network, including an emphasis on ethernet access, dedicated internet, and a variety of broadband access alternatives, driving more complexity among the components that make up the SD-WAN solution.
- IoT: The telecommunications network, whether it is fixed or wireless, is the backbone that enables IoT. As the use of IoT expands into new areas, companies will be challenged with maintaining control over the increasing number of assets. In fact, Gartner expects that by next year, the enterprise and automotive IoT market will grow to 5.8 billion endpoints – a 21% increase from 2019 alone[ii]. At the same time, maintaining device connectivity and avoiding downtime will be critical to the IoT infrastructure. As a result, supporting, monitoring, and managing this growing segment – while integrating these devices into the business environment – will create significant challenges for the enterprise.
- Cloud: Finally, we expect a continued decline in large fixed investments in data center services and the continued rise of more robust, pay-as-you go models associated with cloud service providers such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. At the same time, these and other companies are making significant inroads in replacing traditional telecom services with virtual, cloud-based offerings. Cloud-based offerings have expanded to include critical business applications that used to reside on the desktop or laptop, legacy voice, conference calling and even cellular voice services – all of which have all seen migrations to cloud based alternatives. The result has been rapid growth in cloud costs, greater bandwidth needs to accommodate cloud-based services, a plethora of application licenses, as well as a need to turn down legacy services that often get overlooked.
Each of these new or evolving technologies provides a thread that weaves into the network changes that 2020 will bring – and the increased complexity that will result. So, whether it is managing roll outs of new 5G devices, dealing with increased connectivity options and carriers with SD-WAN, controlling the explosion of IoT devices, or maintaining visibility and control of growing cloud costs, the enterprise will face increased challenges in the coming year. At the same time, to maximize their opportunities, the enterprise customer will need continued visibility into what services they have now and where they are deployed, as well as a clear perspective on the costs and availability of new solutions as they unfold. While changes can be difficult, the enterprise that is most responsive to these dynamics will be the one best positioned to take advantage of all that the future may hold.
[i] IDG. MARKET PULSE RESEARCH: 2019 SD-WAN MARKET TRENDS SURVEY ON BEHALF OF MASERGY https://files.masergy.com/hubfs/White%20Papers/2019%20SD-WAN%20Market%20Trends%20Survey%20Data%20-%20IDG.pdf
[ii] Gartner. Newsroom. Gartner Says 5.8 Billion Enterprise and Automotive IoT Endpoints Will Be in Use in 2020. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-08-29-gartner-says-5-8-billion-enterprise-and-automotive-io