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Monday, March 17, 2008

Eight predictions for 2008

Source ~ The Edge
Updated by Media Relations Unit, Maxis Communications Berhad

Jan 21, Eight predictions for 2008 - by Oon Yeoh

Being that it's 2008, I figured it's a good idea to make eight tech predictions for the year. I've divided the predictions into good news and bad news. Let's start with the negative (it's always better to get the bad news out of the way).

1. Number portability will be further delayed

We've been talking about mobile number portability (MNP) for several years. According to a news report dated Oct 28, 2004, Malaysian mobile phone users were supposed to be able to keep their phone numbers even when they switched to another telco by mid-2005.

This is meant to encourage fierce competition amongst the telcos. Needless to say, none is exactly thrilled or eager to see the implementation happen. MNP is slated to begin in the first half of this year, with full rollout by year's end. I'll believe it when I see it.

2. WiMAX implementation will also be delayed

When the four WiMAX licensees were announced last year, there were shockwaves in the industry because none of them were big players. WiMAX is a big players' game because the cost of the rollout is huge.

The original deadline for initial rollout was end 2007, which has come and gone. That deadline has been revised to mid-2008. For those of you hoping to get a new wireless alternative to Streamyx this year, I say: "Don't hold your breath".

3. People still won't be using 3G

Actually, wireless Internet access is already available in the form of 3G although it's not really designed to be a Streamyx alternative (there would be serious congestion if people started to switch en masse from Streamyx to 3G).

The take-up rate is still sluggish because prices are still not low enough and content is still quite shabby. People just don't see a pressing need for high-speed Internet access for their phones. This had led to a vicious cycle where customers won't adopt 3G because content is poor and content providers won't invest in 3G because the addressable market is small. Don't expect this situation to change anytime soon.

4. New Media still ruled by blogs

Blogs are very useful, especially for political commentary and insight (and in some cases, for humour and comic relief). But blogs are old hat. In fact, they really shouldn't be considered a form of New Media anymore as they are quite mainstream.

What's missing in the local New Media landscape are podcasts and videocasts - far richer media with greater potential for innovative advertising. While there are literally tens of thousands of bloggers, I don't know of even one regular podcaster in this country. Our New Media guys are still too enamoured of blogs for there to be any change this year. Okay, enough doom and gloom, time now for the positive.

5. iPhone will come to Malaysia unlocked

The much hyped iPhone will finally reach our shores this year and unlike in the case of the US and some European countries, the version sold here will be unlocked.

Malaysia is a relatively small mobile market, too small for Apple to bother with hooking up with any one telco, locking-in iPhone owners to that telco, and demanding a cut of the telco's revenue. This is simply too much hassle for our little market.

6. Internet won't be censored

The government made the right decision when it decided not keep the Internet cencorship-free. This was part of its Bill of Guarantees when it launched the Multimedia Super Corridor.

Although there have been misguided calls by some politicians for the government to clamp down on freedom of expression on the Internet, so far the government has not reneged on its promise to keep the Internet free for censorship. I don't see this changing.

7. Telco price war continues

Some people might not have noticed it but there are now three new players in the local telco scene: U Mobile (which has a 3G license), Tune Talk (which is supposed to be a no-frills Mobile Virtual Network Operator) and Happy (a kind of no-frills MVNO from DiGi.Com).

Although I don't see any of these new entrants eating into the three incumbents' market share in any given significant way' their very presence and their aggressive pricing policy will result in a continuation of the price war, which can only benefit consumers.

8. More states will become WiFi enabled

The notion of providing state-wide WiFi access has already been taking up by Perak and Melaka. Recent news also indicate that Kuala Lumpur is headed that way. This is a trend that will grow, especially in light of the fact that the WiMAX rollout is likely to be delayed. Sure, WiFi has its shortcomings. The need for a lot of base-stations to cover a large area is the most obvious one. But WiFi is a proven technology, most laptops are WiFi enabled and it's relatively cheap and easy to deploy. I see more states signing up to be WiFied.

* Oon Yeo is a senior researcher at Telenor Research & Information Centre Asia Pacific. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Telenor or any other party.


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