High-Profile Telecom Technologies Deliver Below Expectations

Posted by Peter Cochrane on February 17, 2003

Asia Computer Weekly (ACW) online, Jorina Choy - 17 Feb 2003

SINGAPORE: ALMOST every telecoms technology that had millions of dollars in investment have failed. In contrast, technologies with fewer investments recorded a success, noted Concept Labs' Peter Cochrane at the recent IDC Asia/Pacific IT Forum 2003 here.

Cochrane, who is the co-founder of the technology consulting and engineering services firm, identified WAP (wireless application protocol), 3G, and Bluetooth as some of the technologies which were oversold but underdelivered.

On the contrary, SMS (short message service) and WiFi (wireless fidelity) have seen a widespread adoption despite a lack of investments.

WiFi is the logo provided by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Association for the 802.11b wireless Ethernet standard.

"WAP and 3G were oversold but underdelivered," said Cochrane, who was also the former chief technologist at British Telecommunications.

"You are not going to get 2Mbps wireless access unless you are the only user and you have a satellite over your head," he said.

"And people want to send a photo on their mobile phones at the same price as sending an SMS message."

WiFi, on the other hand, is selling faster than cellphones or broadband. And for its first four years, Cochrane said it is taking off. However, phone companies are not taking advantage of WiFi.

Cochrane also said that telecoms is "a sector in crisis".

"Telcos are debt-laden and constrained by the region they are in. They have not addressed broadband needs and nobody cares about 3G. They are under attack by the newcomers," he said.

According to Cochrane, the biggest fears of telcos include concerns that broadband is killing telephony; big switches taken out by VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol); PBX market losing out to LANs and Intranets; fixed phones sidelined by mobile phones; and new players' CAPEX and OPEX below 10% of theirs.

If these changes take place, telcos will be marginalised to become "bit transporters".