Ericsson: Preparing for the future of communication

In the widening universe
of communication services, contextual awareness will be increasingly important.
Operator offerings need to be flexible enough to adapt to various contexts, and
operators will need to provide platforms for communication solutions, rather
than individual communication services.




The form and function of
modern communication are shifting and expanding at an ever-increasing rate.
Thanks to the internet and mobile broadband, people are communicating more than
ever and in more ways than ever. Person-to-person communication is spreading
into any context that can benefit from it.


This whirlwind of
transformation and innovation poses a potent challenge for telecom operators, as
it threatens to weaken their relationships with consumers and diminish the
revenue generated by their telephony businesses. It is indisputable that
telecommunications is being fundamentally disrupted by services that have
quickly adopted — and adapted — new internet technologies.


But disruption also means
opportunity. In total, consumers are spending more money on telecom than ever.
Communication and connectivity are indispensable in a wide range of new
vertical solutions, from media to health, utilities to transportation, and
agriculture to government. As internet-based communication services evolve, it
will not be enough to offer appealing devices, service innovation and low
prices. Reliability, availability and privacy will become more relevant for consumers
and enterprises as they select a service provider.


This paper presents some
insights into a future shaped by simultaneous paradigm shifts in technology, society
and business. Possible future movements are described for three communication
solutions market segments — consumer, enterprise and in-process.


The shifts described will
have a profound impact on the way people communicate, the technologies they
use, and how service offerings will evolve. Improving understanding of the
needs in this future market will give all of its players a glimpse of the
future of communication.




Technology — openness spurs innovation


The common denominator for
innovative technology in the digital age is openness. An open technology is one with the capability
for constant improvement and evolution through community-based involvement and
knowledge sharing. Open-source software, for example, makes source code
available to everyone, rather than just the copyright holders.


The use of open and
free-of-charge technologies lowers the threshold for innovation and speeds up
time to market. Open, programmable devices can create mass-market uptake from
day one, with the internet as a tailored and efficient market channel. With
such a model, companies — whether big or small — no longer need the resources
of large enterprises, such as global telecommunications companies, to construct
a new communication service.


Sure enough, new,
innovative communication services are beginning to appear in many different flavors — almost all of them designed, implemented and delivered using various web
platforms. Such platforms today include proprietary device execution
environments, predominantly from successful device ecosystems controlled by
companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft. The HTML-based web runtime
standardized in W3C is an open alternative that has the potential to challenge
established ecosystems. Work is ongoing to revise HTML5 so that it supports
real-time voice and video communication directly within the browser with a
standardized media plane, but without any standardized find-and-connect
mechanism. This development will bring voice and video communication to the web
as a feature — making it part of the toolset available to the developers,
rather than a separate service.


Taken together, openness,
IP connectivity, the web platform and now, voice and video as inherent features
of the web creates a technological paradigm-shift for how to design, implement
and share new communication services. It is clear that this will, or has
already started to, transform our industry.


Society — digital personas and contextual


Increasingly powerful
mobile devices have the ability to run several apps, where each one may
represent a different communication service. The physical identity of a person
can be represented online as multiple digital identities, or digital personas.
The individual decides which persona he or she wants to use in a particular
communication context. The digital persona allows the individual to tailor his
or her appearance according to role and context — whether it is that of a
patient in a health provider dialog, a customer in a support call, or an
authority on 20th-century classical music in a forum for aficionados.


Giving individuals the
ability to control the way they are represented in various communication scenarios
should be seen as a shift in the balance of power, away from the larger units
of society — corporate, government and social. Individuals can decide how to
communicate in a given context by choosing a particular service, platform and
digital persona. The era in which one communication solution could address all
communication needs is already long gone.


The behavior of younger
people clearly reflects these trends. The younger generation is characterized by a strong emphasis on
creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurship. Young people bring their need for communication that is
unlimited, flexible in usage and multifaceted in function into both their
private lives and workplaces. This
generation uses the internet as a natural meeting place, communicating in a way that varies
according to the digital persona use case and the context.


While personas will most
likely soon be most commonly represented by icons on smartphones, today the work
of connecting personas is happening largely on the web. Future communication
solutions will be required to interwork with multiple representations of a
person or company role in a secure and seamless way.


This shift of power toward
the individual user has a significant consequence — the communication
application logic to find and establish a connection to a particular digital
persona is not automatically tied to one single representation of the physical person,
such as a phone number or an e-mail address. In the future, there will be
various ways to find people and connect with them — again, depending on the
context in which the communication will take place.


Context should be
understood in a very broad sense, incorporating both work processes and personal
social interactions. Context may also take the device used into consideration,
as well as alternate data sources — such as intelligent machines in an
individual’s immediate surroundings. Contextual awareness is a core aspect in
the design of future communication solutions.


Ericsson believes that
these insights will shape the communication strategies of the future.


Business — opportunity out of change


The business of
communication services is evolving rapidly. Revenue generated by telephony is stagnating
and the transition to IP-based telecom service environments continues. When it
comes to pure telephony services, this evolution is happening fairly quickly,
but still not quite fast enough to be labeled as a clear multimedia service


Users, rather than those
offering communication services, are increasingly driving innovation. Such innovation
drivers include the search for new social interactions, improvement of a given
business process or enrichment of a media experience as in the case of voice
in gaming. Today, basically all of the innovation involved in creating the
communication services of the future is happening outside the telecom domain.
While communication services still contribute the majority of the total revenue
in the telecom industry, the trend is clear: the ability to charge for basic
telephony is declining, at various rates from one market to the next. With this
in mind, the question arises: what are the growth opportunities in the area of
communication services is their inherent value being diminished?


The answer to this
question is probably both yes and no:


“¢ yes — weakening
telephony revenues and growth through new subscriptions alone are clear
indicators of a mature market that is
experiencing margin pressure. Smartphone technology, open software, democratization
of knowledge and proliferation of both mobile and fixed broadband all enable anyone
with good enough programming skills to create a basic communication service.
While such a service cannot replace a highly efficient telephony service with
global reach, it can provide users with an alternative means of communicating
in certain contexts resulting in a new competitive situation for the
individual operator as well as for the industry as a whole;


“¢ no — the same paradigm
shifts that enable the small developer to create a basic communication service
also create new ways to evolve communication solutions far beyond traditional
telephony. The ability to integrate communication within the business process
to increase efficiency, customize cost-saving solutions or tailor services to
meet individual needs in a range of different contexts — all of these
opportunities, and many more, can be addressed in new ways.


While the impact of the
paradigm shift in the business side of our industry is complex, to sustain growth
in communication services operators will clearly need to rethink their role.
Since operators work in several different markets and deploy various
value-creation strategies, it is likely that this role will evolve in many
directions. An array of solutions will be required, ranging from standardized
global reach services to customized solutions providing functionality specific
to a particular enterprise, process or activity.




Looking ahead, the scope
of communication services will be much broader. The norm will be to communicate
using a range of devices and connections where applications will be decoupled
from access. Traditional communication verticals such as telephony and video
conferencing will continue to exist as profitable businesses, but it is
probable that growth will come in the area of customized communication
solutions for the non-traditional communication needs of enterprises and
government agencies. This growth is
more likely to come from communication as an application or as a feature within
applications developed for a specific social or business need, rather than from
vertically integrated solutions.


To maximize these
opportunities, the context in which a communication solution will operate needs
to be understood. The demands on future solutions will stem from their context
including characteristics such as the task they are designed to do, the
communication modes required to make them work, and the security model and
deployment characteristics required. This implies that operator offerings need
to be flexible enough to adapt to various contexts and that operators will need
to provide platforms for communication solutions, rather than individual
communication services.



For the consumer market, the key
criteria for any communications infrastructure will most likely be low cost,
ease of use and the bundling of access offerings. Communication will be seen as
a valueadded service over mobile broadband rather than a core service. The
ability to charge for consumeroriented communication services is likely to
decline gradually over time. So, solutions must be cost-efficient, and
communications technologies must provide the right platform for a service
without overshooting market needs or consumer willingness to pay.


Selected enhancements, such as
high-quality video and audio communication, sold with customized
billing plans, may help to maintain and even drive usage.
However, any such enhancements need to
be extremely market-oriented and must be developed and
deployed quickly. Any enhancements beyond
telephony will compete with internet-based services, and as
such will need to provide clear added
value if more money is to be charged for them.




The future of enterprise
communication — defined for the purposes of this paper as internal enterprise communication
within professional office environments — will be intimately connected with
sustainability, increased workforce
efficiency and the new communication requirements of a younger, more-connected workforce.


Large enterprises with
in-house technology competence may consider designing customized communication
solutions together with a communications provider. Small and medium-sized
enterprises (SME s) may find it more
beneficial to use pre-packaged standardized communication-services solutions, possibly
enhanced with generic collaboration add-ons.


To succeed with both large
and small businesses, communication providers will need to focus on innovation,
sell services before systems, and be able to manage change and customization

From an enterprise
perspective, communication will no longer be a cost, but rather a tool for
increased efficiency.


The line between work and
personal communication, driven partly by the massive uptake of — and love for —
smartphones, is becoming blurred. Already, people use and want to be able to
use the same communication tools at all times — during and outside of normal
working hours — where social networks are not limited to the
private sphere.


Opportunities in the
enterprise segment will continue to include traditional vertical services such
as video conferencing, but
the major enterprise opportunity most likely lies in integrating customized communication solutions
within enterprise information systems and extending solutions to increase efficiency.


In-process communication


The third area for review
is relevant to both consumers and businesses. When looking for growth opportunities
beyond the traditional communication services, it will be necessary to expand
into verticals beyond the telecommunications and ICT industries potential
candidates include utilities, transportation and health services.


As already discussed, the
context in which communication solutions will operate should determine their
design. For in-process communication, the context is a company’s particular
business process, but consumers will also expect their solutions to be designed
with contextual awareness, and this must be understood during the initial
design phase.


In-process oriented
communication will add new communication enablers to services offered by the
ICT industry. The greatest opportunities for telecom companies will likely be
in service integration and service-component provision. Simplicity, speed and
performance will be the key aspects of the value proposition.


A number of key points
should be taken into account when planning to address opportunities in this area:
technology choices should
be based on scale, ease-of-integration, time-to-market and adaptability to
customer needs and prerequisites; one size does not fit all.
One solution might incorporate screens from other verticals, as is the case for
a car dashboard. Another solution might be machine-to-person or
machine-to-machine. And a third could become a smartphone icon. Some of the
basic technology components will be reused in many solutions, but generally
solutions are likely to be quite specialized, regional and even local, adapted
to each customer’s specific — and evolving — communication needs; communication service
providers are well positioned to understand the pain points of a consumer or an
enterprise when it comes to service integration, which should enable them to
lead the market in delivering efficient end-to-end solutions, including devices
and clients; trust, security and
reliability will be a competitive advantage for offerings from access owners.
But solutions will need to be secured all the way to the end point.


To address opportunities
in the area of in-process communication, operators will likely need to change their traditional
development and standardization processes. Instead of scrupulously following
telecom system standards developed
for planned mass-market services, operators should focus on their enterprise
branches and adapt de facto ways of working. Communication services will evolve
into a means or a tool for conducting business, stretching well beyond what
they have historically been. Just like consumers, businesses
will have a range of competitive solutions to choose from. The solution that
best meets the customer’s requirements and best fits the customer’s context
will be the one that is selected.




The need for more
efficient solutions for health care, as well as welfare and education, has been
clearly identified. In the future,
an aging population will place significantly higher demands on health-care providers.
New technologies and communication services will play an important role in
meeting these requirements.


Consider a scenario in
which a person suffering symptoms related to some disease or illness calls a
health-care support line — be it private, provided by the government or even an
international consortium. The health-care professional who first receives the
call — made using a regular telephone or mobile or via a website enabled with
real-time communication — enters the caller’s information and symptoms into a
system that matches them against a medical database, with the possible addition
of information from previous consultations and other medical history. The
customized find-and-connect mechanism will route the voice call to the most
suitable specialist for the consultation. Upon receiving the call, the assigned
health-care specialist can upgrade the voice call to a video session to —
literally — get a better view of the patient and his or her symptoms and
recommend a course of action: a face to- face consultation, a referral to a
specialist clinic, or an x-ray. A specialist could open the call up to other
specialists for a second opinion or even hand off the consultation to another
specialist. Subsequently, a customized health app could support the patient by
enabling remote consultations, enriched with sensor data — weight, heart rate,
and glucose and oxygen levels in the patient’s bloodstream. The health app
would create a secure, trusted, remote session whenever required, reducing the
number of face-to-face consultations, the spread of contagious illnesses and
the need for sick people to travel. Such an app could be customized to meet the
needs of the particular patient’s context, and would become the channel for
subsequent communication between the patient and the health-care provider.


In this simple example,
the communication solution would have to meet the requirements of the process
owner at the health-care provider as well as the participants: the patient and
the heath-care professionals. The communication solution would need to be
reliable and secure, as the find-andconnect mechanism would have access to
patient records, medical-specialist competence profiles, as well as other
confidential information — including the patient’s identity.


Depending on the
technological maturity of the health-care system and regulatory requirements, a
cloud solution or a delivered software license might be required. As the
communication solution would need to be contextually aware, it would also need
to be flexible, easily integrated and support a range of deployment




Over the past two decades,
multiple shifts in society and technological developments have taken place.
Society has witnessed individualization, globalization and the evolution, or
almost revolution, of the web — particularly in relation to how people


This rate of change can be
daunting, to say the least. However, radical change often creates opportunities
as well as risks. Now is the time to try out new things and develop the ability
to adapt to a radically new business environment. In this context, all
operators in the communication market need to develop a strategy to manage
these changes and embrace the Networked Society — in which everything that
could benefit from being connected will be connected.


Meeting future
communication needs — both broad and highly specialized — will require
solutions that can evolve and adapt to customer requirements. Future
communication strategies must take into account the likely impact of this
paradigm shift on telecom operators’ brands, finance, competences and
technologies. Broadly speaking, a future communication strategy might propose
that operators:
innovate with functional
enhancements such as HD-quality video services, within traditional communications
services, while at the same time rationalizing and cutting service-delivery
costs; explore the possibility of
innovation through better utilization of internet technologies by leveraging existing
network capabilities and business relationships; tailor enhancements to
communication services toward customer requirements using technology that can
integrate in a flexible manner with new delivery and business models; focus business development
on a set of enterprise segments, business processes or functional areas, the
choice of which depends on market structure, business and partner relationships,
and go-to-market model; leverage assets from
traditional telecom — such as scale, benefits in transport and computing, and relationships
between carriers — to create new partnerships.


In short, the strategy
should focus on providing customized solutions that solve problems and meet enterprise
and society’s needs for increased efficiency. When communication becomes
integrated as an essential tool for efficiency, its value will be determined by
the problem it is helping to solve — for example, a security system in relation
to the value it safeguards.


One of the greatest
challenges facing operators is determining the optimum rate of transformation —
one that allows them to maintain and maximize profitable business sectors while
reinvigorating sectors that are languishing. This optimum rate will vary from
one operator to the next and will depend on a variety of factors. This is a
challenge that must be considered carefully, yet without delay.


Moving into the Networked
Society will require a transformation in many of the core telecom areas. Connecting
everything that can benefit from being connected — including by enabling
person-to-person communication in any
context that will benefit from it — holds great promise for the telecom
industry. The companies best suited to grasp these new opportunities will be
those that embrace change as an opportunity and shape their technologies,
offerings and delivery models to meet future needs.

By Team
[email protected]