Will 2014 Bring a Mobile "Perfect Storm" of Challenges?

By Gary Kim February 12, 2014

Mobile operators are facing a “perfect storm” of challenges in 2014 according to Real Wireless, ranging from 5G to small cells, spectrum, backhaul, M2M and more. Others might argue all that is pretty much business as usual, though, in a business that has been facing maturation of its underlying revenue model for years.

Real Wireless claims carriers have yet to grasp the scale of technological and commercial challenges that will start to hit in 2014, with many completely lacking a strategy to cope. Others might disagree, arguing that carriers have been well aware of the challenges for some time and are addressing those issues directly.

“The next few years pose an unprecedented challenge, and few operators are preparing for it,” said Professor Simon Saunders, Director of Technology and co-founder of Real Wireless.

One might argue that is overblown.  To be sure, some operators might prefer to trade their present positions for their respective positions a decade or so earlier, when mobile growth in developing regions reached an inflection point, igniting a decade of fast growth.

To be sure, some might argue the mobile industry faces a historic challenge, as voice adoption reaches saturation, and growth shifts to Internet access revenue.

But that would represent the third industry revenue transition, as revenue growth from voice in saturated markets shifted first to text messaging, then to Internet access.

A fourth transition looms, but most carriers already are hard at work to position for various machine-to-machine or Internet of Things revenue opportunities.

“While there’s never an easy time to be an operator, technology challenges are increasing in complexity at the same time as financial pressures bite,” argues Professor Simon Saunders, Director of Technology and co-founder of Real Wireless.

All that is true. But challenges have mounted for a few decades, as first competition and deregulation, then the rise of the Internet, began to reshape the business. Whether 2014 is fundamentally a “perfect storm” is the issue. Many might say 2014 is pretty much “business as usual,” in an industry facing nearly-continuous change.




Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing Editor

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