People have made the shift to data connectivity and it is time for carriers to change the way they perceive their roles and move beyond connectivity, Hot Telecoms president Isabelle Paradis said in Tuesday’s opening of the 11th Asian Carriers Conference (ACC) in Shangri-La Mactan Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City.

Voice, however, is the foundation of the whole industry and the shift away from the traditional and lucrative “voice calling services” is a threat that must be addressed, said Disruptive Views editor Tony Poulos.

In her presentation “Above and beyond connectivity,” Paradis said the world “is going into a new era and carriers have to evolve with it in order to survive.”

Voice is not dead …. yet

“Until up to recently, carriers were busy connecting specific services,” she said, “now it’s all about connecting individuals and meeting their specific requirements.”

While she said that voice is not dead, she added and stressed “yet.” She said the introduction of the Internet into the handset has created new technology, new services, new competitors and new requirements. It also created a new type of user: the “me, me, me generation.”

“Now everything is about me, what I want and I have the power to get it,” she said.

Everything wireless, IP and data

Paradis said service providers have ceded control to users, who want “everything wireless, everything IP and everything data.” The challenge is that users “want everything for free” and they want them anywhere and at any time.

She said people have already made the shift away from voice. Now, data has become the basis of communication and voice is just one part of it. We can do all that we want with data and if people feel they want to talk to someone, they can call them using data.

Paradis cited a survey that said 64% of 4G users prefer to have access to data instead of voice in times of emergencies.

She said that from being just communication tools, mobile devices have evolve into entertainment devices and will soon be a digital lifestyle device.

Asian Carriers Conference Isabelle Paradis
SHIFT TO DATA. Hot Telecoms president Isabelle Paradis says consumers have made the shift from voice services to data and telcos have to evolve in order to survive.

Voice is a ‘wonderful thing’

Poulos, on the other hand, said telcos had it good with voice services.

“Voice has been the same but we managed to present it differently, we billed it differently. How did it work out that the longer the call distance was, the more we could charge for it? It is a wonderful thing,” he said.

“If you were a hundred miles from the power station or a thousand miles from the power station you still pay the same electricity, it’s the same with gas but in the telephone industry, we managed to charge people more because they were a longer distance away. We were very clever,” he said.

But then things change when smartphones arrived and so-called over-the-top services and products rose.

Threat or opportunity?

While companies like PLDT and Smart Communications, Inc. work with and see OTT players as a business opportunity, some view them as threats.

“Many in the industry are terrified of these people and don’t actually want to talk to them, they want to keep away from them and for some reason they’re not here at our ACC event. It makes you wonder why they are not here. Because if we were so relevant for them running their business, then perhaps they should come along and have a chat with us.”

Poulos said issues on security and privacy on mobile can be a potential new area of business for telcos.

But, he asked, with “people talking less and applications taking over,” are telcos losing control of their networks?

“I’d like to know why we can’t make money like the utilities do. When you buy water from the utility, you pay for the amount of water you use, when you get electricity you pay for the amount of electricity you use. What do we do? We give it away, we created this monster. We allowed people to access data for a set price per year,” he said.

They need our networks

Telcos, he said, should be making money out of data and from OTT players.

“They need our networks. We can provide the thing that they need. None of the OTTs can survive without our networks. We have seamless delivery, we can do quality of service, we can bill for the stuff and they need that,” he said.

He proposed to differentiate connectivity into various service standards. “We can sell gold quality standard to companies that need high bandwidth such as those for videos,” he said.

Internet of Things challenge

“Don’t think videos will be about people watching movies, the problem of the Internet of things is that every monitor or surveillance camera in the world is now connected to the internet and that’s the video that’s gonna clog our networks,” Poulos said.

But net neutrality legislation will stop telcos from doing this, he said.

“Maybe we should change emphasis from constantly improving our networks to improving or even controlling the technology that uses and abuses those networks. Maybe that’s what we should be spending our money on or doing our innovation,” he said.

Max Limpag is a journalist, blogger, and developer based in Cebu. He started as a reporter covering Cebu City Hall in 1996. He has written on technology for various print and digital publications since...

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