At this point it’s clear that IoT’s momentum is unstoppable. Naturally, the market is abuzz with speculation on how this phenomenon will play out. Even though there’s an overwhelming air of excitement surrounding IoT, there are an abundance of very reasonable concerns that include sensor inaccuracy defiling data analysis, users failing to apply security patches and leaving themselves open to attacks, and rapid obsolescence of deployed equipment. Some call for IoT to be regulated by a governing body, not only to protect a more vulnerable edge, but also to foster mindshare between providers to propel its progress. It’s imperative that all standing issues get sorted out, especially in the face of predictions that the processors needed to make a device “smart” will cost as little as ten cents, inciting an explosion of connected products. In fact, the threat to IoT devices has already arrived: AT&T tracked a 400 percent increase in scans of IoT devices during the first half of 2016, showing that hackers are assessing the usefulness of IoT products for their nefarious agendas.
The industry is divided on whether the evolution of mobile networks to 5G standards will aid or hurt IoT security; what’s certain is that superior connectivity will lead to a massive increase of IoT implementation, providing a longer range of communication, while requiring less power consumption. 5G is still a ways off, but pundits are looking to short-term advancements, such as LTE-M1 and LTE-NB1, to facilitate IoT growth in the coming years. Even though the industry press sometimes makes it seem like IoT will take over the world at any moment, enterprises and service providers are advised to start small, as procuring technology is only part of the puzzle; organizational change is essential to properly supporting IoT.
IoT is not sufficiently regulated yet; however, the FCC has been rather active since receiving its new chairman. Early in the month, it rolled back rules preventing wireless and in-home broadband providers from tracking and selling key user data. The Commission also promised to enforce Section 7, a rule it historically hadn’t complied with that gives the regulator one year to decide if a new technology or service is in the public interest or not, with the goal to expedite technological advancement.
Meanwhile, it’s clear that the FCC’s primary agenda is to roll back or fully eliminate net neutrality legislation. The likelihood of this happening is high. The market largely agrees that the new administration will usher in a wave of telecom M&A activity that was stymied by Obama-era regulations. Pundits believe we will not only see consolidation within the telecom sector, but also additional marriages between communications and media companies analogous to the Verizon/Yahoo and AT&T/Time Warner deals under the auspices of FCC Commissioner Pai’s self-proclaimed “light touch” approach.
After many months, the FCC 600 MHZ auction is coming to an end with the assignment-phase of the incentive auction scheduled for March 30th. In Mid-April, the FCC will announce the winners of both the reverse and forward auctions in addition to publically announcing the new channels for TV stations being repacked. From there, broadcasters will have 39 months to move to new channels. Once the auction comes to an end, look out for a lot more M&A discussion, since bidders were not allowed to talk to each other for the duration of the auction process.
As the industry evolves, solution providers continue to refine their strategies. Sprint demoed new technologies with Nokia and Ericsson to show it is making its way to a 5G reality. Verizon eyes Charter Communications as a potential acquisition target to make up for its weak cable coverage in comparison to rival AT&T; however, Charter’s CEO is not too enthusiastic about that proposition. T-Mobile also expressed interest in picking up a cable company, which goes against intensive speculation across the industry that it would eventually merge with Sprint. Lastly, Verizon is interestingly exploring ways to save costs by leveraging common fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure to serve both residential and business customers.
That’s all for now. Don’t forget to stay tuned for up-to-date news and views from the Vertix team. Until next month…