The telecommunications industry is preoccupied with safety and security, a natural reaction to the traumatic weather events and cyber-attacks dominating the news cycle of late. By the end of September, 22 states opted-in to the public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T. According to the legislation that created FirstNet, all U.S. states and territories must participate or choose another service provider that is interoperable with FirstNet. The federal government is investing $6.5B into the national 700 MHz network, while AT&T is investing $40B. Even though AT&T was picked to develop the FirstNet LTE Radio Access Network (RAN), Verizon is making investments to ensure full interoperability with the new nationwide public safety network.
What’s more, the explosion of IoT applications and devices has the industry focused on cybersecurity. A whopping 73% of executives are embarking on IoT projects in 2017, with decision makers in the manufacturing sector leading the pack. Some are bringing attention to enterprises’ lack of concern when it comes to IoT security, pointing to the fact that many of the devices deployed in the field do not have precautions against intrusion baked in. Considering that 250,000 of the 500,000 global cellular connections today are found within vehicles, IoT security is of utmost importance. IoT spending is expected to skyrocket with McKinsey & Co. estimating potential impact of IoT systems to be as much as $11.1 trillion per year in 2025 and GE projecting that IoT will add $10 to $15 trillion to worldwide GDP growth by 2030. We’re currently in the first phase of IoT where tremendous amounts of data is being collected, once we move into the next phase where machine learning makes sense of all the data harvested by sensors, we’ll really see IoT begin to mature. Luckily, the manufactures of the processors that enable these devices to examine the data they’ve collected are currently working round the clock to enhance IoT security. In the EU, for instance, vendors are working on a “Trusted IoT” labeling system, which lets consumers know the devices they are purchasing are secure.
The federal government has been taking measures to protect itself and its excess of legacy systems against mounting cyberattacks. The Senate passed the $500 million Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Interestingly, while legacy systems need to be outfitted with precautionary measures to be protected from today’s threats, the government is using today’s technologies to ensure national security in the real world. By developing sophisticated algorithms that leverage machines learning, spy agencies are able to identify threats from the Big Data they actively collect in droves.
Acquisition strategies across the big telco landscape are still being mulled over. The show stopping AT&T-Time Warner merger is currently being reviewed by the Department of Justice. Interestingly, this is being done without the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust involved –as he was confirmed too late. The long-rumored Sprint-T-Mobile merger is purportedly coming closer to fruition, which would significantly help the third and fourth largest wireless carriers in the U.S. compete against the big two. Whether or not this deal would be approved by regulatory authorities is uncertain, but such a transaction would likely bode well for tower companies, which typically see more cell sites added than decommissioned following telco mega-mergers. Lastly, we can all stop speculating whether or not Verizon will pick up a cable giant (a la AT&T-Time Warner); however, Verizon’s CEO put it all to rest, stating, “we’ve moved on.”