Assault course of challenges faces telcos

19 Oct 2006

A veritable “assault course of practical business challenges” will be presented to traditional telecoms firms hoping to negotiate the changing telecoms landscape brought about by convergence and infotainment, the Telecommunications and Internet Federation’s (TIF) annual conference in Dublin heard today.

TIF chairman Gerry Fahy said that radically new technology is emerging in the Irish marketplace that will fundamentally change the way we live, work and communicate.

“Convergence will bring together previously distinct media platforms, allowing broadband on the move, instant access to movies and sport and a host of other exciting services,” Fahy told the conference attended by executives from the telecoms industry.

BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland said that the journey of convergence won’t be easy for telecoms firms.

He said: “Between the creation of convergence technology and the reality of the service, there is an assault course of practical business challenges to negotiate. Technology is only the first of the conditions for convergence. It also requires a market, a business model that works, a supportive regulatory settlement and a strong network infrastructure.”

Broadband will be a huge driver of the converged telecoms market, said Eircom’s new chairman Pierre Danon. “Broadband is an imperative for Eircom and for Ireland. The first step is to make broadband available to everyone who wants it. We also need to focus on relevance. Combining digital terrestrial television and broadband IPTV illustrates the exciting possibilities that exist.”

The converged world will not consist solely of wired solutions, explained Carolan Lennon, marketing director of Vodafone Ireland. “Wireless will be at the core of convergence. With an estimated 26pc of houses without a fixed-line connection, we can see a trend towards wireless connectivity.”

Danuta Gray, CEO of O2 Ireland, illustrated how infotainment is becoming a reality, driven by convergence. “Coverage of the Ryder Cup in September was viewed simultaneously by people on domestic TV sets at home, on PCs with a broadband connection (Sky by Broadband) and on mobile phones through O2’s DVB-H trial at the K-Club”

Shane O’Neill, chairman of UPC Ireland, continued on the theme of infotainment. “In the provision of digital video there are three killer applications: digital video recording, high-definition TV, and video on demand.”

Convergence, O’Neill said, means that broadcasters, fixed-line operators and mobile operators will all be vying to provide those services to the consumer.

“Predicting the future of any industry is not an easy task but I’m glad to see the that industry leaders have a co-ordinated view of the future,” added TIF director Tommy McCabe. “Today’s conference gave us a view of tomorrow but one that is based on good business sense.”

Alan Mottram, chief marketing officer of Alcatel, echoed these sentiments and gave a strong message to the audience, saying: “[We must] grasp the opportunities afforded to us by broadband and IP and use them as levers to transform all aspects of our business.”

By John Kennedy