|Issue:||Asia-Pacific I 1999|
|Topic:||It’s Time for Data to Take the Lead|
The communications revolution continues to gather pace. Poised on the threshold of a new century, the breathtaking rate of change and growth in the wireless world is simply astonishing, and constantly surprising. The GSM industry is at the crest of this wave while at the same time driving to develop and enhance cutting edge; customer focused solutions to meet the challenges of the new millennium and the next generation of mobile services.
The power, versatility and feature rich nature of the GSM specification makes it a future proof technology capable of almost constant evolution. This in turn has brought about benefits to customers and operators in terms of cost and the simplicity of services. The success of the GSM industry has also created a whole new level of customer expectations, given the operators ability to offer an increasingly sophisticated variety of services. Indeed the distinction between the range of services offered via either fixed or wireless is becoming minimal , and as the evolution towards third generation mobile services speeds up, these distinctions are expected to disappear in the first decade of the new millennium. However, just as the demands on wired networks are changing, so are the demands on wireless networks. Since the beginning of GSMs roll-out across the world, its voice quality has been one of the paramount features of its success. New Developments New developments within the Information industry such as the internet and the rising demand for multi-media services has brought new challenges to the developers of GSM services in a short span of time. Still, the standard has already demonstrated its ability to evolve and cope with change. Early examples of value added services such as voice mail and basic information services have established themselves as important tools. Value added services will make it easier for consumers to communicate and at the same time it gives the the operator an opportunity to derive additional revenues from the subscriber. Getting customers to experiment with data in its simplest form via SMS and E-Mail services has also proved extremely successful in some markets and has led to the development of operator controlled value added services. The pioneering operators which marketed such services innovatively, are likely to become the first to create widespread conversion of customers and achieve greater acceptance of a variety of data based applications. Improvements For GSM operators, the emphasis is now rapidly changing from that of instigating and driving the development of technology to fundamentally enabling mobile data transmission, to that of improving the speed, quality, simplicity, coverage and reliability. in terms of the tools and services. Such improvements are likely to boost mass market take up as never seen before. The next phase of high speed and packet data services, applications and terminals will provide a substantial spur to the marketing of data based services, offering customers better and faster access to the Internet, and company intranets on the move. High Speed Circuit Switched Data The introduction of High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HSCSD) and the introduction of General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) this year will be a major step forward in the evolution of GSM, offering the potential both to create new applications and revolutionise the sector on the whole. Third generation wireless systems will provide a platform for a far greater range of value added services from location-dependant services to multi-media services such as web access, file transfer right the way through to video on demand and video conferencing. GSM operators are now working closely with the new breed of information service and content providers. GSM Standards have proved their ability to evolve, secondly it has been designed and developed by the industry itself as an open standard for the benefit of the customer. Expanding Membership Efforts to see the technology evolve is one of the reasons behind the Associations move to open its doors to the wider GSM industry. During the Associations Plenary meeting in New Delhi, India, last year, the GSM Associations 324 members from 129 countries and areas of the world officially ratified a proposal which will provide all GSM industry players an opportunity to have input and access to technical development and promotion of GSM. The GSM Association membership agreed to the instigation of a new Associate Membership category, paving the way for GSM industry players from all over the world allowing them to participate in the development leading technology as it evolves toward the next generation of mobile communications. Driven by our members desire to instigate closer co-operation with the GSM supplier and IT based community, this move ensures that we pool our vast expertise and resources leading to a new era of solution driven development for GSM. The focus of the Associations GSM Award for Technical Innovation in 1999 has been clearly defined as targeted at the promotion of non-voice – or data – products. This is also a clear intention of the Associations determination to highlight the innovators, to raise the profile of the data concept in the eyes of our customers, and to encourage the industry to aim high and work together to develop and promote this key area. Our members have been presented with a future where basic voice traffic revenues will not sustain them alone, particularly in a fiercely competitive market. Integrated voice and data networks are the choice of the future for the fixed and wireless network operators. GSM provides operators with the opportunity to provide fully integrated networks. As competition increases and penetration in mature markets heads toward 50% , winning new voice customers becomes more difficult and more expensive. By developing new mobile aware data applications, one will be able to open up new markets and tap into new revenue streams, that would in terms benefit the entire industry. Extended Services The traditional picture of an operator has been largely based on steady usage patterns. As new operators enter existing markets and the mobile phone becomes a mass-market commodity, competitive pressures are forcing usage charges down and simultaneously reducing profits. GSM operators have long realised the increasing need to expand their range of value added services. This presents an opportunity not only to offer a greater variety of chargeable services, but also to boost traffic on the network, thereby increasing revenues. Conclusion It is generally assumed that the step beyond GPRS? is third generation and the GSM industry is ready for the challenges that lays ahead of them. Development, evolutionary vision and future goals have been closely aligned to realise this vision. The industry as a whole must grasp the opportunities, that are available to them which is something in the region of 297 million potential users of data by the year 2007, according to leading industry sources. It is up to the entire GSM industry to concentrate on the key needs of their customers and to focus on the bigger picture of developing and promoting solutions to untap the great data market to which they have aspired over these last few years.