17 Dec What Are Tomorrow's Growth Opportunities in the Wireless Industry?
The wireless industry is changing. It has been over the last 25 years and continues to reinvent itself. It is currently in the process of transforming and you may not recognize it over the next five years. What will it look like going forward?
First it is important to recognize that we really can not tell the direction of the industry beyond the next several years. So much depends on new technology, government involvement, and where new demand takes us. However the change over the next several years will be amazing.
So much of this change will impact the work in wireless. It is important to know the direction the industry is heading in. To know where we were, where we are today, and where we are heading tomorrow to make sure you are in the growing part of the business.
Over the last few year's smart phones are rapidly taking over the handset market. Just a few short years ago smart phones were a smaller segment for business users led by companies like Rim Blackberry and Palm. Then about 4 years ago Apple jumped in with the iPhone and suddenly smart phones are the fastest growing part of the industry with tens of millions of devices being sold to consumers as well.
Once the consumer marketplace got on board something else happened with smart phones. The App stores exploded. There were just a few hundred apps until the iPhone a few years ago. Now there is somewhere around 150,000 and still growing rapidly. The App sector is suddenly becoming very large and very strong. Today's apps are new and fun, but tomorrow's apps will do important things for us like activate our home alarm and change television channels.
During the last few years many competitors like Nokia, Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC and others are jumping in with their devices and they keep getting better and better.
Even Google is getting into the wireless space working with many hands makers on the Android platform. They are even rolling out their own Google handset and may transform the industry the way Apple is doing.
Microsoft Windows Mobile is also providing to be a successful player. Dell computer is also entering the wireless space.
Suddenly some of the largest names in the wireless industry are not wireless companies. What will mean for growth going forward?
Sales of regular handset sales have slowed during the last year or two thanks to the economy. Smart phones are exploding however. What does this mean for the industry?
In the beginning the smart phone sector grows from 5% – 15%, but suddenly it is growing to the 50% level and even greater. Some carriers like AT & T that focused on the smart phone category over the last few years may be as high as 60% – 70%, however the carriers do not discuss numbers in detail.
At this point I would say the best guess is the marketplace will look like an 80-20 split over the next several years. 80% will be smart phones and 20% regular handsets. Regular handsets will get smarter. They will do simple tasks like sending email and text messages and even search the web for basic functions. However there are still two definite groups.
Currently in the US the smart phone marketplace is about 40 million and is expected to exceed 125 million over the next few years. Truthfully I expect it to surpass that as it approaches the 80% of the marketplace area.
As I said before we do not know what the industry will look like 10 years from now. This projection is over the next several years. Beyond that who knows.
Until now the competitors like AT & T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and others focused on several areas for growth. One of those areas is becoming less relevant. There are very few first time cell phone users anymore. There are almost 300 million phones in the United States. Some of us have more than one, but still you can see how the marketplace is pretty full. There are very few first time customers left.
Now the companies are competitive with each other for the existing customers. That is healthy for the consumer because carriers focus on services and price and keeping customers happy and pleased. In this marketplace wowing a customer is still magic.
The next big opportunity is the wireless web. That is exploding thanks to the smart phone market. As much as we love today's new smart phone apps, they are just the first course in a very long meal. In other words it only get's better.
Some new opportunities may not last as long as we think. An example is the Netbook computers. When they came out I did not get it. They are still selling and I still do not get it, but I would predict they are a limited opportunity and may not even continue at some point.
Suddenly carriers are successfully selling wireless access points so your laptops can get Internet access without plugging the laptop in. Will these last or will they be short lived?
One of the really new and very exciting areas of growth for the industry is not even being talked about much. Wireless carriers are working with other companies and industries to drag them kicking and screaming into the wireless century.
This is an intense opportunity for the entire industry. The networks have dedicated people in place to tap this new opportunity. This is a great opportunity going forward.
In the same pattern, wireless opportunities will expand in other industries. Other companies will need wireless specialists to bring their own wireless future online.
This is part of today's wireless story. It continues to grow and change very quickly. Yesterday's opportunities are slowing down, but tomorrow's opportunities are just catching steam. Being able to tell which of tomorrow's opportunities will be long term is the challenge. Making sure you continue to work in the segment that is growing is the challenge for all.
By Jeff Kagan