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Tom Alexander, CEO, Orange UK

Tom Alexander has joined Viacloud as non-executive chairman

Tom Alexander, CEO of Orange UK, talks about future developments in the telecoms industry, including HD voice, 3D, and NFC.

The mobile market has done so much to improve our lives over the last ten years, with the first decade of the new millennium having been one of huge significance, and one where communications have been at the forefront of revolutionising our lives in the twenty-first century.

In years to come, the high-speed network infrastructure that has been constructed over the last decade will be viewed with the same importance as the railroads of the American Midwest or the bridges and roads built by the Victorian pioneers in Britain.

The communications revolution has already begun to change the way we live, interact and trade, and is even augmenting our perception of time and distance. And we’re only just at the beginning. If the last ten years have been about laying the infrastructure, the next ten will be about consumers reaping the benefits, with the advent of life-changing services that will totally revolutionise the way we connect with the people and places that are important to us.

In the same way that it’s hard to recall what your business or social life was like before being able to talk to people on the move, innovations in home security, healthcare and commerce will fundamentally change the way we do things for the better.

At the dawn of the millennium, mobile operators began to invest in new networks, using third generation technology and promising exciting revolutions such as weather updates and news alerts on the move. Ten years later, and I’m able to transfer money in an instant, download the latest Hollywood blockbuster, and even watch live television – all on my mobile, which now resembles a mini-computer, and is in fact more powerful than my home PC was at the turn of the century.

The decade has seen some incredible advancements that we now take for granted. Ten years ago, most of us were yet to see our first colour screen mobile, hadn’t yet experienced the Japanese trend for the clamshell, and touch screens were still the stuff of science fiction films. The monochrome classic Snake was the must-have mobile game, and the idea of the internet in your home—let alone accessing it on your mobile phone—was one that many of us were still trying to get to grips with.

In 2002, we took a leap towards the future with the world’s first Windows-powered smartphone – the Orange SPV (which stood for Sound Pictures Video). It was the first time that a consumer could access emails, the internet, watch video and listen to music on a single device. It paved the way for the future – a future of smartphones that now do things we simply expect as standard from our mobile.

Outside the mobile industry, advancements in satellite technology meant we’d never need to have an argument about which left turn to take again, and we were suddenly able to shrink our entire record collections into a little white box smaller than a TV remote control. Over the decade, these ideas – and many others – found new customers in the mobile sector, which fast became the centre of attention for the movie, internet and music industries.

Next year – the start of the second decade of the millennium – will be a significant one in so many ways. HD Voice, which Orange will be rolling out in 2010, will become a standard for voice calling. Just as the current digital calling system we use superseded analogue, so will Hi Def supersede digital, with its crystal clear, superior sound quality – its introduction will herald a new era for mobile communications, and we’ll be quick to forget what life was like before it.

Advertising-funded technology and services will also become more commonplace, with the option to receive more great brand offers, benefits and promotions that are not only timely, but highly relevant to us through our mobile propositions.

We’ll also see even more of the traditional Smartphone technology incorporated into devices to suit all budgets, and it won’t just be mobile handsets, with e-readers and tablets becoming more wide-spread, providing customers with an even richer multimedia experience. Over time, more and more services will be integrated into mobile devices, like digital cameras and sat nav have become today.

The next decade will also see mobile payments become an everyday reality. Today you pay for things by cash or on your credit card. Tomorrow, you’ll use your mobile to buy the things you want, whether that’s on the high street or the internet.

Mobile video calling will take off as companies and consumers start to see the benefit – both environmental and financial – of finding other ways to keep in contact over long distances without having to travel.

Video calling – as well as other services including digital pictures and video – will also benefit from the advent of projector-phone technology. Being able to screen your films or photos on the wall next to you will be a new way of immediately sharing experiences with friends, families and colleagues.

Furthermore, developments in 3D technology will only mean greater multimedia offerings for the consumers. With 3D films already being produced, and 3D TVs currently a reality, it won’t be long before this technology finds its way onto mobile – allowing us to receive the full visualisation experience wherever we are.

SIM cards will also be used to drive more and more appliances around the home. We’re likely to see them in television sets for example, used to replace the traditional ‘red button’ of today. So whether it’s simply voting for your favourite finalists from your remote control, or social networking on the big screen whilst watching your favourite show – our ability to interact will be hugely advanced.

The roll out of Near Field Communications, will also add more convenience to our lives. For example, once you swipe your ticket on the bus or train to return home, your home management system could be alerted of your imminent arrival – turning on your heating, closing your curtains, and switching on your lights – as well as downloading that movie to your TV which you were only reading about on your e-reader earlier that day.

But it’s not just fancy gadgets that will be changing the way we live. Here in the UK, the government’s plans to create a Digital Britain will play a significant part in the evolution of the mobile industry, and the quality of our lives, over the next decade. By 2019, the country will be truly connected and, I believe, will set the standard for other European nations to follow. The advent of 4G will mean that in the forthcoming years we can expect to see a huge leap forward in mobile broadband, and who knows where we’ll be by the end of the decade, with 5G a possibility.

In ten years time, the industry – and the positive impact it has on our lives – will have changed further. The mobile market has done so much to improve our lives over the last ten years – and it will continue to do so. It has changed societies around the world and today we stand on the edge of the next step – one that will revolutionise our lives once more.


Add your own predictions in the comments box below or read those of other industry leaders in
2020 Vision

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One comment

  1. Matt Ruskin 09/02/2010 @ 12:51 pm

    Always enjoy reading Tom’s views, I particularly like the matter-of-fact way he throws in 5G at the end.

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