The State of the American Communications Industry
With more than 250 million mobile users and growing, the American telecommunications market is on the way up. The industry has experienced major investment activity in fiber deployments, HFC technology upgrades, and mobile broadband networks to respond to the increasing expectations of subscribers.
The telecom sector has found itself at the epicenter of growth, innovation, and disruption in most areas of industry and consumer activity. Mobile devices and connectivity are increasingly enmeshed in the fabric of today’s world and are driving the momentum behind video streaming, mPayment, and the internet of things (IoT).
The connected states
A recent Deloitte survey  shows that US consumers look at their devices more than eight billion times a day on an average. Their activities might range from watching videos, playing games and chatting to banking, shopping, and m-training, but whatever they’re doing, it’s a major opportunity for players in the telecom industry.
Device manufacturers, wireless, wireline or broadband carriers, and network equipment and infrastructure companies are all important components of this ecosystem. New products, embedded devices, and services are in constant demand, as is reliable and swift network connectivity.
As the IoT expands and the number of embedded devices requiring mobile connectivity grows, there is an increased opportunity for telecom companies to forge alliances and partnerships in industries such as retail, automotive, and healthcare.
Likewise, the IoT will continue to find more ‘things’ to connect, along with enhancing our smart homes and cities, wearables, surveillance, and driverless and connected vehicles, trains and planes. Parking stations recognize cars, retail outlets respond to shoppers’ activities with offers streamed to their mobiles, and municipal bodies are seeing considerable benefits in monitoring and managing lighting, traffic flow, security, and assets through cloud-based tech.
As a result of this activity, telecom companies are now starting to look at alternative network strategies to better manage coverage, capacity, and quality. Many operators are moving away from proprietary, hardware-based equipment towards software-centric functionality that will enable them to more efficiently and effectively manage their networks.
Carriers also need to focus on providing data and voice services that are reliable, affordable, and of high quality. Data usage-particularly Wi-Fi-has been growing dramatically, largely due to streaming services, and is expected to continue on its current trajectory.
Support from the top down
The US government has injected considerable funds into under-serviced sectors, spending $23.7 million from the E-rate program’s funding for Wi-Fi as well as $1.1 billion for broadband services to schools and libraries as at December 30th, 2015 . The funds are sourced partly through a fee charged to providers .
As part of the drive to subsidize services in rural and remote areas, the Connect America Fund was initiated in 2013, when five companies accepted $255 million in funding for the first CAF round. This was followed by the second round of funding (CAF-II) when ten carriers accepted a total of $1.5 billion in funding for the second phase which is under process now. All of this activity is to try and bring broadband services to an estimated 23 million Americans in the rural underserviced areas.
Over the next few weeks, we will examine the US industry more closely, looking at the big players across the region, the impact of the Connect America Fund and political constraints, and where the threats and opportunities lie to deliver better experiences to more Americans in the future.
By Chuck Roming | February 17th, 2017