A Bright Future Lies Ahead for Wireless Telecommunications

By Tracey Horne-Pettipas

Wireless Telecommunications, barely heard of 10 years ago, is now the fastest growing telecommunications revenue stream. In 1996, for example, the share of Japan’s population with a mobile telephone doubled to 23 per cent, from 11.5 per cent .

So where is the wireless telecommunication industry headed? "To really understand the answer it’s necessary to look at a number of different viewpoints," Marilyn Williams, P.Eng., senior manager, product profitability, NORTEL, told an APEGGA Calgary Branch luncheon meeting, held May 14.

Trends in the economic, marketing and political sectors provide us with insight as to what the future holds for the wireless industry. Economists and financial experts will look at several factors: rates, affordability, competition, vendor financing, joint ventures and consortiums and mergers. Market researchers see the severe political and fiscal constraints in countries like China, India and Russia where there are entrenched monopolies, restrictions on licensing, and excessive interconnection charges.

"Based on these issues, engineers must act now," says Ms. Williams. "Invest in manufacturing capacity, component sources and infrastructure, because in this market, adoption of a conservative viewpoint will result in loss of both market position and profits."

Within government, the trend is to address a realm of human concerns such as unsafe driving situations; health risks associated with radiated emissions from wireless terminals and base stations; and the aesthetics and residential property values when tower sites are to be approved. These are countered by new and emerging opportunities, such as using wireless phones to alleviate congestion in traffic, and wireless emergency 911.

The most significant impact of today and tomorrow’s regulatory environment globally is the profound effect of deregulation. The objective of most governments is to provide universal telephone service at a reasonable cost. So, as more players enter this industry, governments role should shrink, giving consumers more control over what they want.

Continuously, subscribers keep asking for good audio quality, accessibility, "any time" "any where" service and access to users in developing countries where 60 per cent of the world’s population has never placed a telephone call. Engineers have been quick to address these emerging needs and be on top of challenges operators face, such as fraud, delivering local number portability and wireless emergency 911 service, allowing them to be rewarded with being part of the fastest growing revenue stream in telecommunications.

As for the future of wireless telecommunications, the International Telecommunications Union estimates that by the year 2001, more than 400 million of the world’s 1.4 billion telephone lines will be mobile. "I believe engineers are on track in terms of what they are delivering," says Ms. Williams. "And I admire not only the courage, but the patience of those engineers who are willing to be in the forefront of the next technology." ?