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PTC’17: The gathering wave in a changing ICT reality

Some years ago, I called the PTC Annual Conference “Davos on the Beach”, comparing it with the top-level World Economic Forum in Switzerland that also happens around the same time each year.

These days, it’s a more apt comparison than ever because ICT is now a key global socio-economic driver. And PTC is pre-eminent at putting together a must-see and must-hear dialogue dealing with issues right at the top of the global ICT tree. Uniquely, it a diverse forum: discussions range from carrier strategies, data centers, subsea telecom and satellites to IoT and spectrum.

There’s more to this than meets the eye. After PTC’17, I liken it to a huge wave of possibilities that is only now starting to gather its true strength.

The evidence? Here are my personal eight takeaways from amongst many ideas:

1. Everything is adding up. Data drivers are exploding. Multiplicative, related and synergistic effects between big data, IoT, 5G, massive connectivity and AI are building and amplifying this wave. Global connectivity build is rolling massively but it’s not speculative or without substance. In the current climate, some suggest it will continue with no sign of a dotcom-like bust of the early 2000’s.

2. 5G will by itself usher in radically new network architectures to glue applications together. But will require very high investment over many years for the industry. Spectrum availability remains a key issue.

3. Meanwhile, networks are changing, and the change is a very fluid one. The geography of data delivery matters. Edge architectures also matter. Latency is emerging as a key demand. Content and network issues are increasingly aligned.

4. The satellite community is also bustling with renewed vigour as new projects—including a next generation of satellite constellation plans—take shape.

5. Generic IoT applications are in sight, but not yet (quite) within touching distance. Nevertheless, experts are anticipating applications such as smart cities and self-driving cars will drive gigantic data demand.

6. Security and privacy considerations still matter but how they are mediated is open to debate.

7. In the value chain, as applications surge, OTT and content businesses carry winning hands—for the moment—over infrastructure businesses.

8. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the leading planetary indicator of development, will desperately need more and more ICT.

All this means a very big wave indeed is headed our way. We don’t know how large, or how energetic it will be. We don’t even know on which beaches it will eventually break. For break it will, and when it does so, it will release still more pent-up possibilities. As PTC’17 correctly indicated, realities for the ICT world are changing indisputably.

If the commercial opportunities involved are fabulous, so are the resulting human opportunities for millions in the Asia-Pacific region. As the PTC moves towards a 40th anniversary event and next generation thinking, we’ll find out what all those opportunities are through more dialogue, more connectedness, and above all, more openness.