As a telecom and wireless analyst over 35 years, I have witnessed the communications industry grow and change dramatically. This transformation continues today and will do so going forward. Where we are today is just a moment in the timeline of our changing and expanding world. So, let’s take a closer look at where we came from, where we are today and where we are heading. This information is important to every investor, worker, executive, customer and regulator.
As an industry analyst I am regularly briefed by many companies, large and small, who want to get on my radar. Companies who want to be seen and heard and get their message out.
Keeping an eye on changing industry opportunities, threats
This story of expansion and change in the telecommunications industry started with the break-up of Ma Bell or AT&T in the early 1980’s. They were broken up into one giant long-distance company and seven baby bells.
There were also a few new players in the long-distance segment like MCI and Sprint.
So, the divestiture of Ma Bell was the starting point of the incredible and continual reinvention and expansion of the communications industry over the last several decades.
Back then, both long distance companies and Baby Bells were all on the growing side of the growth wave and would stay that way for the next decade as the industry consolidated.
The Baby Bells ultimately won the first battle against the long-distance companies.
Next, the same thing started happening with local phone service. These were the services of yesterday.
Wireless, fiber, the internet and services like VoIP, were the next services on their own growth wave.
So, while local and long distance were both on a growth curve through the 1990’s, they both ultimately crested and began to shrink.
These businesses were still a cash cow for many years, but they were no longer growing. They were declining.
Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Xfinity, Spectrum, Optimum, Cox, Dish Network
Wireless, or cellular as it was called back then, was born decades ago and it is on its own separate growth curve. It evolved from analog to digital followed by 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G today. This growth curve will continue going forward to 6G and beyond.
Today, wireless is a solid business and will remain that way as far as we can see.
Cable TV started decades ago as a much smaller version compared to today. There were many, small providers, mostly locally, analog and scattered around the country.
After years of acquisitions and transforming to digital, the cable TV industry has fewer and larger competitors like Xfinity, Spectrum, Optimum and Cox. DirecTV and Dish Networks are also in this business of pay TV.
However, just like local and long distance, basic cable TV stopped growing over the last decade. It is now shrinking while Pay TV, streaming services and IPTV over the Internet is on its next growth wave.
The lesson to learn here is that all traditional services have a limited lifespan. They don’t last forever. They are always replaced by something new after a period of time.
There is always a rising side to the growth curve, and a top followed by the falling side.
Streaming TV, Apple TV+, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Peacock, Discovery+
During the last few years streaming TV has begun. We can now choose to get all sorts of television programming and entertainment over the Internet using streaming technology.
There are a growing variety of competitors including Apple TV+, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, Discovery+ and many others. All charge a monthly fee.
This segment is still young and will likely go through several iterations as time passes and as it matures.
The internet became publicly available in the 1990’s and has grown in both speed and content ever since. Today, it is the core network delivering nearly everything to everyone.
Fiber networks are key as well. These are high-speed wire line networks. These are provided by a group of companies in the space that we discussed above.
Qualcomm, Huawei, Cisco, Intel, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, ZTE, Google
Everything continues to change and expand. New technology is impacting every industry including wireless, telephone, communications, pay TV, streaming TV and will impact every other industry going forward.
There are plenty of companies who build these networks, services and technologies. Companies like Qualcomm, Huawei, Cisco, Intel, Ericsson, Nokia and so many others, large and small.
There are also plenty of smaller companies with big ideas to help the industry in a growing number of ways to continue to grow and expand.
AI, IoT, AR, VR, Metaverse, Autonomous driving, smart cities
New technologies like AI, IoT, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, metaverse, Autonomous driving, smart cities, Machine Learning and so much more are now taking the technology we know to an entirely new level.
This is impacting every industry including wireless, wire line, fiber, broadband, automotive, healthcare, retail, energy and so much more. In fact, this new technology will continue to transform every industry going forward.
And we are still in the very early innings of this new ball game. That should be attractive to investors, workers and executives for years to come.
Early movers gain competitive advantage
Initially, one company in a sector enters to gain a competitive advantage. Eventually, that advantage creates a competitive threat which then brings every other competitor into the same space.
Ultimately, this innovation simply becomes just a cost of doing business.
That’s exactly what we have seen occur in industry after industry over the last several decades.
Just think about how fast things are moving today.
· Five years ago, we weren’t thinking about 5G or streaming TV.
· Ten years ago, a cable TV company just sold cable TV.
· Twenty years ago, local and long-distance services were growing.
Only some tech companies are successfully on growth curve
Today, Comcast Xfinity also owns NBC Universal, offers streaming TV and wireless services. Today, their primary service is no longer cable TV. Today, their primary service is the Internet, which carries everything and delivers it in a new variety of ways.
AT&T tried to duplicate the Xfinity move by acquiring WarnerMedia with Warner Brothers Studio, CNN, DirecTV and more. That ultimately failed and now they are getting back to being a more traditional communications provider.
Both of these companies can be successful going forward, but they will be on different tracks.
Wireless, fiber, Internet, IoT, AI continue to grow and change
In addition, the traditional wireless, telephone and cable TV players for decades are now in the spotlight because they offer the communications capability that will let other companies in other industries also transform themselves.
That is an exciting new growth opportunity as we enter this next generation of telecommunications services and products.
That’s both the exciting and frightening part of the process of transformation which has been impacting the communications industry for decades and will expand and impact every other industry going forward.
These days, there is a high level of noise in the industry. Every company must find a way to be heard and found by workers, executives, investors and more.
That’s why it is important for executives and companies to use the right tools.
Some companies do a great job with Analyst Relations, Media Relations, Investor Relations and with their marketing department. Others do not.
That is one of the main reasons only some companies are on the growing side of the growth wave while many other competitors struggle.
Where each company and sector are on 5G growth wave
Bottom line, some segments and some companies will be on the growth side of the growth wave. How long they stay on the growth side is the question. Some will be there for a long time. Others will not.
The growth wave is one of the most exciting and interesting things to follow. Companies and in fact industries are all on the growth curve. Either they are on the growing side, or they are on the falling side.
Some companies ride multiple growth waves. This is one sign of a healthy company.
5G wireless growth wave impacts every company, every industry
Going forward, the 5G wireless growth wave will impact every company in every industry, period.
Choosing the winning companies on the growing side of the growth curve is key for investors, workers and executives. Everything is fluid. It always has been that way and will always be that way going forward.
There are many companies on both the rising and falling side of the growth wave. Understanding where we are at any given point is key to your success.
I have followed, commented on and advised a wide variety of competitors, investors, executives, workers, business customers and consumers.
Going forward, I will continue to follow companies, competition, products and services, customer satisfaction, industries, trends, changing regulations, news and much more.
Let me say, that if you think the last few years have been exciting and yes confusing, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Remember, 5G wireless is the center of the new universe. Buckle up, the best is yet to come!