PARIS – When Olivier Baujard looks into his digital crystal ball, he sees us all being customers of “comminfotainment” providers.
Within five years or so, the familiar land-line “telco” and even the mobile operator will disappear, in his view. Instead, broadband service providers will replace them, selling packages, bundles or channels of communications, information and entertainment.
As the new year draws near, it is worth stopping for a moment to look forward, and Baujaurd’s view of the future is worth taking under advisement since, as chief technology officer of Alcatel-Lucent, the telecommunications equipment giant, part of his job is to peer a few years downstream.
“Deutsche Telekom is already an infotainment company,” Baujard said during a recent interview. “Telecom Italia — they woke up one day and decided they were going to be a media company. Asian phone companies are already content providers. I just don’t believe there will be phone companies anymore.”
Another critical difference will be that these companies will focus on marketing a package of products, not a technology, he said.
“Even today, you don’t know whether it’s UMTS, FTTH, GPON,” Baujard said, tossing out a few obscure telecommunications acronyms. “Instead, it’s ‘X number of channels’ for Internet TV, or ‘X megabits per second’ for browsing, or ‘free calls from home.’ This will be the core of their marketing campaigns for years to come.”
Even better, we will be able to balance and customize our package ourselves, he said. In other words, we can tell the provider that getting smooth video on demand is more important to us than fast Web surfing, or that crystal-clear phone calls over our broadband connections should get the highest priority.
“You can use your bandwidth however you want,” he said.
The third big change Baujard sees will be a greater emphasis on how much and how fast we can upload, not just download. This is because we are progressively spending more time and effort on our own content — sending photos or videos to friends via e-mail, or multimedia blogging on our personal Web sites.
“The peer-to-peer debate was focused on illegal sharing, but that is only the thin skin on something larger: you and me creating our own content for the communities that we belong to,” he said.
“And not just from home or the office, but from wherever you are. We will still be massively focused on the downstream speed for years, but upstream will be more and more important as we broadcast and multicast.”
The challenge of this “comminfotainment” world of the future, he said, will be for policy makers to decide two critical issues: how to balance the interests of the consumers in getting access to content for a reasonable price against the interests of businesses in getting a reasonable return on their infrastructure investments — and how to guarantee a minimum quality of service.
“Who will guarantee what actually happens at the end of the pipeline into your home?” he asked. “Who do you go to? Providing the pipeline is not enough. Somebody has to explain to you what you’re getting, how it will work, what your combination of megabits will deliver. And then they have to warranty it.”
The loser in Baujard’s scenario is not the traditional media and entertainment company, but the traditional distributors: broadcasters and physical retailers. “They are middlemen,” he said, “and their value will be drastically challenged.”
Media companies, by contrast, will continue being creators and producers. The “comminfotainment” providers will not take that away from them. Baujard said the service companies might well acquire some rights to content, or become partners in joint ventures in order to get access to rights, but they would not be content creators, by and large. “The economics of content are much different than what they are used to,” he said.
What will be unfolding until then is that today’s phone companies will be fighting to avoid being left behind as mere utilities, he said.
I hope they invest in some branding advice, too, and see if they can improve on the name “comminfotainment.”
Fuente: International Herald Tribune