Crystal eye(ball) on the carriers

What's comin down the pike, and who wins and loses from the coming trends

After a lengthy and meditative look into my crystal ball, I've determined that what 2007 holds for us in telecommunications is . . . golden bubbles. Oh, wait - got my crystals confused. That was a champagne glass.

Seriously, here's a look at what's coming down the pike, and who wins (and loses) from the coming trends:

-- MPLS goes mainstream. Yeah, I know - this one's a no-brainer. But 2007 marks a real tipping point. Early adopters (such as Boeing) have finished kicking the tires and are ready to jump wholeheartedly into MPLS (last month, the airplane manufacturer inked a deal with AT&T to link 91 sites via MPLS). Watch for more big deals from competitors Verizon, Orange and BT as well as AT&T - and look for VOIP in the WAN to gain a real jolt of momentum from widespread MPLS deployment. What happens after MPLS? Check out the Futurenet conference in April, which covers MPLS and beyond (full disclosure: A Nemertes colleague of mine, Irwin Lazar, is chairing the event, as he has for the six years before joining us).

-- Mobility takes wing. By 2006, nearly 70 percent of enterprises I spoke with had implemented mobility strategies that encompassed not only handsets and services but also applications and architectures designed to leverage an increasingly untethered workforce. The ripple effect of investments in mobility will boost everyone from application vendors to security companies. Another effect: wireless service providers will start siphoning advertising dollars away from mainstream media, as carriers explore advertising revenue streams to fund their rollouts.

-- Keep an eye on IPTV. Market research firm iSuppli reportedly predicts a 200 percent increase in the IPTV market in '07. I think that's low - all signs point to 2007 as the year of IPTV, including the FCC's recent ruling permitting telcos to deliver television content. Winners: long-haul WAN gear vendors. Think Tellabs, Alcatel and Ericsson as well as the obvious players such as Juniper - which just won a deal with Chongqing Telecom, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Telecom - and Cisco. Nortel's also positioned well here, if the company can complete its turnaround.

-- BRIC broadband. Speaking of China, the telecom action in 2007 will increasingly be dominated by Brazil, Russia, India and China. Much of the mobile and next-generation broadband investment is happening in these countries, and all signs point toward acceleration. Winners: Providers and equipment vendors with global scope. Losers: Companies whose investments are primarily in North America and Europe.

-- Telepresence takes off. The latest buzzword in interactive multimedia, "telepresence" combines HDTV, next-generation videoconferencing and clever room design to enable conferencing experiences that feel like being there. Companies such as Polycom have rolled out telepresence offerings, and IT execs are beginning to bite. Prices will continue to drop, and performance will continue to improve, for the next several years.

The convergence of all these trends points to some serious investments in telecom services and gear in '07. Maybe I was right about those golden bubbles.

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