In the course of the last month or so, I have had the opportunity to attend CS MANTECH, CTIA Wireless and The Cable Show. Even though these conferences address different industries and different points on the supply chain, it was very interesting to see similar threads running through all three. The conclusion is inescapable: data consumption is the engine that is driving consumer and enterprise devices and networks. These networks, whether wired or wireless, are also becoming increasingly intertwined.
The onslaught of data consumption is not new, Strategy Analytics has been following the dramatic increase for years and most top-level market presentations include some reference to this trend. I think the most succinct explanation of this trend came during a panel session at The Cable Show. Actor, director and writer Edward Burns characterized the current landscape (and I am paraphrasing here) as one of access not ownership. This was fascinating to me because Mr. Burns is not in the wireless or wired broadband industry, but he realizes the importance of the network and how consumers access his craft. It also goes a long way toward explaining the demise of “big-box” electronics and audio stores and the growth of audio and video streaming services. It also bodes well for the continued growth of the broadband industry since the high-speed broadband networks enable access.
On the convergence front, one of the big announcements at The Cable Show was that US MSOs Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision Systems, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications will allow their broadband subscribers to connect to the Wi-Fi networks of any of the companies in this agreement. This combined network will total more than 50,000 hot spots and is again interesting from several fronts. First, it shows the commitment cable companies have made toward having a wireless component to their networks. This is being done with an eye toward maintaining the “broadband experience” for customers who are nomadic outside of their homes. It also shows the concern about wireless broadband capturing share of the total broadband market.
There were presentations from CEOs of major wireless, cable and device companies that were upbeat about the trends in their respective industries. Universally, the drivers for this optimism were increasing data consumption and the advances in the networks and devices to support this consumption. Most, however, also sounded a cautionary note about spectrum availability for the wireless industry and the most efficient way to increase spectrum for the wired industry. Addressing these issues will provide both opportunities and challenges for device, equipment and network manufacturers and will likely determine the trajectory of future growth.
It has been a very lively past few weeks. It is clear the growth engine in the compound semiconductor industry is still firing on all cylinders and convergence is occurring in all segments of the electronics industry. Please keep an eye out for more detailed summaries of the individual conferences in the coming weeks.