Last year, I kicked off a weekly column series from GSMA Intelligence and I’m excited to bring it back for 2019. Over the next 12 months, there will be columns from me and some from across my team of analysts (the ones from my team will likely be more insightful and better written – you’re welcome).

In any event, we’re now in the middle of the season when people (including analysts) take stock of the year that’s come and gone, make predictions about the one just beginning, and maybe even throw in a few resolutions. In past years, I’ve dedicated columns to recaps and predictions. I’m not sure why I’ve skipped resolutions. But since resolutions are some of the only things I can actually control in the industry, I’ll kick this year off with my mobile and communications-related resolutions for 2019. Think aspirations/commitments for how I want to work with the industry – things I hope to do in the New Year.

Here we go…

5G: Worry Less
This is going to be a big year for 5G. As a certain Head of State might say, it’s going to be HUGE. This is the year we’ll see commercial services (mobile and fixed) begin to ramp up and get the first crop of 5G smartphones and other devices. We’ll get a better understanding of how services will be marketed and priced. And, as the kinks get worked out of service offers and marketing plans – as well as networks – we’ll see lots of critiques. Devices will be called out as too expensive. Services too. In some cases, I’m sure the initial user experience will be deemed lacklustre while focusing too much on mobile broadband and not enough on innovative services. Some of this might be valid. None of it will matter much in the long-run. In the midst of this, I plan to ignore the worrying, recognising these initial launches for what they are – market testing and optimisation exercises that will set the stage for mature services and networks in 2020 and beyond.

4G: Worry More
Where 5G gets the spotlight this year, there’s a real risk that 4G innovation – at the service, device and network levels – could get ignored. Consider the case of operators looking to move people onto their 5G networks. It would make sense for them to prioritise 5G device innovation and direct capex into delivering the best, most competitive 5G experience. Right? Sort of. LTE will continue to carry the bulk of mobile data traffic for the foreseeable future; it will remain the primary mobile broadband asset for most operators. In markets where 5G hasn’t been rolled out, it will be the best option. In markets where 5G has been deployed, LTE will need to deliver a compelling fall back, evolving to integrate features (higher throughput, lower latencies) promised by 5G. Development of 5G innovations and ecosystems cannot come at the expense of 4G. I can’t do much to drive the direction of LTE R&D. But, I do plan to be vigilant – looking for instances of LTE innovation (product and service) and highlighting them as much as possible in order to make it clear that betting on 5G isn’t an “all or nothing” proposition.

AI: Build Something
By this point, we’ve all come to grips with the fact that Artificial Intelligence (AI, in its many forms) will fundamentally impact the way fixed and mobile services are consumed and delivered. From the camera settings on your smartphone, to the service package offered at retail, to the placement and maintenance of network assets, AI will likely be involved. The AI revolution, however, is less about the sophistication of the technology and more about its accessibility. As AI capabilities have become easier and easier to integrate into existing software and hardware solutions, companies of all stripes (including operators and network vendors) can put it to use for their own needs – evolving its application and potential in the process. Standing on the side lines, of course, is no way to understand this dynamic. For my part, then, I’m going to put AI to use within GSMA Intelligence. No, I’m not sure how. But trying to understand and deliver insights about a major industry shift (potentially the major industry shift) by simply talking about it just doesn’t make sense.

Multi-play: Ignore the Big Boys
We officially launched our multi-play (fixed and video/content, alongside mobile) coverage in 2018 and it was a good year to do so. After all, it was the year that AT&T acquired Time Warner, Vodafone picked up a variety of Liberty Global assets, and a comedy series from Amazon (not HBO or Netflix) took home five primetime Emmy awards. There was a lot more that happened, but you get the idea; 2018 provided plenty of examples of how the fixed, mobile and content industries were co-mingling and evolving – creating a new content and communications landscape. And yet, as it often does, the headline news focused on a small sub-set of players. The big ones. The ones shaping that new landscape. And everyone else? The content and access strategies of smaller operators? The specialist content providers? They can easily get overlooked. Obviously, there’s no way to ignore the big players, but there’s only room in the market for so many carriers like AT&T and Vodafone or content providers like Amazon and Netflix. To that end, I plan to spend more time this year focused on the smaller players – for lessons and insights that impact a broader set of market participants.

IoT: Focus on Users
In the same way that multi-play conversations often revolve around the machinations of a few big companies, IoT conversations often get derailed by a focus on a few valid but short-sighted (big picture) considerations. How many connections do we have? Which technologies are getting used? How much revenue are they generating? Who’s getting their share of that revenue? This all overlooks a very fundamental reality; everything begins with the use case. Whether for consumers or enterprises, the broader market success of IoT (those big picture metrics) depends on how it’s getting used and what it delivers – in line with the specific requirements of a given enterprise vertical or consumer segment. Companies that understand this are the ones who stand to benefit. We’ve spent plenty of time at GSMA Intelligence delivering insights into the size of the IoT market and what’s driving it. In 2019, I want to take us back to basics, with a deeper focus on the “how” of IoT vs. the “how big.”

Some of these will be easier to stick to than others. On the IoT front, for example, we’re wrapping up a massive survey of enterprises which will deliver insights into how IoT is getting used and the demands of specific verticals. Regardless, you can hold me to all of them. As we roll into the final stretches of the year, feel free to check in on how I did (Twitter or LinkedIn – they’re good ways to find me). And if you want to send me your resolutions before that, I’m all ears. You might even convince me to add some to my list!

– Peter Jarich – head of GSMA Intelligence

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.