10 topics that will be in the news in 2012

Following our look back at 2011, we are now looking ahead: what might be some of the big tech/ICT stories of 2012?

The tech/ICT issues that made the headlines or had us talking in 2011 were diverse and interesting, from cloud computing and server virtualisation, to the impact of social media in civic matters and the death of Steve jobs. In this our first full week of 2012, we have an excellent opportunity to give some thought to topics that will feature prominently in 2012.

Our list highlights important issues we believe will grab considerable attention in the coming year, but is by no means exhaustive. Do have a read and let us know what you think…

1.  Cyber crime and security

It should come as no surprise that cyber threats, including hacking, malware, cyber crime and computer security, will continue to dominate the headlines in the coming year. The Stuxnet computer worm, which was discovered in mid-2010, and which compromised the security of nuclear reactors in Iran, highlighted the sophistication and the resources available for hacking. Furthermore, although hacking is frequently done for profit and other gains, increasingly, the breaches appear gratuitous – if only to show companies how vulnerable their networks are. Although governments and organisations are keen to stay one step ahead of all threats that is rarely the case, resulting in dire consequences.

2.  Online piracy

Late last year, the draft Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced in the US House of Representatives. The document has been roundly criticised by industry players and other stakeholders, because some key provisions are considered highly oppressive. Nevertheless, SOPA has been receiving strong support in the House and is following  the legislative process. At this point, it does not appear that SOPA will be rejected, but it may be modified to address some of the issues raised. Due to the criticisms being levelled at the current draft and the calibre of opposition to the Act, this topic is likely to be in the news for the next several months as it works its way to resolution.

3.  The BlackBerry

The saga of the BlackBerry, specifically the changes that the device and the parent company, Research in Motion (RIM), will experience in the coming year will remain big news in 2012. Many analysts have been forecasting the BlackBerry’s demise and that RIM will be sold before year-end. However, this week, RIM announced that an independent committee has been established to review the company’s operations. The results of the review should be available by the end of January, and will likely be the basis for some major decisions going forward. Stay tuned…

4.  Near Field Communications

As mentioned in last year’s post, 7 insights on the future of technology and the Internet,

Near Field Communications (NFC) is a set of short-range technologies that enable mobile phone users to execute simple transactions such as purchases and data exchange just by waving their handsets in the vicinity of the receiver, or by touching the receiver. The technology is already available but is not yet widely used, and so far its application has been relatively limited…

This is expected to change in 2012. One of the key drivers of that change will be availability of NFC capability on the latest Android OS release, 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich:

5. True 4G adoption

Over the past year, the standards for Long Term Evolution (LTE) Advanced and WiMAX 2 have been finalised, and manufacturers began testing the technologies. Hence during the course of 2012, more decisive moves towards implementing one or both of those 4G standards will occur. Although two standards currently exist, it appears that LTE Advanced might already have an advantage, as several smartphone manufacturers have been releasing devices based on the preceding standard, LTE.

And a bit closer to home…

The above points are topics that are expected to feature prominently in international ICT/tech news in the coming year. However, to varying degrees, those issues might not have as significant or as immediate an impact in the Caribbean. Five key topics that are likely to affect the region in 2012 are outlined below.

6.  Number portability

Considerable movement on number portability, particularly mobile number portability, is expected in 2012 in at least seven countries – Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. The Cayman Islands are likely to be the first to introduce number portability this year; a working date of end of January 2012 has been announced. For the other countries, activity is likely to occur in the latter half of the year. Nevertheless, number portability, when launched, is expected to change the dynamics of the telecoms market, as customers are more likely to vote with their feet and change providers, if they are able to have their numbers shifted to other networks.

7.  Sector liberalisation and competition

It is often taken for granted that all Caribbean countries enjoy the benefits of having a fully liberalised telecoms sector. However, this is still not the case. Of particular note are the Bahamas, Belize and Guyana, where competition has been introduced in some markets. Recognising the considerable benefits be gained from sector liberalisation and competitions, there is a growing cry for the necessary measured to be introduced.

8.  LIME

In recent years and in most Caribbean countries LIME has been experiencing a number of challenges in remaining competitive, and has been struggling to reposition itself in changing markets. However, towards the latter half of 2011, and with the acquisition of Bahamas Telecommunications Company, its standing seems to be improving. Further, the company announced that a number of initiatives – such as 4G service, Fibre-to-the Home and Subscriber TV – will be launched in 2012. These activities are expected to broaden the scope and focus of LIME, and have the potential to change the market as we currently know it.

9.  Internet Exchange Points

In the past year, Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) received wide coverage as game-changing feature to Internet development in the region. (See: Are IXPs the turning point for content development in the region?). As at year-end, IXPs were introduced in Grenada and the British Virgin Islands, and installations are being actively considered throughout the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean.

10.  Mobile broadband

The Blackberry has been, by far, the most popular smartphone in the region. However, the rising uncertainty of its continued existence, along with the growing visibility of other devices and platforms, provide customers with a more developed web browsing capability that they might be keen to explore. This change in emphasis may cause mobile broadband rates and/or speeds to be revisited. It will be interesting to see the extent to which providers focus on this issue in the coming year.

Is there anything we missed? What topics do you think will be big in 2012?

Image courtesy of RambergMediaImages, Flickr

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