Having looked back at our most widely read posts of 2015, and how we fared in our 2015 predictions, we are now looking ahead: what will be some of the big tech/ICT stories in the Caribbean in 2016?
Consistently, tech/ICT issues that made the headlines or had us talking in 2015 were diverse and interesting: from the sale of Columbus International to Cable and Wireless Communications, and Digicel’s aborted Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange, to data on actual upload and download speeds across the Caribbean. As we begin to come to grips with what 2016 has to offer, here are five developments we believe will be evident in the Caribbean in this year.
1. A settling of telecoms/ICT competitive landscape in the Caribbean
With all of the major mergers and acquisitions that have been occurred and are still to be completed across the region, 2016 is likely to likely to be period where all of those changes and adjustments begin to settle down. Within the first half of the year, the Liberty Global acquisition of CWC should be completed, and some of the changes that the new owner intends to introduce may start to become evident.
Additionally, it will be important for us to keep an eye on Digicel. The firm is also in transition – broadening its offerings from just mobile/cellular service. As a result and by the end of 2016, we are likely to have a much different and irrevocably changed landscape than what we have had before.
2. Regulation beginning to get some attention
In a few of our articles in 2015, we labelled Caribbean telecoms regulators as ‘flat-footed’, since in many instances they were struggling to address real and urgent issues, but only having out-dated and under-developed policies and laws upon which to rely. Though the state of national policies and laws may not be the regulators’ fault, the experiences of the past year or so may have emphasised to policymakers, especially, the fact that in many Caribbean countries, the telecoms and ICT policies and regulatory frameworks are in dire need of attention.
However, we might not see many telecoms/ICT-related laws being promulgated in 2016, as the policy development, legislative drafting, and then the parliamentary process, can all be quite protracted. However, at the very least, we believe that efforts to begin remedy that situation will commence.
3. Growing focus on the customer experience
With all of the changes that have occurred over the past year or so, frequently there was a sense that the impact on the customer was not a primary consideration. However, as the dust continues to settle, we are of the view that the issue of the customer’s experience will receive greater attention.
In some countries it may appear that consumers may have fewer choices, for example, in terms of telecoms/ICT carriers, providers and service plans available. However, the importance of the customer to drive revenue and growth is likely to encourage greater attention to customer care and consumer protection, and ultimately improve the customer experience.
4. Internet/video streaming cannibalising subscriber TV
Without a doubt, and cognisant of the popularity of platforms such as YouTube, Internet video services are widely enjoyed across the Caribbean. However, with United States (US) television content owners clamping down on unauthorised viewing of their programmes in the Caribbean, a gap is developing in the market for current and exciting English language content that Caribbean viewers can access. Subscriber television carriers in the region may not be able to tap directly into that US content, thus creating an opportunity for other businesses, such as video on-demand services – Netflix, for example – to get an even stronger foothold in the region.
Although platforms like Netflix may already have a presence in the region, their footprint would be small. However, that may change in 2016 as subscriber television viewers get disillusioned with the channels available and the price being charged for the service offered. Further, we ought to keep in mind bandwidth concerns, and even arguments for a premium pricing tier (for example), might begin to emerge, should video content streaming increase significantly in the region.
5. Network and system vulnerability will become bigger news
Although network and system vulnerability are often discussed with respect to cybersecurity and cybercrime, we believe there are broader issues that so far have received relatively little some attention in the region. Essentially, there are other factors that not only make tech systems and networks vulnerable, but more importantly, affect an organisation and its continuity, such as disasters and limited redundancy to name a few, which we anticipate will begin to come to the fore.
Image credit: Stuart Miles (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)