by Australian Communication Authority
Vision 20/20: Future Scenarios for the Communications Industry – Implications for Regulation
International Road Test Report
Two representatives from the Vision 20/20 team undertook an international road test of the preliminary outcomes of the project to date. It was also an opportunity to discuss strategic implications with relevant experts and agencies.
The international road test provided new insights on emerging technologies, business models and social issues, as well as feedback about the trends and drivers of change identified in the Vision 20/20 outcomes to date.
The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) received broad support for the timeliness of the project and its scope and objectives. We were encouraged to promote international awareness and consultation for the Vision 20/20 preliminary report, and to facilitate international participation in the project. The ACA was invited to collaborate with international agencies and organisations that have an interest in strategic communications analysis.
This consultation was also valuable for identifying gaps in our thinking, for highlighting issues that require development, and for testing the plausibility of certain aspects of our scenarios.
New insights on emerging technologies, or issues that need more emphasis
There are potentially radical changes in network architecture that may develop in the period to 2020, such as cooperative radio networks that are energy and spectrum efficient, and quantum communications.
New forms of communication are expected through developments in enhanced and augmented reality, and telepresence – video conferencing with more sophisticated video capture through holographics – that were suggested as being more likely than advanced forms of artificial intelligence.
Governments are likely to be placed under more pressure by the community to design and implement effective measures to deal with the potentially harmful drivers of broadband, such as pornography, gambling, gaming and cyber crime.
The potential for negative community reaction to complexity, pervasive monitoring and being ‘always online, always connected’ needs more emphasis. While trends suggest consumers may have more choice, people are often overwhelmed by it. Some of the negative reactions that could slow down the pace of change include people taking ‘information holidays’ and online avoidance.
Industry structure and emerging business models
While the dominance of the broadcasting model may be challenged by peer-to-peer Internet-based video-streaming, mainstream media may continue to survive through superior product quality.
Decentralisation and distribution of communications systems may destroy older business models and allow innovative services to develop. However, over time, the cycle could be repeated with the more successful business models building economies of scale and scope, moving towards centralisation and market dominance.
Trusted brands that manage multiple devices and applications, providing integrated customer services, could also develop.
The need for flexibility and responsiveness may drive ‘de-massification’, where very large enterprises continue to set the rules but operations are transferred to fully-owned subsidiaries. Information management and data storage services are likely to be growth areas in response to the volume of information available and the need to process and control it.
Regulators that have a limited knowledge of communications systems run the risk of imposing unworkable regulations, or being manipulated by those willing to exploit knowledge-based weaknesses. An understanding of the system as a whole is necessary to manage systems-wide issues.
Regulatory policy should therefore be developed with the nature of the architecture in mind. For example, the development of an open source, seamless and near-ubiquitous communications system would necessitate industry cooperation. The regulatory framework should promote cooperation.
The trend to Internet-based communications will continue to drive the need for international collaboration in areas such as security, law enforcement, content, digital rights and identity management.
Guaranteeing continuity of supply is important now and the demand for it is likely to increase, with resulting increased pressure on the government and the market to ensure uninterrupted service.
The boundaries that define the communications sector will shift over time – how must the regulatory framework also evolve?
You can download the full report [*.pdf]: click here