“Competing to zero”

"Competing to zero"

Interview with media futurist Gerd Leonhard

“We are in the final throes of the complete convergence of telecoms and media”, according to futurist Gerd Leonhard. He calls this “telemedia”, and it has profound implications for telcos.

“Companies competing through ever faster data and higher performing infrastructure will be competing towards zero”.

New business models will be required to generate revenue, incorporating services like education, payment and entertainment content, especially video: “Cisco estimate that within 5 years 80% of internet data will be video”, primarily from OTT players like Netflix and Facebook. “Companies like Facebook are already sitting on top of the Telco’s, using ever more data but with no responsibility for the infrastructure”. Such business models will require much improved IP connectivity than we have now.

“Interdependence is the only way for the model to grow.” Gerd Leonhard is in no doubt that if we are to avoid a dystopian future characterised by mutually inaccessible “splinternets” or gradually deteriorating internet performance, then we need to reach internationally agreed standards and protocols. He sees the emerging economics of the internet as the main driver in this. “95% of future growth will come from so-called developing countries. This will erode the traditional influence of the “Anglo-centric” internet”.

He advocates a kind of “GLOBAL INTERNET COUNCIL” as a solution, but concedes that the appropriate body doesn’t really exist, yet. One thing is for sure “it can’t just be the US government simply by virtue of its traditional leadership role”. Another critical driver will be the “internet of things” – devices which need to communicate effectively and securely with each other can only do so through interdependent networks, operating with high level encryption.

“Many people recognize parts of these issues, few people have a truly holistic view. Getting this story across is my mission”.