Millennials driving next-gen telecom: IDC report

SDN, NFV and 5G wireless are poised to bring the next generation of telecommunications to the enterprise as wireless-enabled employees demand a mobile-centric, device-independent ability to communicate and collaborate, according to new research.

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Millennials continue to captivate the news media.

If you believe recent headlines, people born between 1980 and 2000 are ‘just saying no’ to drugs on a massive scale, will ‘never’ be able to afford their own homes and are even to blame for weak sales figures at Pottery Barn.

You may want to take some or all of that with a grain of salt. But millennials really are causing massive shifts in the enterprise telecom space, according to IDC’s new five-year forecast for the Canadian telecom services market.

In 2014, millennials became the largest demographic group in Canada’s workforce, making up 37 per cent of the total labour pool. So what do millennials want on the job? A corporate telecom system that lets them work — alone or with their colleagues — from anywhere on any device.

“An increasing number of wireless-enabled employees are demanding a mobile-centric, device-independent ability to communicate and collaborate — both internally and externally,” the IDC report says.

“(This is) driving demand to integrate separate voice systems with unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) services and apps to offer more benefits than possible with separate network silos … (and making) wireless integration in the enterprise a pressing necessity.”

IDC says later in its research that cloud-based UC&C — that’d be UCaaS — is seeing particular uptake.

That’s only one telecom trend for network managers to keep on top of from this report. Here are a few others they’ll want to make note of.

SIP catches fire

IDC believes Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking will be the fastest growing segment of Canada’s telecom services market over the next five years, with a forecast compound annual growth rate of 35 per cent during that period.

“SIP trunks blend wireline local access, long distance and Internet connections on a single service and are spawning simpler bundled discount price packages in the already hotly contested business market,” IDC writes. “SIP trunks (are) becoming a significant alternative replacement (for) business TDM (time-division multiplexing) connections bundled with hosted voice services.”

The big three

IDC says three technologies are poised to bring the next generation of telecommunications to the enterprise: SDN, NFV and 5G wireless.

While the prospective merits of 5G (namely, faster connectivity) have generated the most buzz, IDC’s Lawrence Surtees seems most excited about SDN (software defined networking).

“(SDN) is a whole new paradigm,” he said in an interview. “There’s no way around it, it’s that big and that important.”

As Surtees explained, SDN separates different layers of the network and allows them to be virtualized and shared.

“So you don’t need five different networks, they can all share the same ‘stuff.’ It can be shared by multiple people and multiple applications, making the network way more efficient,” said Surtees, IDC Canada’s lead telecom services analyst and VP of communications research.

When you apply SDN to wide area networks, you get SD-WAN. Surtees said SD-WAN will see an uptick in 2018 when enterprises start using it to replace multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). That move, he said, could yield cost savings of up to 50 per cent.

As for NFV (network functions virtualization), Surtees said, the true promise and delivery of the benefits of SDN are predicated on NFV, which allows the networks to be provisioned on-demand by the users themselves.

What it means

Befitting any IT adoption process, these newer telecom tools are sure to bring integration issues with them. While smaller businesses with simple network configurations may have an easier go of it, Surtees warns the on-boarding process could prove trickier for larger enterprises.

“They have to keep legacy (IT) going, and that has to be married and connected to the new stuff, which takes time,” he said.

UCaaS, SDN, NFV and 5G are a lot for network admins to take on in the next few years, but will be worth the effort if they can help enterprise networks perform more quickly, efficiently and affordably.

So thanks, millennials, for bringing at least one of those tools into the enterprise a little faster. As a member of Gen X, I guess I can take a bit of credit for giving desktop PCs a helpful push into the very first offices I ever worked in, too — even if that was a very, very long time ago.

Image: iStock

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