Letter from the Editor

By: Tim Young

“It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.”
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue and fashion luminary

If there’s one benefit to writing about fashion rather than technology (besides, that is, the glamorous parties, the beautiful people, the exotic locations, and generally being cooler in nearly every conceivable way), it’s that trends are easily identifiable and manifest themselves in a way that’s tangible and seemingly instantaneous.

A designer sees a kid in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood, Paris' Saint-Germain or Tokyo's Shimokitazawa with a belt made of old license plates and an elastic bandage. She copies the look in her fall collection, and before you know it, there are bandage-license-plate belts in every boutique in Milan and LA. Same time next year, they’re being sold at the Gap, and then, just as quickly as they arrived on the scene, they’re gone again.

There’s not a lot of time needed for technology to mature or for economies of scale to be reached. There are few regulatory hurdles to clear, and not much overhead is required, so if a trend falls flat, it’s no grand tragedy.

In communications, however, there’s a little more riding on trends. Capitalizing on them takes R&D and infrastructure. Production costs can eat up vast sums of money. And if things don’t go just right—say, if your product hits the shelves too soon or too late—you’re stuck holding the bag.

Trends are tricky. When Motorola’s Rokr E1, the first phone to be integrated with Apple’s iTunes, was launched in 2005, it was a bust. But two years later, of course, Apple introduced the iPhone, permanently changing the mobile-phone industry.

I think, too, of the IBM Simon, which was launched in the mid-’90s. These days it’s generally remembered as one of the first smartphones, but its existence wasn’t quite so auspicious in 1994: its sales weren’t wholly dismal, but I remember taking a look at one that belonged to a friend and thinking how unnecessary it would be to get email on your phone. Simon was too early to the party, but the trends it helped to pioneer reverberated throughout the communications landscape before eventually becoming ubiquitous.

In this issue of Pipeline we examine the top trends of 2013. Some are just emerging, while others are noteworthy because they’re finally getting traction in a way that can allow their true potential to be recognized.

Topics include the most promising new geographic markets worldwide, the continued promise and challenge of machine-to-machine communications (M2M), the different faces of self-organized networks (SONs) and the shift of LTE from aspirations to hype to reality. We’ll talk about the sticky political undertones of this year’s communications news, from privacy concerns to trade policy, and bring word from Telstra’s Tom Homer on regional expansion in Asia-Pacific. We’ll also hear from ICT Intuition’s Nancee Ruzicka on why OSS/BSS quality could be the hot new communications trend in 2014.

Thanks for dropping by. You’re right on time.

Tim Young


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