ITEM: Ten years from now we will give up smartphones in favor of displays embedded in our eyeballs and wired directly into our brains.
So said Sergio Salvador, Google’s head of Southeast Asia strategic partnerships, at the Capacity Asia 2013 conference in Bangkok Tuesday.
Asked during a morning panel session on content services how Google saw the telecoms sector evolving in ten years, Salvador opted for a “moon shot” answer:
“Ten years from now, there will be no devices,” he said. “You’ll have implants in your eyes. Everything will be based on voice and video – the written word won’t exist. And we’ll be taking the first steps to connect directly to your brain.”
Salvador admitted all of that might not happen in just ten years, “but you should always go for the moon shot, otherwise we’re just wasting time. Even if we fall way short of that prediction, we’ll have advanced a long way as a result of setting targets that high.”
On the topic of whether OTT players are a threat to traditional telco revenue streams, Salvador kept his comments more down to earth - reiterating Google’s position that telcos and OTT players have to work together if they still want to be around ten years from now.
“It’s not networks vs content. We see it as an ecosystem – the network, the content, and the users,” he said. “We all have to get together and evolve that in a sustainable way.”
Arvinder Gujral – formerly head of data, VAS and new products at Indian cellco Aircel, and now head of business development for India and South East Asia at social networking site Twitter – echoed that sentiment.
“I used to work in the telco sector in India, and it’s true that telcos are worried about losing revenues, but – particularly in emerging markets – they also need to bring new internet users onto their networks,” said Gujral. “How do you convince a farmer that he needs a mobile internet service? They need to find ways to make the internet relevant to that audience.”
Gujral says that OTT players and operators can easily coexist and partner as long as both sides are getting something out of it. “We partner with hundreds of telcos, and the only reason they partner with us is because they see value in it. If they weren’t getting value out of it, they wouldn’t be doing it.”
When asked if that value for telcos includes revenue sharing from Twitter’s ad sales, he replied: “We don’t share ad revenue with them. But they don’t share their data traffic revenue with us.”
Michael Wheeler, executive vice president for NTT Communications, said he doesn't see Google as a competitor, and that the rise of OTT doesn’t spell the end of telecoms by a long shot – but it is changing the way people use traditional voice and text services, and telcos will have to change the way they do business in order to survive.
“I think there will still be telcos and content providers in ten years, but the business model will be quite different in terms of how we establish commercial commitments and who we establish them with, and how both sides monetize them,” he said.
However, he added for the record, “I don’t want implants in my eyes.”
“That’s okay,” Salvador replied, “it’s a generation-gap thing.”