Industry Voices—Blaber: Apple to be challenged in the mobile enterprise in 2017

In a set of 80 statements forecasting the future for the mobile, media and internet realms, CCS Insight recently unveiled its predictions for 2017 and beyond. Here we present a selection of the predictions.

We see several changes ahead for Apple. The company currently enjoys a firm grip on the enterprise device market, with many CIOs opting to allow only iOS devices to connect to corporate mobile systems (as well as aging BlackBerry devices). However, CCS Insight expects Apple's hold on the enterprise mobile device market loosens in 2017 as Android makes major incursions. Efforts by Google and its Android partners such as Samsung in areas such as security and firmware updates will cement the platform's business credentials. More companies will begin to embrace Android for business applications, putting it on a more equal footing.

But it's not all bad news for Apple. The company has enjoyed success with its iPhone Upgrade Program, and we predict that in 2018, Apple will introduce a combined subscription model for its hardware and services. The concept of "Apple as a service" will build on the iPhone upgrade plan to offer subscribers an inclusive and comprehensive bundle of services to accompany their iPhones, iPads, Macs and other Apple hardware for a fixed monthly fee. It will aim to further lock consumers into Apple's ecosystem and increase the company's services revenue

Connectivity Advances

The next few years will see significant advances in wireless technology, with commercial 5G networks due in the next four or five years. However, we expect that most carriers will struggle to find solid business cases in support of 5G deployments before 2020. Although the low latency of 5G networks will enable a few specific uses of 5G connections in the Internet of Things (IoT), such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications, these applications will not be large enough to drive the investment needed. Initial deployments, especially in the US, will be justified by uses such as fixed wireless connections, or by the advantage of being early to market. Many carriers will invest in 5G networks on the basis that they offer more spectrum and extra capacity for video traffic.

We believe the arrival of 5G will herald a return to unlimited mobile data tariffs in many markets (subject to limitations). The vastly improved capabilities of these new networks will mean that tiered data caps become less relevant. As with earlier network technologies, carriers will be keen to exploit the massive leap in performance offered by 5G and recoup their investments. They promote unlimited data plans to encourage uptake of premium-priced 5G tariffs.

For some, 5G networks will not come soon enough. As reliance on wireless networks grows, they will need to keep pace with changing expectations and usage. Data from the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration shows a sizeable drop in home fixed-line usage over the past two years. Over the same period, the proportion of households that rely exclusively on wireless networks to go online doubled to 20 percent as smartphones overtook laptops to become the most widely used computing device. We expect that by 2021, more than half of US households will rely on cellular networks to access the internet. Over the next five years the trend will be boosted by strong uptake of sharer plans, fixed wireless deployments and the availability of attractive deals for value-conscious customers.

Until 5G networks become commonplace, carriers will continue to invest in the current generation of technologies, particularly LTE. CCS Insight predicts that gigabit LTE will define network upgrades and marketing over the next two years. The implementation of three- and four-carrier aggregation, LTE in unlicensed spectrum, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM will all result in carriers marketing gigabit download speeds. Devices supporting these technologies and offering gigabit throughput will appear next year. Producing an easy tagline for marketing teams, investment in gigabit LTE will form an important phase in readying networks for 5G.

Geoff Blaber is Vice President of Research for the Americas at CCS Insight. Based in California, Blaber heads CCS Insight’s Americas business and supports the range of clients located in this territory. Blaber's research focus spans a broad spectrum of mobility and technology, including the lead role in semiconductors. He is a well-known member of the analyst community and provides regular commentary to leading news organizations such as Reuters, the Financial Times and The Economist. You can follow him on Twitter @geoffblaber.