STRATEGIES FOR THE 90’S
TORONTO. FEBRUARY 11, 1993
The next breakthrough in mobile communications will be in fixed communications.
This may seem completely anomalous as all the talk seems to centre around new mobile devices. It is important for investors to understand, however, that a mobile communications company is really a network company. Obviously, much of what we do involves a distribution network and a customer service network. However, as important as these two aspects are, it is a more basic platform that is the backbone of a company like Cantel.
The thrust of the 90s will be to add more and more intelligence to the network of switches and transmission facilities, i.e. the fixed communications part of the mobile world.
There will continue to be an increasing variety of ways of interconnecting with this network over the air. You are already familiar with cellular, paging and mobile data. Shortly, Canada will be adding digital cordless telephone service as simply another way of accessing various fixed networks.
Looking at any one of the mobile access methods, one would quickly note that mobile data can itself have several access methods, e.g. dedicated packet-switched access such as that offered through our Mobitex service but, in the near future, we would expect data over cellular to be a new option.
Paging can provide access on a variety of frequencies and in various modes such as tone only, numeric or alpha-numeric.
Already, cellular is being offered in different access modes. There is the original analog access method which now provides coverage for about 87% of the population of Canada. Mobility Canada and Cantel have each announced plans to convert their networks to digital access using TDMA. There Is little doubt that, by the latter part of the 1990s, both organizations will be offering a CDMA product as well.
The point is that all of these are simply access methods to get a message, whether it be voice or data, to or from a subscriber over the air, and then have the network handle that message in whatever way the caller Intends.
When viewed in this fashion, it becomes completely clear why Cantel, over the last decade, has applied for and received national licences for every new, over-the-air, access method. This culminated recently in the award of a license for digital cordless telephone service. What is less obvious is the concentration we have been putting on our network platform.
Most of you would know that Cantel has a coast-to-coast network of microwave and fibre. This is a sophisticated network all ready with redundancy, back-up power in all our switches and nearly 700 cell sites, and an elaborate central control point, located in Toronto. This network links 17 major switching centres from Vancouver to St. John’s.
It is this seamless network that allowed us to pioneer Call Following, allowing the network to locate the subscriber wherever they may be in the country or in many places in the United States.
But what do I mean by a truly Advanced Intelligent Network (AIN)? The AIN will augment the actual switches with specialized computers called Service Control Points (SCPs). These computers will control the data bases of the customers and their requested services independently from the switches. In a word, the SCP will have the software and data base information to instruct the telephone switches how to handle any particular call.
Not only will this increase the capacity of the switches by allowing them to concentrate on the function to which they are best suited, but it will provide dramatically increased convenience for the customer.
Without going into all the Implications, some of which will be proprietary, an AIN is ideally suited for a single number for the customer (or at the customer^ option, one personal number for home use and one business number). Each customer could have a personal profile which can easily be altered by the user so that calls to a single number can be routed first to a cellular phone, for example, or first to an office phone with various default options such as voicemail. Various phones on the same number can even be made to ring simultaneously to reduce the wait-time for the caller.
The access methods for a wide variety of phone features will be identical on mobile or hard-wired phones.
Message-waiting indication will be another feature, as would automatic call-back.
All these and other features are designed to give the user more control over his or her communication.
Full, interconnectivity amongst various networks will be provided when all the networks move to a common signalling method known as Signalling System 7 (SS-7). This is another indication of the importance of all common carriers working together to realize these benefits for the consumer in the latter part of the 90s. The AIN will truly make the most exciting part of the mobile business the development of the fixed networks.
Access to the Networks
One can think of the mobile industry as having three major components:
• The Customer Services. This is the way the user views the system, i.e. as a series of easy-to-use features, reaching a personal telephone number that is attached to the individual rather than to a particular physical location.
• The Access Methods. These are the various, over-the-air transmissions that, in the 90s, will all be digital, although some of the analog networks will remain in use for a number of years.
• The Intelligent Network.
Just to comment briefly on the importance of the move to digital, we should note that there will now be essentially no difference between a voice message, data, graphic information, still pictures or full motion video. By the end of the decade, the Intelligent Networks will simply treat any of these as just streams of bits. The only thing that would differentiate them in principle would be the speed of transmission. Already, it is possible to intermingle these various forms of transmission on a single computer terminal and, increasingly, there will be no need to distinguish between hard-wired access and wireless access. This will lead to the development of many devices such as hand-held Pen Pads, voice-activated computer input and similar advanced, input terminals.
In the agenda for this meeting, it was noted that wireless communications has been forecast to represent as much as 50% of the volume of all communications by the turn of the century. I have no doubt this will be the case, given the exploding variety of input devices, the expanding over-the-air access methods, and the increasingly intelligent networks that are designed to handle these communications.
If we thought the ’80s was an exciting decade, just watch the ’90s as the Wireless Communications industry really comes into its own.