Speech given by Dr. Terence Matthews
Chairman of Mitel Networks
March 21, 2002
The next generation of broadband solutions
It is said that timing in life is everything, and the timing couldn't be better for enterprise broadband IP services, applications and content. No question!
It's a well-known fact that the cost of bandwidth has plummeted, dropping more than 100 percent in the last five years. This is incredible! Debates take place every day over why significant overcapacity in the network occurred so quickly, how service providers will make use of high capacity networks and when all of the dark fiber out there will start to light up. The other interesting discussion point is who is ready for new broadband services?
A recent report from Ovum, a leading analyst house in the U.K., suggests that the reason for the relatively low adoption of broadband services thus far is that no one has taken the time to explain to potential customers how they can use and benefit from the technology. While we're seeing a rapid uptake of IP traffic globally, end-users are basically still using broadband to do more of the same, claims Ovum's Sue Uglow.
If we think of broadband in terms of the communications we are familiar with today ¯ doing more of the same, but faster ¯ then we will continue to see only a gradual increase in demand for both broadband connectivity and broadband applications. So the question truly is Are broadband service providers ready to actually deliver on the promise of broadband the ability to address real-world business problems and deliver measurable value with advanced interactive communications? Having worked closely with a number of service providers over the years, I can confidently answer a resounding yes! Service providers are now listening more closely to their customers both consumers and enterprises. They are working to understand their challenges and are helping them overcome those challenges with meaningful and realistic applications.
As I see it, everyone who is touched by telecommunications today can benefit from broadband applications. Telcos can realize new revenue opportunities. Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have opportunities for business-enhancement tools. And large corporations have new arsenal with which they can aggressively attack their margins for significant improvements. How? With next-generation, converged voice, video and data applications.
One example that exemplifies the interconnection of businesses, service providers and a very interesting mix of non-technical, technology users is an emerging application for healthcare.
In many parts of the world, and in North America in particular, populations are aging. On the whole, people are living longer and in some cases, are living longer with chronic health challenges. Add to that a shortage of nurses combined with rising healthcare costs and you can immediately see a need for dramatic innovation. How can the healthcare system continue to manage in this environment? Can they look to broadband applications to maintain and ultimately increase the quality of care to patients while controlling or even reducing costs? I believe the answer is an emphatic, yes!
Today, many of these patients receive care through homecare agencies providing in-home nursing visits. A nurse is typically able to physically visit about 5 clients each day and spends time between visits driving and doing paperwork.
Now, introduce a scenario that allows a nurse to remotely visit a client using interactive broadband connectivity, videoconferencing, medical data collection devices and a secure, web-hosted visit application, and you can start to see where a significant advantage can be achieved. Called Home Telehealth, this solution exists today and can enable a nurse to visit as many as 15 patients in a day. As a result, overall healthcare costs are controlled through enhanced client health maintenance and a reduction in the number of emergency visits and lengthy hospital stays. And how does this cyber nursing, as it is nicknamed, affect the elderly patient in their home or the highly skilled nurse in both the receipt and delivery of care? When done properly using a well-thought-out user interface (in this case, the television set that is already in most clients' homes) it delivers a virtually seamless communications experience and provides a new and easily adopted communications tool for healthcare delivery.
This broadband healthcare application goes well beyond simple fast Internet, or simplistic voice-over-IP with long distance charges removed it's about the true convergence of voice video and data in applications that solve real business challenges.
The opportunity isn't about one killer app for all people or markets. The key to the success of converged solutions is found in making them relevant by tailoring them to solve the unique business problems of different industries. Think of the bank scrambling to resolve ATM fraud cases. Retail chains struggling to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen inventory. The gas station owner trying to stop pump-and-fly incidents. Or the rail operator trying to improve public safety. Think about the school board seeking to improve classroom safety. On a more personal level, think of the investment broker or department director who needs to quickly weed out high-priority correspondence from a daily onslaught of telephone messages, faxes and e-mails. A well developed broadband application has the potential to solve each of these problems with the right mix of voice, video and data used to their best advantage.
Broadband is ready to deliver on its promise. All indications are that the market will be truly ready for converged broadband IP applications within the next year. The timing is right. Let's get on with it!