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BBWF Paris: 2012 will be year of connected home

The connected home was high on the agenda at the 2011 Broadband World Forum

The sun in Paris wasn’t the only thing that put a smile on the faces of delegates at the 2011 Broadband World Forum (BBWF), as vendors and operators proclaimed that 2012 will be the year that the ‘Internet of Things’ will start to become a reality. The show highlighted just how important constant connectivity is becoming and how reliant consumers are becoming on broadband access across the world.

Etihad Airways chief executive James Hogan, who was accompanied by an entourage of air hostesses, announced in his keynote speech that the Abu Dhabi airline will shortly begin equipping its aircraft with on-board internet and live television.

While this may not in itself be groundbreaking — it follows similar announcements from the likes of Lufthansa, Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines — the news reaffirmed the promise of new revenue streams and services coming to market that telecoms firms can support, and proof that it’s not just the telcos that are thinking about broadband.

The show highlighted just how important broadband access is becoming in so many aspects of society. The idea that access has the potential to enhance a vast number of the products and services on offer to consumers is set to gain traction as 2012 is also expected to be the year of the connected home.

While the connected home is a concept which has been promised for several years, vendors, operators, services providers and product manufacturers are all now banking on this concept finally becoming a reality.

Addressing a packed conference hall at Broadband World Forum, David Thorne, board member of non-profit organisation Home Gateway Initiative (HGI) emphasised that the connected home is absolutely critical to realising new services.

“Even in the brave new world of cloud-based and over-the-top services, the Home Gateway has a central role to play in both enabling services, as well as in providing services directly in its capacity as an applications platform.”

UAE incumbent Etisalat is one company that has shown innovation in bringing services to the homes of consumers. The firm was shortlisted in the Best New Service category of the Broadband Infovision Awards for its OnWeb service, which it delivered across the Emirates with TV manufacturer LG. Etisalat recently completed a fiber deployment in Abu Dhabi and its connected feature in LG’s Smart TV is supported by a technology that is integrated in a set top box, allowing consumers access to user-generated content sites, social networking services, photo sharing service and dynamic weather forecasts through their televisions.

Customers can also access Etisalat’s new Video on Demand services; in addition to the free-of-charge OnWeb service package, customers have the option of purchasing exclusive paid content offered on demand.

Aside from its work with Etisalat, LG is continuing to introduce new lines of internet-enabled appliances including refrigerators, microwave ovens and washers, as are the likes of Whirlpool, Siemens and Samsung. Speakers at the BBWF claimed that such appliances will be networked and available for deployment in developed markets within the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, the winner of the Best New Service category at the Awards – Malaysia-based YTL – was recognised for its first foray into the provision of mobile voice, mobile internet and mobile broadband services, with its new Yes service

The service provides access through a ‘Yes ID’ rather than a SIM card, enabling multiple devices to log on to the network using the same Yes ID, which has a mobile number associated with it.

Every user is given an account that comes with 100Mbps internet access and a phone number, so that they can enjoy voice, online chat and SMS services that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, via the internet. Malaysians travelling abroad can keep in touch with friends and family at home through Yes at local rates, without worrying about roaming charges.

Another  key talking point at BBWF was the explosion of mobile data consumption. Operators in virtually every market acknowledged that the current model of provisioning mobile broadband will not be sustainable. With mobile data consumption set to surge up to twenty-fold within the next five years, according to some estimates, operators across the world will be forced to implement billing changes; and the heaviest users will have to pay a premium for their services. The end of the ‘all-you-can-eat’ data plan is nigh, and the BBWF saw many operators looking to share best practices and plan for a future in which the pervasiveness of mobile broadband will revolutionise the way we interact with all electronics equipment.

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